Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Q&A Director Edgar Wright and author Bryan Lee O'Malley talk comics
The comic is now finished and the movie's out - is it a happy accident that both are done at once? Bryan: I had to work really hard to get it finished in time; I didn't think Universal would wait for me.
(Our Nick delivers two Edgar Wrightinis to our guests. Edgar downs his in one, apparently swallowing three coffee beans in the process. O'Malley takes two gulps. Apparently it's smooth.)
Did you feed off each other's ideas? Edgar: I'm having a physical breakdown now. Well, I guess it happened in stages. I was given the book in 2004, and when we wrote the first draft of the script only three books had been published but we'd picked Bryan's brains about the other three. So over a five year period - because I wrote the first draft before Hot Fuzz - we went in tandem.
Bryan: There was a year you didn't really talk to me, and then Hot Fuzz came out.
How about music? Bryan: That was like the first thing we did; we sent mix tapes back in forth like we were dating and fell in love. I do one mix tape for each book, and he did four all at once.
Edgar: A lot of the pre-existing ones are from those. It was the first thing we bonded over, apart from the books themselves. WE had to solve a problem that Bryan didn't have to worry about, which was what the bands sounded like. In the first draft we had a running joke where you didn't hear any of the bands. With this, we wanted to make sure it looked and felt real. When Nigel Godrich came onboard to do the score, we did a little tour to meet different artists, and the idea was to make a different artist do each band so they'd sound different. Even Beck, my brief to him was that it should be somewhere between awful and awesome, and in the best way he knocked them all out in a weekend, so hopefully it sounded more real than some movie bands.
Is that Sex Bob-Omb sounded to you? Bryan: I had the luxury of never having to think about that, but when I saw the film with that, I loved it.
Did you fantasy cast the film when you wrote it? Bryan: The only one I wanted was Jason Schwartzman, because I always wanted to see him as a bad guy, and he was awesome.
The aspect ratio changes - how did that come about? Edgar: That's because a lot of artwork in comics, the panel size always changes - which is the same idea behind the split screens, which you see in books and Japanese animation all the time, although in that it's a style thing but also saves on rendering animation. On really early Nintendo games too, they put black bars to make it look more cinematic. So even the opening has black bars to make it look like a movie. I thought fake wide screen would be funny. I have no idea what it will look like when it's pan-and-scan for TV, but that's not my problem. It made it extra complicated. But we also shot in three different formats. All of the non-fight scenes are non-spherical 35, all the fight scenes are anamorphic, and then we also shot on VistaVision, and there's some digital stuff on the Phantom Camera. So that was fun. We had these rules - anamorphic flares only come up in the fight scenes. But I don't think many people will even notice that the aspect ratio changing.
John Landis: Honestly, I saw about the first 40 minutes of this what seems about 12 years ago, a long time ago, and I was so desperate to see it. We will be in Vienna for the premiere so I want to thank you all for letting me come today. One other question, has this opened in the States yet? Edgar: It has, and it's doing OK.
John Landis: It'll do better next weekend. Congratulations!
There were a lot of songs from the Zelda series - was that a big influence? Edgar: You know who's a big Zelda geek? Brandon Routh - I did a huge Q&A with him and it turns out he's a huge gaming dork. I asked him for the Clift Notes on World of Warcraft and he talked uninterrupted for about 50 minutes. Then. Johnny Simmons who plays Young Neil would be playing Nintendo really throughout, and sometimes he got lost in the game. A lot of interviewers ask about the video game aspect of the film like games were invented yesterday. I feel like, if anything, all the game references in the books and the film are really nostalgic. I think it keys into the fact that Scott Pilgrim acts like a 12 year-old all the time.
Bryan: Yeah, Zelda is like 1991 or something.
Edgar: Probably you noticed if you are yourself a Zelda dork, it turns into a big orchestral version of Zelda, which Nigel Godrich did with the members of Supergrass singing over it. Mr Miyamoto, the creator of Zelda and Mario, had to sign off on that scene. He watched it all and we got an email back saying, "Mr Miyamoto, he says yes!" It was like the man from Del Monte.
