Capone tangles with SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD star Michael Cera and director Edgar Wright!!!
Published at: Aug. 14, 2010, 12:58 a.m. CST by headgeek
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
Not sure if you were aware of this or not, but there's a movie coming out on Friday called SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, and it's pretty fucking spectacular. In many ways, it's a step down a very different path for director Edgar Wright, and in other ways, it's right down his alley. As universally loved and regarded as SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOTT FUZZ, and the "Spaced" TV series are, they are definitely aimed at an audience slightly older than the readers of the Scott Pilgrim comics. At the very least, those previous projects were best appreciated with a knowledge of and passion for '70s and '80s film that Wright and his partners in crime, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, have always made a part of their work. So whether you see Wright as growing up or perhaps getting younger to make SCOTT PILGRIM, there's a real shift in his visual sense, pacing, and just pure adrenaline-fueled joy.
I ran into Wright briefly at Comic-Con, and the first thing he said to be was, "Am I seeing you in Chicago?" At the time, I wasn't even aware he was coming, let alone bring the star of his film, Michael Cera, who I'd just interviewed late last year for YOUTH IN REVOLT, with him. And while I had a great time talking to Cera in December, placing him in close proximity to Wright seemed to ignite something in his persona that I'd never seen before. He seems genuinely excited to be out talking about this movie.
First off, you should read Quint's fantastic interview with Scott's lady love Ramona Flowers (aka Mary Elizabeth Winstead). And if what I'm hearing is correct, you'll be getting an extensive one-on-one interview with Edgar Wright from another one of our writers fairly soon, but since he and Cera were paired in Chicago, I thought I'd have a little fun with them and still get some insight into the movie. Hope you enjoy, and in the name of all that is holy, go support the most original film released this weekend, hell, this month. Enjoy Edgar Wright and Michael Cera…
Edgar Wright: Hey, man, how are you doing? Seems like only yesterday…
Capone: Exactly. Hi, Michael, good to see you again.
Michael Cera: You too! How are you doing?
[Michael Cera spots a table filled with SCOTT PILGRIM promotional buttons, some of which made their way into my pocket before the interview.]
MC: Cool, free stuff!
EW: Lots of stuff.
MC: Are these magnets?
Capone: I haven’t even looked at these. They look like bookmarks. Actually, I would love one of these.
EW: You've got all the pins there. I'm not sure I've got all the pin, actually.
MC: Who are you missing?
EW: We made one for… It’s Anna Kendrick’s birthday today, and she complained that there were no Stacey pins, so we made her a special one-off Stacey button.
Capone: That’s nice.
Capone: Anyway, so now that you are sort of out of the Comic-Con bubble as it were and taking this film out into the real world, is it a different experience? How does it feel?
EW: I don’t know, I think people seem to have the same reaction. Like I think--whether it’s the sort of more conventional elements of the love story or comedy or even the geekier aspects of it--it still seems to hit home to people who have never been to Comic-Con or read the books.
MC: People are just a little more off guard going in I guess, right?
EW: Yeah. That’s the thing, I think maybe it’s more of a revelation for people who haven’t seen the books, which is kind of nice, so from the press that we have spoken to, we have people several times a day saying “I have never seen anything like that before, where did it come from?”
MC: “I did not expect that!” “I had no idea what to expect,” is what a lot of people are saying.
Capone: Yeah and I mean I’m not a video game person at all, not since I was much younger.
EW: Me too.
Capone: I can literally only really afford one or two major passions in my life to just throw all of my money at and that’s movies, and music to a certain degree, but movies are the main thing.
MC: You throw all of your money…?
Capone: Money and time, yes.
MC: Yeah, I got you.
EW: I agree with that. I’m always envious of those people who can somehow kind of hit all bases and I find that, like SOPHIE’S CHOICE, I’ve found I have to pick two of the five. If it’s like books, comics, video games, films, and music, I have to concentrate just time and money wise on films and music.
Capone: Same here, exactly. So video games have been sort of a mystery to me for a while. I’ve got friends who play them, so I’m aware, but what’s funny is that all of the video game references in this movie I recognize. They are so old-school-arcade game kind of video game references that I’m like “Oh, that graphic looks like something out of a game I used to play in high school.”
MC: It’s almost even just more of a feeling than any specific reference that people recognize, like even just hearing a [video game theme] song, and you might not even know what it’s from, but you just feel it. It just feels like childhood.
