"Baby Driver" team spills on the action film driven by music

By Erny Suzira

(L-R) Lily James, Edgar Wright, and Ansel Elgort were in Malaysia to promote
"Baby Driver".

One of the movies that have been doing well at the box office and in critic reviews is definitely Edgar Wright's unique action musical, "Baby Driver" which is not exactly the singing kind of musical, but more of an action movie driven by music.

The movie has been receiving critical acclaim for its stylish capture, exciting action and killer soundtrack, grossing over USD99 million worldwide, against a production budget of only USD34 million.

Known for his comedic "Three Flavours Cornetto" film trilogy, Wright has proven via his latest film that he is definitely one of the best directors out there with original stories and unique concepts to deliver.

Starring Ansel Elgort ("The Fault in Our Stars") as the main lead and Lily James ("Cinderella") as the love interest, "Baby Driver" is about a young getaway driver, who is coerced into working for a crime boss, taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

The movie also features Academy Award winners Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx, Emmy winner Jon Hamm, as well as Eiza González and Jon Bernthal.

To promote "Baby Driver", director Edgar Wright along with his two main cast Ansel Elgort and Lily James were in Malaysia on 17 July 2017 as part of their worldwide "Baby Driver Star Tour".

At the press conference for the film at The Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur, the director and cast shared every little detail about the movie, from the movie name, to the casting choice, their relationship which each other and more.

The press conference of "Baby Driver" at The Ritz Carlton KL.

Cinema Online: For the actors, this the first time that the two of you have worked with Edgar Wright, so what do you think of him as a director and what are your favourite Edgar Wright movies?

Lily: I love Edgar's films and when I first got the script, the fact that he's directing is what enticed me so hugely to the project. I love "Hot Fuzz" and "Scott Pilgrim", and the others. It was amazing. I never worked with someone who had such a unique, clear vision of exactly what he wants his film and story to be. Everything is so clear and deliberate; it was just so rewarding to work with him.

Ansel: I agree! [laughs] I'm also a big fan of Edgar, especially after working with him, but even before as well. I too love "Hot Fuzz" and "Scott Pilgrim". His style is so specific, and when you work with a director with this style, it allows you to grow more so. I grew a lot as an actor while working with Edgar, and I learned a lot from him as well. Hopefully we get to work together again so that I can continue to learn from him.

Edgar, where did you get the inspiration behind the movie title as the driver in the movie is, not a baby?

Ansel: A common misconception. [laughs]

Edgar: It's a couple of things actually. There's a song called "Baby Driver" by Simon and Garfunkel which was featured right at the end of the movie, and it's a song that I liked growing up. The song itself is kind of like this high school baby driver who's like a folklore sort of driver, and I thought that the concept was kind of interesting.

Also, a lot of gangster movies, you have a character called Baby Face. In fact, there was a real gangster called Baby Face, but it's kind of like a standard gangster name for the young kid of the group. So it's kind of an amalgam of those two things, like he's literally a baby driver because he's a young driver.

Edgar Wright posing alongside Ansel Elgort.

How challenging was it to film scenes and time them with music?

Edgar: The music was already written into the script. There're 35 songs in "Baby Driver". I wrote it into the script. We cleared all the songs before we start shooting, so we actually shot the scenes to the music. We didn't put the music afterwards. We actually choreographed and tied sequences to the music, and we had a choreographer on the set the entire time.

So it definitely made it like a unique, creative challenge, and it made it a bit more complicated, but I also think that the music is the heartbeat that's driving the movie. I think for myself and for the actors, having the music on hand, was incredibly helpful and it made the entire movie a really unique and pleasurable experience.

For Ansel and Lily, what do you like about your characters and their relationship with each other?

Lily: I love the relationship that develops between these two characters, because it feels like they're both these old souls, especially my character - she's a real dreamer, and I really relate to that. She's also very impulsive like she suddenly decides to run off with this guy, which I relate to as well.

I love that scene where they start talking about music, and there's not a song with her name. That bond develops when they're sharing and talking about music that they love, I think it is such a deep connection, and it was beautifully written and says so much in such a short scene. So, I thought that the way the romance develops is so effortless and romantic.

Ansel: I also agree. In my humble opinion, I think what makes this movie so special which turns it from a great movie to an amazing movie, is the relationship between Baby and Deborah which adds so much soul to a movie full of amazing action and spectacle, allowing the movie to feel more grounded, when certain action movies don't.

Ansel and Lily have great chemistry on the film.

What is it about Ansel that made you want to cast him as the lead role of "Baby Driver"?

Edgar: I cast Ansel because he's like me but taller. [laughs]

I have had the idea for such a long time, but it was three years ago when I really made the decision that this could be my next film, and the first question from everybody like studios and producers was "Who's going to play the part?" So, Ansel's name came up very quickly, and the first time we met, before he read the script, we just talked about music solidly for an hour. I didn't want to tell him about the script straightaway. I want to kind of see whether we would get along, and we did. I think the bond that we shared was the passion for music. So at the end of the meeting I said to him, "I got this script which was very music-centric, and I think you'd like it." That's how we ended the meeting, and the next time we met, he read the script, and got the part.

He's usually a charismatic performer, but I also think because of his passion for music, and the ability to play and write music, feed into the character and that's really important. Even with the thing of having musical background really helps with the action, because all of the driving and parkour choreography only works if you actually have your own sense of rhythm. So it's enormously helpful, and also in terms of passion for the material and shared passion for music is what makes him the perfect Baby.