The podcast this morning had a funny story about a test screening where someone wanted it to go on forever. Edgar: You've blown the punchline now. This one kid in test screenings, they asked if it was too fast, too slow. Four people said it was too slow, twenty people said it was too fast and this one kid said it was too fast because he wanted it to go on forever.
Any truth to rumours of a sequel with a band battle with bands from outer space? Edgar: That probably came from me talking bullshit in an interview once.
Bryan: Space is probably the only place for Scott Pilgrim to go.
Edgar: We did talk yesterday and think of an idea where Ramona had a bunch of nice exes and Scott had to beat all of them up in the sequel.
How much is a pint of milk? Edgar: I bought a pint of milk today, and I can't tell you!
Soy or half-and-half? Edgar: Semi-skimmed. 99p?
Way too high - you've gone Hollywood!
There's a lot of the comic that's been changed to make this work as a film - what would each of you like to have had in the film that you didn't have? Bryan: I'm pretty satisfied with it.
Edgar: There are some set pieces in the book that look much cooler on the page than they would in live action - like the Honest Ed's sequence. Some things early on we just knew we didn't have time to cover, like Knives' dad and Lisa Miller. But in terms of set pieces there's nothing...It was such an organic process throughout that we realised early on how much they'd have to diverge to make it work. I hope that everyone who sees the film will go out and buy the books.
Bryan: Also, I finished the sixth book after the film had locked, so I deliberately put in all this stuff that would have been too expensive to film.
Edgar, it's your first American film: how different was it? Edgar: It wasn't that different, really. It's a mostly American cast but we shot in Toronto, and it was amazing. We had a particular gift in that Bryan's material is based on real locations, so nearly all the locations are the ones that Bryan took photographic references of and then drew in the books. So that made it extra-spooky. So this was basically Bryan's old neighbourhood.
Bryan: I walked up the street where Scott and Wallace's apartment was one day and they were shooting a movie there. And I was suddenly like, "Oh, I know what this movie is."
Edgar and Bryan, any news on Jetbike Steve? Or Ant Man? Edgar: That's a Simon Pegg question, really. Ant Man, I just need to get back to writing that. I've been working on this solidly for two years. So once this press tour is done, I'll collapse and then think about writing again.
Bryan? Bryan: Same answer, but it's been six years.
What about having two editors? Edgar: Chris Dickens did Hot Fuzz and Spaced and won an Oscar for Slumdog, but he couldn't be there for this. So I got to promote Paul Machliss, who did the second series of Space, and then Jonathan Amos had done great stuff, so they basically worked as a team. I was in and out of the edit the entire time and they were in Toronto, so by the time we left Toronto we had a rough coat. Especially with the action stuff, we had a very strict shot schedule so that there's really only one way to put it together. That last swordfight with Jason and Michael, they would be able to edit yesterday's footage and we could watch it on set and see where we needed extra close-ups and things like that. In terms of the two, John was better at action, Paul was better at music and they were both good at comedy. We shot for 6 months and then edited for 10 months. My brother worked on the graphics and conceptual design, so it was a little hive of editing and sound design and graphic design all at the same time. And for both it's essentially their first feature credit. They were mentioned in a lot of reviews, which makes me proud because I had to get approval from the studio for them because they hadn't done a film before.
In the credits there was a special thanks to Jackie Chan and Quentin Tarantino - why? Edgar: Jackie didn't physically do anything, but our stunt coordinator Brad Allen had worked with him for like 20 years. He wrote me a birthday card, which was great. Quentin watched an early cut of the film, and he made a great suggestion of having a credit sequence at the beginning, to give it more of a sense of occasion. He hadn't read the books, so he said, "You gotta let it settle a bit, because i don't know who these people are." I like it, because it makes the prologue feel like a prologue and then you're into the film. They were only done in the last two months, so we still love those bits.