EW: Yeah, I think that’s the thing. I’m a lapsed gamer in that I haven’t really had a console in my house for ten years, since "Spaced." aAnd "Spaced" in a weird way was like having a Viking funeral for my PlayStation.
EW: I had to get it out of the house. With this actually, I feel… When I read the books and a lot of the game references that were in the books kind of induced a sense of nostalgia, and I think also it taps into like… Even just having those more primitive kind of 8-bit musical motifs, it kind of keys into the fact that Scott Pilgrim is immature as a character, like he’s 22, but sometimes he acts like a 12 year old, you know? Hopefully, it works as a theme, so it was as much a character theme as much as a stylistic flourish. Sometimes I think some people have gotten bogged down in the video game references a little bit, because it’s not the first thing that I think of when I think about the film, I think “Oh yeah, we do that.”
Capone: Yet you open the film with the Universal logo and that 8-bit music, so…
EW: That’s true.
Capone: So you're already priming us to view what we're about to see through very specific filters.
MC: That’s true. It’s like Tetris and Zelda mentioned in the first two minutes…
EW: Yeah, I guess so. I think so in a weird way it’s establishing that kind of… I guess I felt the same way about "Spaced" when I did it, like, I didn’t think too much. Some of the pop-culture stuff that’s in there to me just kind of felt like it was air to the characters, do you know what I mean? I feel like what’s interesting about the film--and in the books as well--you are dealing with that point in your life where it’s like post school or college, but pre-knowing what the fuck you are going to do with your life, and so there’s that sort of moment which, for some people is a year, for some people it’s 10 years or like being slightly directionless.
And if it’s a rite-of-passage film, it’s about Scott Pilgrim. It’s not just about Scott Pilgrim trying to have his first adult relationship, but it’s also about him just kind of learning to take on the responsibilities for his action and not be like in his own little playground.
Capone: Although I think the over-30 crowd is going to gravitate toward that adult relationship story more. That’s certainly the stuff that I was enjoying the most, that grand metaphor of working your way through the hormones, the energy, and the overbearing emotion of those younger relationships, all through Scott’s filter of pop culture. I want to talk a little bit about your editing, actually, because this is edited in such a way that you forego classical approaches to character development and story progression in favor of these small moments that add up to something. Can you talk a little bit about that?
EW: I guess with the editing, I think I’ve always done things that were sort of edited in a way that certainly isn’t naturalistic in its style. I guess in this case I was trying to get the feel of the books across, so even in a comic-book movie, there’s one thing about doing onomatopoeic sound effects or transitions, but also, I felt reading the books, even just in the way that it’s edited and the shot structure is that every shot had to feel like a different panel, because usually in comic books, and in Brain's [Lee O’Malley] art work, you maybe get like two bubbles per panel. So it’s always moving forward, and I felt like I really wanted to capture the feeling you have of reading a comic book really fast.
I remember when I used to read Marvel comics, I used to have a Marvel comic and I would read the whole thing in like 20 minutes, and when it would get to the action, which I would actually read through the action much faster, because I would kind of read the sound effects as quick as they would appear, so it would be like you are reading dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, and then you get to the action scene, it’s like “Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!" Next bit. So I finished the comic and I would go back and pour over the action artwork. I would try to read the action as fast as it should be occurring in reality and then I would go be and sort of luxuriate in Frank Miller’s artwork or Todd McFarlane’s artwork, so I tried to get that rhythm to it, as well.
And also even in the dialogue in the books is very laid back and dead pan. I liked the idea of keeping that screwball pace to it in a way like it never slows down for the audience or it never talks down to the audience. It’s not like the dialogue is too smart for the room, but it’s more that it just doesn’t ever slow down for people.
MC: It’s too dumb for the room.
EW: “The dialogue that was too dumb for the room.” Don’t use that for our pull quote, please.
Capone: I’m always a huge fan of when music is not just used as a soundtrack, but as it being a integral part of the film. Talk about the importance of the band in this movie, because this is almost as much a story of the band’s rise as it is of Scott’s changing life. Can both of you talk about that?
MC: It’s almost like the band’s journey is what’s happening in reality, and the rest of it is kind of in Scott’s mind.
MC: That’s all his world, and they're trying to get him to focus.
