On the Set of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

The Man with the Vision Part 1

It’s often difficult to get the director to sit down to talk while on set because they’re always so busy, but being that Wright had personally invited all of the journalists present at his Toronto set, it was cool he could make as much time as he did for us. He first joined us in the dining area while his team was changing the set-ups, then again while the cast and crew were on their lunch break a bit later, the second time joined by a couple of actors. So in all, we probably got Wright for a solid hour of his time which is extremely rare on set and we’ve decided to split it up into two pieces, easing into things with some talk about Comic-Con (which Wright missed for the first time in years) and the Photoblog he maintained over at Edgar Wright Here last year.

Wright: Sorry we’re being so secretive but you guys landed literally on the last moments of the film. (laughter) I said to Lisa (the film’s unit publicist), "It’s not so much that I don’t want them seeing it. I don’t think they want to see it." (laughter) No, it’s cool. Anyway, how are all of you guys doing? How many of you came from Comic-Con?

Q: Pretty much all of us. Was there anything you were sorry you missed at Comic-Con that you wanted to see?
Wright: We actually ended up working all the way through last weekend, so it wasn’t even a question. We just couldn’t come down. We had all these grand plans to come down and we were going to shoot a special teaser trailer, and then it just didn’t happen. Oh, maybe we should… "Is it going to detract from making the film? Yes it is." (laughter)

Q: That didn’t stop McG last year!
Wright: (lots of laughter kind of covers up some of his response) I eventually consoled myself with it was cooler to be missed. (Laughter) We weren’t the only ones not there.

Q: I ran into Jason Reitman at Comic-Con, and he was like, "I just got pulled over by three people yelling at me for not bringing Scott Pilgrim."
Wright: I know. I saw that on his Twitter. It was so funny. I know. I talked to him about that. It was so funny.

Q: Everyone expected Brian’s panel to be a surprise "Scott Pilgrim" presentation.
Wright: We were going to shoot something for that as well, but honest to God, we were going to shoot something special for Brian’s panel, then just making this insane ending just kind of got in the way. When it comes up to the wire of like, ‘We should do something special… no, you what? We should shoot the scene we were doing."

Q: I love your daily photo blog from the first cup of coffee and how has it been doing that every day?
Wright: I’m really OCD about it as well. It really seems like it has to go up… and it has to be from that day. I could in theory pull a load of photos and then put them up and no one would know. I would know it was bullsh*t, so I try to make it… it’s all…

Q: I like the teasers you’ve done because you haven’t given anything away but you’ve given so much flavor of the film over the course of the shoot that it really feels like we have a good sense of your take on thing without seeing scenes or clips necessarily.
Wright: I realized when I made "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" I never took any photos at all, and I guess while I started doing press stuff I started taking more photos and I just thought that it only takes two seconds and sometimes literally there is just one photo and even sometimes, Liam my assistant comes up at quarter to midnight and says, "Have you done a photo? Oh, okay" (makes photo snapshot sound) (laughter) Literally, those are the ones… it’s usually something halfway decent. Usually I can tell if I’ve forgotten to do one if it’s a shot of like a sign. There are a couple of ones in there that is just a sign about like "Warning: Do not lean against the rails" and that was clearly taken on one of the mornings where "F*ck, I never took a photo today." (laughter)

Q: You see on the blog now, "Lazy filmmaker."
Wright: "Oh, that is Lame, B-!" (laughter) There are some of them occasionally when we go past 12:00 where I realize I can get an extra one in on Saturday and then not half to worry about Sunday. "Oh, it’s past 12, so this counts as Sunday, I’ll take one now."

Q: Is it strange for you to see stuff from the set of "Paul" having worked with Simon and Nick so closely and working on separate movies at the same time?
Wright: You know, not really, I think because they’re filming in the States. If they were making a film in London without me, I think I’d be bummed, but because they’re doing something in New Mexico, it’s fine. It’s good. It’s nice that it’s happening at the same time. It synchs kind of perfectly.

