Baby Driver, the new movie from the ever-brilliant Edgar Wright, isn’t due out until August. However, the film took its bow at the SXSW Festival in Austin over the weekend (to rave notices), and just so the rest of us wouldn’t feel too left out, not one but two trailers for the car chase thriller hit the net. And we couldn’t let this pass without roping Wright in for one of our patented trailer breakdowns — in this case, of the international trailer.
Baby Driver is named after its title character, Baby (Ansel Elgort), a getaway driver par excellence who works for Atlanta crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Left with tinnitus following a traumatic childhood, Baby has a perpetual high-pitched whine in his ears. “He uses music as a salve, as a way of drowning out the whine by playing music the whole time,” says Wright. Baby is getting carried away during a briefing from Doc whilst listening to Dave Brubeck’s classic track, Unsquare Dance. You know, from the McDonald’s ad.
During that same briefing, Baby’s aloof attitude rubs Bats (Jamie Foxx) up the wrong way, forcing the young driver to show that he has been paying attention. And then some. “This was a scene I had in mind very early on, before I wrote the first draft,” explains Wright. “Baby signs and can lipread, so he has no problems taking in exactly what’s happening even if he’s listening to jazz and playing along on the table.” Wright, who did a lot of research and conducted many interviews with ex-cons (and current cons), was also at pains to place Baby away from the main crew. “Baby is very deliberately sitting as far back from the others as he can,” says Wright. “In his head he’s just the driver, but that actually backfires in some respects because he gives off the impression that he’s better than them.” How that plays out with Bats remains to be seen, but bosom buddies they are not.
Baby, I Love Your Way
Doc calls Baby the best getaway driver in the business, and in this brief glimpse of the film’s opening car chase, we get to see why. “He’s somebody who’s in it for the buzz more than the spoils,” says Wright. “Baby genuinely excels at, and likes, driving fast. What the movie becomes about is the idea that Baby can’t be in crime without becoming criminal. Can this getaway driver escape himself?”
“This is one of my favourite bits in the movie,” says Wright of the moment where Jon Bernthal’s bank robber Griff points for Baby to go forward, only to be surprised as the wheelman hits a hard reverse instead. For a movie meticulously planned to within an inch of its life, this was something Wright came up with on the day. “Having that at the start of the chase is very funny,” he says. “Jon Bernthal is very scary in the movie but he can also get a real laugh out of a look. And Baby is quite unconventional in his approach — he’s doing things they’re not expecting.”
How good a driver is Baby? This alleyway stunt, in which he slides deftly past a truck, says ‘very’. “Jeremy Fry, our ace stunt driver, and Darrin Prescott, our Stunt Coordinator, came up with that one, which is this idea of doing a 180 in and a 180 out.” Like most of the stunts in the movie, it was done for real. “It’s quite astonishing to look at. We tried to do nearly everything for real on the roads. This is real driving. These are real stunts. And it feels like a real getaway chase in terms of the short cuts, outfoxing the police, and hairpin turns.” The most modern touch? The shot was filmed on a drone, because the alleyway was too narrow to fit a helicopter.
While not a musical per se, Baby Driver is driven by its, Baby’s, and Wright’s, love of music. “One of the premises of the movie is that Baby is pretty much soundtracking the movie,” says Wright of the use of diegetic music. “Every song you hear in the movie is actually happening within the scene. And in some parts of the movie he can’t really operate properly without the right music playing.” This particular track is an old favourite of the director’s. “It’s a good strutting track,” he laughs. “And it’s fun to say: Bongolia by The Incredible Bongo Band.”
On The Radar
Radar Love by The Golden Earrings is another of the songs that gets its own moment in the trailer. “It’s one of those classic FM driving songs,” says Wright. “It’s such an American-sounding song, but Golden Earring are Dutch! It’s a great song. It’s probably in the trailer more than it is in the film itself.” There are 35 songs in the movie, all told, with every single one cleared for use beforehand so Wright and his team could time scenes and movements precisely.
