From Shaun to Scott: Edgar Wright interview

The ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ director tells Tom Huddleston about learning to fight, being hormonal and life as The Blink Nazi

Following the worldwide success of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’, Edgar Wright is set to become a fully fledged fanboy favourite with his first Hollywood movie, ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’ – an adaptation of the popular comic book about a videogame geek forced to defeat seven evil ex-lovers in order to win the girl of his dreams.

How would you describe ‘Scott Pilgrim’ to the uninitiated?
‘It’s roughly equidistant between “Ghost World” and “X-Men”, which for a studio film is completely bananas. But that’s what attracted me to it. A lot of recent comic book adaptations have gone two ways: either they’re striving for some kind of realism, like “Iron Man” or “The Dark Knight”, or they’re very stylised and gritty, like “Sin City” and “300”. This was an attempt to embrace the magical realism of comic books – I wanted it to be a real pop art explosion. But there’s a reason for that; it’s not just a stylistic tic. What you’re watching is the movie playing inside Scott Pilgrim’s head. This is his exaggerated version of events.’

Scott is hardly your regular comic book hero…
‘He’s something of a fantasist. The idea of fighting your new girlfriend’s ex-lovers, “Street Fighter” style, is the ultimate geek wish-fulfilment. He’s definitely an unreliable narrator, but I empathise with him. Scott isn’t a bad person but, perhaps due to spending his entire adolescence gaming, he’s something of a solipsist. He doesn’t really think about the feelings of the people around him. So the film is less about him getting the girl and more about him facing up to the consequences of his actions. He has to grow up, basically.’

Did you see yourself in the character?
‘I definitely went through a period when I was a teenager when every girl was The One and every break-up was the Worst Thing That Had Ever Happened. Scott Pilgrim is that kind of guy, wildly hormonal. But he’s also very easily distracted, like a bird attracted by the nearest shiny piece of foil. Right now it’s Ramona Flowers, but the next minute it could be a burrito! When he meets Ramona, the seed is immediately planted in his head that she’s his dream girl, straightaway he falls in love with her without question. Then it becomes about having to deal with who she really is, and what she’s been through. Is he man enough to accept that she’s got a history?’

It must have been a lot of fun to cast…
‘I can’t say enough nice things about the cast. I got the best of the current crop of young comic actors, an entire ensemble of scene stealers. A lot of people have commented on the fact that I cast a lot of people with big eyes. If you’re a fan of eyes, if you’re into ocular porn, then you’ll have a blast with this movie. But I needed people with very expressive faces, eyes you could get lost in. I was known on set as The Blink Nazi, because I would try to get them not to blink during takes, to achieve the feel of Japanese anime.’

How did you go about achieving such a distinctive visual style?
‘I was working with people who really forced me to raise my game. We shot for six months, which is a long time, plus we were almost making an entire animated film in post-production. The special effects are very bespoke, we wanted to give it a very hand-drawn feel. They’re not generic digital effects. It was a bigger budget than “Hot Fuzz”, and I wanted it to look like it cost twice as much as it did. You go to some summer movies which cost $200 million, and you just think: Where the fuck did that go? So I wanted to make sure it looked like there was a lot of money on screen.’

Does premiering a movie at Comic-Con (the annual preview event for studio movies in San Diego) add another layer of pressure?
‘The film went down amazingly there, and some say it’s just preaching to the choir. But if they didn’t like it, we’d have heard equally loud boos as we did cheers. So it was like jumping straight into the fire. But it was crazy, people were dressed up not just as characters from the comic, but as characters they’d seen in the trailer. People were dressed in Jason Schwartzman’s white suit, which they’d only seen in production stills. Pretty impressive!’

As you said, this was an unusual project for a major studio. Was Universal generally supportive?
‘There were questions along the way, but this is definitely the film I wanted to make. For instance, they asked if we should explain how Scott learns to fight. I always said no, I thought too much explanation would kill us, but it’s a legitimate question. There have been recorded cases of people learning how to fly a plane after playing a flight simulator, but there’s never been a case of someone learning to fight by playing “Tekken”. But in the film the idea is that if you play enough games you’ll be able to fight like that in real life. Though I wouldn’t recommend any of your readers trying it!’

Read our 4-star review of ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Author: Interview: Tom Huddleston





Top Stories

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.

Oscar predictions

Oscar predictions

The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards

January film highlights 2013

January film highlights 2013

Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow

October film highlights

October film highlights

Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.

Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'

Martin Freeman interview

Martin Freeman interview

'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.

Sam Mendes interview

Sam Mendes interview

Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.

Ang Lee interview

Ang Lee interview

The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'

Michael Haneke interview

Michael Haneke interview

The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.

Read our interview with Michael Haneke

Thomas Vinterberg interview

Thomas Vinterberg interview

The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.

Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.

Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us

On the set of 'Sightseers'

On the set of 'Sightseers'

Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.

Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set

Tim Burton interview

Tim Burton interview

The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.

Read our interview with Tim burton

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.

Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'

What's your film guilty pleasure?

What's your film guilty pleasure?

Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.

Read 'Film guilty pleasures'

When teen stars turn serious

When teen stars turn serious

Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.

Read 'When teen stars turn serious'

50 years of James Bond

50 years of James Bond

From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.

Read '50 years of James Bond'

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.

Read the interview

Hilarious horror films

Hilarious horror films


Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.

Read 'Hilarious horror films'

Martin McDonagh interview

Martin McDonagh interview

The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.

Read the interview

Autumn horror films

Autumn horror films

We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.

Read about this Autumn's best horror movies

On the set of Skyfall

On the set of Skyfall

Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.

Read 'On the set of Skyfall'

Bond: then and now

Bond: then and now

Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?

Sally Potter interview

Sally Potter interview

The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.

Daniel Craig interview

Daniel Craig interview

'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’