Q: This is your first film not only your biggest film, but it has a lot of action, but it’s your first adaptation, so how has that been for you?
Wright: Well, it’s been great in a lot of ways in terms of… the funniest thing that Brian has said in a couple of interviews is that the person who cares least about the changes in stuff is Bryan Lee O’Malley. What’s been really great about him is that not only has he been heavily involved right from the first draft but what’s interesting is he really understands what an adaptation means in terms of what we’re trying to do. We are putting all six books into one film in a sense. It’s definitely in the spirit of the books. Sometimes it’s completely verbatim and sometimes it’s just the overall tone we’re trying to bring across and make it one whole story. What’s interesting in the way he writes is that he changes his mind all the way through, so even our first draft of the script which is the one that got leaked onto the internet, which people said had loads of things that weren’t from the books, was all stuff from the books that he later changed and so there are things in the film that are truer to his original plotlines and then he ended up changing his mind and there’s even little bits of dialogue that were in the books and then we kept them in the script than he cut them out. The way that he writes, he tends to have a… well, weirdly, we wrote the first draft after he wrote the first two books and then we kind of picked his brain… me and Michael Bacall came to Toronto and we sat down and he had like biogs for the other exes and some ideas, and we basically picked his brains and he went up and thought about it and wrote out the plotlines for the other four books, so then we had that to work off of. Some of our script takes stuff from that which has since changed a little bit. So all of us have felt quite comfortable about the idea that people will get their value for money next year in terms of the books will have one ending and the film will have another ending, so it’s just a Bizarro… there’s a point in the film where the two things split, but none of them are necessarily wrong or right because all of the sort of things that people will think are more controversial changes–even things like just the genesis of some characters–like you’ll see the set for the Katayanagi Twins who were originally called the Katamari Twins, but what we’re doing in the film is what he was originally going to do before he changed his mind. Also, Brian as well, you can tell with some of the books that he gets to a point in the book where he can’t be bothered to actually draw the fights. (laughter) Particularly in Book 2, you can tell that he kind of tosses away some of the fights ’cause he’s… so I think it’s really fun in a way in terms of that we’ve been able to pick his brains, so there are things in the film that are from an alternate Scott Pilgrim which is no different from his original sketches, and there are things like… even like crazy things that came from the first villain biogs that we went down a path at one point in terms of… I don’t know.. at one point, Gideon was going to turn into a massive robot at the end. So he just designed it all and just thought.. we just came it to the end of thinking by the time this comes out, it will seem like we’re making a Transformers joke so we kind of scrapped it all. But he’s not even doing that anymore anyways, so it’s been a lot of kind of this big pool of ideas, both that are in the books and ones that didn’t make the grade, or just sketches of other things that we’ve managed to take things from, so that’s been really good. And he’s been involved in the process a lot, down to even designing… you know the things where we painstakingly went through and all the T-shirts he drew in the comics, we made them, and we got him to do ones or say when Todd Ingram is wearing a Punisher T-Shirt, we got Brian Lee O’Malley with Marvel’s permission to do the Punisher designer, so it’s the Punisher shirt but it’s Brian Lee O’Malley’s version of that skull, so it should be a really good collector’s item. Which most of the collector’s items in this film are licensed to other people. (laughter)

Q: I understand that it’s sort of a two-way street because Brian has stolen some ideas from you guys.
Wright: There’s a couple ideas in Book 4 and 5 that are from our script, only two lines but they’re ones that we’d written and then he said, "Oh, can I have that?" In that respect, he’s been a great collaborator, and I’m sure we’ve abused him in some ways when there’s a copy of "Now Magazine"… it’s like "Hey, you can think up some funny subheadings… hey, Bryan! Write some subheadings for this magazine." Tiny, small print things… and he and Michael Bacall get on great so whenever there’s been those little details and stuff in terms of fake band names and the stuff you basically will only see on freezeframe on Blu-ray, have kind of Bryan’s fingerprints all over them.

Q: Will there be some sort of comic book movie adaptation by some other artist?
Wright: I don’t think so. I wouldn’t have thought so. I just think it’s a nice thing in terms of they go off in different paths. I think up until very recently, Bryan had three different endings for the book. Also, he kind of changes his stories. I think we even had a similar thing on "Spaced." When we were doing the first series, the websites started writing plotlines at what they’d like to see in the future, and we had to ask them to stop because if we had read any of them, 90% of them would be terrible and there’d be one that would be good, and then you can’t use it because if someone came up with something that was quite good, we actually said, "Don’t write any plotlines, please." I think in a way, especially with the books, everybody has their little polls who they want Scott to end up with, and I think Bryan wants to keep his cards close to his chest. I think he even liked the fact that our film has a slightly different ending because it means he can have his ending, and it’s like they’re two different things.

Q: Did you have any disagreements on the way through?
Wright: No, we basically just run everything past him, so he’s read every draft of the script and he looks at the costumes and stuff… not really. There are a couple lines we wrote that are in the book, and I say a couple, there is literally like two lines that are in the books that me and Michael Bacall came up with, but on the flipside, there’s one scene in this film that as we were doing the final draft that Bryan was reading it and we had come to sort of an impasse on one particular scene and he did a little polish on it, so he just rewrote one scene and that seemed like the perfect way to wrap it up. The final thing we had done on the script was that Bryan rewrote one of the scenes and came up with a couple of lines. So it’s a pretty nice back and forth.

Q: Was there any consideration to do this as two movies?
Wright: No, not really, because the thing is that in a weird way in some respects, the cult of the comic has grown but also the interest in the film has fed back into the comics, because the first book when this was optioned sold 5,000 copies, so it was never a case … you’ve got to be "Lord of the Rings" or "Narnia" or "Harry Potter" to be able to say "We want six films of this 5,000-selling comic!" (laughter) So it honestly never came up, it was never like a question. I kind of think of Ralph Bakshi’s "Lord of the Rings"… I was thinking it would be awful to start something and never finish it, so we’re just going to do one film and make sure we get it in one.

Wright had to run off at this point to get back to work, but click on the "Next" button for a brief interview with his co-writer Michael Bacall, as our set report continues.