On social media, many people consider the film to be a new kind of musical. Do you think so too?

Edgar: Yeah, I think that it's not a musical in the sort of the traditional sense, but more in terms of the movie really sings out loud with it. When I first pitched it to the studio, I said that it was kind of a car chase movie driven by music. That was my pitch. It's not like "Les Miserables", but it is like a musical in its own way. I like the idea because I'm big fan of musical and action movies, so the idea of combining the two in a new and distinct way is really exciting to me. So that's basically what the movie is.

Edgar Wright previously directed "Shaun of the Dead", "Hot Fuzz", and "The World's End".

In a movie landscape that is filled with sequels, reboots and superhero movies, "Baby Driver" has gotten such great reviews so far. Did you expect to hit such high note?

Edgar: If I wasn't involved in "Baby Driver", just as a film fan, I would be thrilled to know that an original movie is doing so well at the box office, because I think that it is important for future films for original movies to do well. I got nothing against franchise movies. I really enjoyed some of the franchise movies this year, but there's a lot of it, and it dominates the market. So when an original movie breaks through, I think it's really important for the industry.

Thus, I'm very proud of the movie, and so happy that it's connecting with audiences in a big way. I'm so excited and extremely gratified that it has that response. Even in summer there has been some franchise that received softer reception than the studios are expecting, and the only possible explanation is that the audience is sort of slightly fatigued on certain series and want something different. So "Baby Driver" is something different, to be doing well is huge, and I'm extremely proud of that.

Ansel, you did the stunt driving in the film. Are you like that in real life when you're driving?

Ansel: No, I'm a very safe driver. [laughs] I did get to learn a lot of stunt driving. I had an incredible stunt team on the film who took me through stunt courses. Now, I got to keep the Subaru from the film, and I drive that car. But it's a little difficult when I drive it because for some reason I wanted to turn it around all the time. I don't know why. [laughs]

But I'm definitely a better driver now, and I enjoyed driving more than ever, and I think I have the bug now. So, I'll try to be safe.

How do you think your posts on social media helps to promote "Baby Driver"?

Ansel: I love social media because I feel that it's a way that I can be in contact with all my fans. When we arrived at the airport, there were a few fans there, and I love meeting and taking photos with them. I wish I could do that with all 8 million of my Instagram followers, but I can't. So, my way of doing that is by sharing it all with them on social media.

So I use my social media as a way to tell them about the film and hopefully encourage them to see it. I also use it as a way to see their reactions to the film, and so far, their reactions have been very positive, and I feel very fortunate to have a fan base that's supportive of our work.

Ansel is also a DJ named Ansolo.

For Lily, in the movie you play sort of a western American character. So is it hard mastering the accent, and are there any particular words that you just can't seem to get right?

Lily: Yes, there are a lot. I always felt awkward saying "holler", which I can do now. But my character is always saying things like "If you need anything just holler", and I always felt weird saying it.

But I have American families, so that helped. I worked really hard to learn the accent. I think I stayed in the accent pretty much all the time. Ansel is amazing, he's always very supportive, and I think being around and having all my scenes with him helped me pick up on my rhythms and the authenticity which I might not have if I was doing it with another English actor. In fact, sometimes I did try to stay away from Edgar, because he's British. [laughs]

But overall, I really enjoyed acting in another accent, I think it's really freeing and opens up and sort of takes you away from your habit. It also pushes you into a more brave character path. So, I'm still practicing.

Lily James' next film will be the sequel of "Mamma Mia".

How is it like working with Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx?

Edgar: They're both legends. When they signed up to do the movie I was thrilled, and I can't quite believe that they were both going to be in the movie. I don't think either of them have actually worked together before. They've been in the same movie, but they never shared any scenes together. So this is the first time they've been on screen together. I used to say to my cinematographer, whenever Kevin and Jamie are in the same shot, I would whisper "It's a double-Oscar shot!" [laughs] Because they're both Oscar winners.

I'm thrilled to have them both in the movies, and I think that it's one of the things that makes the movie work really well because the plot of the movie is about a young professional going up against these seasoned criminals. So it sort of works off-screen as well because Ansel is a young actor, and Kevin and Jamie are seasoned pros, so that was something that gave extra weight to the movie in such an incredible way.

Ansel: It's insane as young actor to show up on set with these two Oscar winners. It's amazing to be acting with them, but it was the off-screen time with them that I enjoyed the most. They're the nicest guys I've ever worked with. They're the warmest, the most generous, and they just want to support me and help me do the best.

Hopefully one day I'll be able to be as successful as them, and when there's a young guy on set, and I'll be as nice to him as they were to me.

Which singer, band, or composer, would you want to compose the soundtrack of your life, and why? What would the theme be?

Edgar: I'd go for Lalo Schifrin. He's one of my favourite composers who did the scores for "Bullitt", "Dirty Harry" and "Mission Impossible". I love listening to his music which has sort of a jazzy vibe. I would like to think that his music would be my daily soundtrack.

Lily: There's an all-blues country singer called Eric Bibb, and actually after I met him at one of his concerts, I was shaking and I said, "You've been the music to my life". [laughs] I already told him that, so it would have to be him. He's got such soul and tells stories through his music. So yeah, it would be Eric Bibb.

Ansel: It would be Queen. [laughs]

Cinema Online, 22 July 2017

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