You Were Working As A Waitress…
“In this business the moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet,” says Bats. And, as if to prove him right (or wrong), here comes Deborah (Lily James) into Baby’s life. “He’s been going to this diner for years as part of a routine,” says Wright. “And suddenly this new staff member starts and is like a window into a new life. It’s that thing where meeting somebody new and falling for them strengthens his belief that his days as a driver are numbered.”
Here, we see Kevin Spacey’s Doc hint very strongly that Baby had better continue driving for him, lest things end up bad for his new girlfriend. “The feeling is that Doc has had such good luck with Baby that it’s now become a thing where he won’t do a job without him. That’s a dangerous connection,” says Wright. “It’s a one-way relationship. I think Doc is genuinely fond of Baby as long as he says yes.” When you see the film, keep an eye on Spacey’s wardrobe. “I had this idea that Doc never takes his jacket off because he’s never staying. He comes in, does what he needs to do, gives them the briefing, counts the money, and then he’s gone until the next call.”
Bats Out Of Hell
“I’m the one got the mental problems in the crew”, says Foxx’s Bats. And, as he fires a gun and generally looks menacing, it’s easy to believe him. “Jamie brought a lot to the part,” says Wright. “Bats has, unfortunately, succeeded in life doing very bad things for a very long time. He’s like an out of control train. He’s addicted to the crime itself, and the rush. It’s, weirdly, a similar thing to Baby, but with a different, darker, more nihilistic bent to it.” Are the two locked in on a deadly collision course?
Bats’ crew is filled out by Flea’s Eddie No-Nose (“formerly Eddie The Nose,” laughs Wright) and Lanny Joon’s J.D.. “I wanted to have some musicians in the movie,” says Wright of the presence of the legendary Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist. One night, over dinner with Flea, whom he’s known for some time, Wright popped the question. “He’s the greatest — such a nice guy, so talented, so many amazing stories. And just a great character actor.” Incidentally, one of these characters is glimpsed later in the trailer, somewhat the worse for wear. Or the worst for wear, if you catch our drift. But we won’t go into that. You freeze-frame jockeys can knock yourselves out with that particular spoiler.
Here we have Buddy (Jon Hamm) who, along with his wife, Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), admires and respect Baby for his skills. “Buddy has this fraternal older brother relationship with Baby,” explains Wright. Here, though, he’s telling Baby “the song’s over”. Are rocky times ahead? “Buddy is a very supportive character, but is not to be fucked with,” teases Wright. Incidentally, the second half of this line can be found in the US version of the trailer if you want to piece together what Buddy’s saying.
Car Chase City
Here, during another getaway, we see that even Baby’s prodigious driving skills are not quite enough. “The idea with the progression of the movie is that the chase at the start is the dream chase where everything goes right,” says Wright. “And then things start to go wrong. It’s the idea of pulling away the fantasy of being a getaway driver, to the nightmare reality of it. And in this situation, Baby sees that this is not a job he wants to continue with.”
Born To Run
Showing that Baby Driver is not just about squealing tyres and handbrake turns, we get a few brief glimpses of Baby on foot during an extended chase sequence. “I tried to design it like a Hong Kong movie or a musical where there’s five setpieces,” says Wright. “I’m a big fan of setpieces that radically change, where something goes wrong and the nature of the action changes.”
What The F...
The trailer ends with a classic ‘innocent bystander’ gag, giving Atlanta actress Andrea Frye a moment in the spotlight as an old lady who has an unexpected run-in with a desperate Baby. “He’s not comfortable with carjacking, as you can see,” says Wright. “He’s not callous enough to peel out and leave this lady completely in the lurch.” Intriguingly, it’s one of the few out and out gags in a trailer that emphasises the film’s action and thriller elements. The message is clear: Wright’s previous movies may have been comedies, but Baby Driver is something else. “I think some press and people just assumed it was a comedy,” says Wright. “But it was definitely my dream to make an action thriller, with a particular tweak to it. It’s in the mode of action movies and thrillers I love.”