A heist movie filled with car chases and powered by a soundtrack that’s integral to nearly every scene, writer/director Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is brimming with kinetic energy. Starring Ansel Elgort as the music-obsessed title character, he works as a getaway driver for local crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) to pay off a long-standing debt, and featuring a rogues’ gallery of rent-a-crooks played by the likes of Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Jon Bernthal. With all the high-octane, pedal-to-the-floor action, by the the time the credits roll, you’ll be looking for your seatbelt.
But Baby Driver isn’t the kind of movie that just happened. Wright spent more than two decades piecing it together bit by bit, trying out ideas where he could, and making sure his vision would be realized. We got the chance to talk to the acclaimed filmmaker about how the film slowly came to fruition, and the unconventional production process he developed to make sure the film and its soundtrack were in lockstep every scene.
When asked which came first: the movie or the soundtrack, Wright replies simply that “they sort of arrived together.”
“22 years ago I was listening to the [Jon Spencer Blues Explosion] album Orange a lot, before I was even really a director. I was like, 21, [living] in a flat in North London, completely broke. I had made my first no-budget movie [A Fistful of Fingers], but I didn’t know how it was gonna do and I didn’t really know what was next, but I always had a strong reaction to music.”
The more Wright listened to the trio’s album, the more the opening of Baby Driver started to take shape. “I don’t have synesthesia or anything, but definitely when I’m listening to music I start kind of visualizing images. And listening to ‘Bell Bottoms’ I just start to see this car chase. And I didn’t even know that it was a film or what the story was or what it was about, but it basically is pretty much the opening of the movie that you see.”
Once he had the opening scene played out in his head time and again, the film slowly started to take shape. “Through that in terms of listening to other music and having other ideas, it started to formulate. That moment of that visualization predates Spaced [and] Shaun of the Dead. It goes way back. So it’s like there’s a point with some films where it felt like a dream movie because it combines my passions. And it’s a dream movie because getting to make movies in the first place is like, you feel so lucky to be doing it. It’s something that combines all of my passions of action and music together.