EW: Yeah, he’s the guy in rehearsal who is staring out of the window. It’s like [smacks hands together] “Scott! Come on!” Stills and Kim have a different version of this film playing that's more like an ALMOST FAMOUS sort of version, where Sex Bob-Omb rise through the ranks.
EW: In terms of the band, we tried really hard to make the band’s scenes feel real, because even within the scenes that are kind of stylized, because a lot of fictional bands in film feel slightly off, and so myself and [music supervisor] Nigel Godrich kind of worked really hard to try and ascertain why that happens in other films and part of it is just the actors learning how to play their instruments. Michael already knew how to play guitar and bass, but Allison Pill and Mark Webber had to kind of learn from scratch and Brandon Routh had to learn from scratch.
MC: And Mark did his own vocals.
MC: And it sounds great.
EW: And Allison and Michael do backing vocals as well, so Beck had written these songs and Beck had deliberately recorded them in a very short space of time, so they had the feeling of like being raw 8-track demos. Basically once he laid them down, we didn’t ever ask him to polish them up, because I was thinking “This sounds real and raw,” and it sounds like the songs that a band would knock out with their first EP.
Capone: I’ve been a huge fan of Mark Webber’s for years, but I don’t know if I have ever seen him do comedy or anything other than the heaviest of heavy dramas. How did you think of him for that particular role?
EW: You know what? I can’t claim credit for that. I had seen him in other films, like BROKEN FLOWERS and HOLLYWOOD ENDING even. I had seen him in other stuff like DEAR WENDY….
EW: STORYTELLING, yes, of course.
Capone: You should see a movie that he’s in called THE HOTTEST STATE that Ethan Hawke director.
MC: Oh yeah!
EW: He’s one of those guys, he’s a bit of chameleon. I must admit, I’d say about 50 percent of the cast I had in mind before or I was aware of and was fans of. And then there were other people who I had seen in things or I knew I liked them, but I’ve got to give credit to the casting director and Mark Webber was one of those people.
And usually when people come in to read, I don’t pour over their resume until they have left the room, I kind of just see who’s coming in and just let them read. So actually Mark Webber was one of those people that I saw. You know there’s that kind of cliché saying where “You know when somebody walks into the room whether they are right for the part or not,” and I don't think that’s usually true, except for Mark Webber. Somehow when he came in, he had this kind of like, this infectious beaming grin on his face and he totally looked like the character. And he reminded me a lot of Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene, who I have become friends with through this process.
So when Mark came in, I was thinking “Oh man, it looks like Kevin’s brother,” and he was brilliant in his first audition--his first and only audition I think actually and then I looked at his resume thinking, “Oh shit, it’s the kid from STORYTELLING!” Then the next time I saw him, I was like “You worked with Mike Shank? Tell me about working with Mike Shank!” So I would love to claim credit for saying, “Mark Webber was mine,” but he just came through the audition process and he was amazing.
Capone: Michael, you have done a succession of films where you are dealing with your first serious love. Why do you think people look to you for that kind of character dealing with that specific life event?
MC: I scream “inexperience.”
EW: You literally do that.
MC: I go around the streets screaming “Inexperience!”
EW: But that was your mantra on set before every take. “Inexperience!”
MC: I would scream “Inexperience” and “Shut up you idiots, we're trying to rehearse!” Those were my two mantras on set.
Capone: Do you ever envision a time in your career where you will play someone who is married?
MC: Or maybe like giving a young man advice.
Capone: Yes, exactly.
MC: I do. I envision that. Down the road.
EW: We'll jump 60 years ahead for the GRUMPY OLD MEN remake. Start the rumors now. Michael and me are doing a GRUMPY OLD MEN reboot in 2050.
MC: That’s funny. Somebody said that in an interview, “You always play young people.”
Capone: Another cast member I wanted to focus on, because he kind of just blew me away and I have seen him before and always loved him, is Kieran Culkin. I love that his character sits outside of the movie a little bit, like observing; he’s like a walking breathing commentary on everything else. To me, he’s the reality in a lot of ways, because we are seeing Scott’s other non-reality.
EW: It’s funny, I would sort of refer to the characters as the ladies in Scott’s life that play like a Greek chorus, and I include Kieran in the ladies, but it’s like Stacey, Scott’s sister, Kim Pine, and Wallace Wells are like the people who are the grounding, constantly being that kind of mental stroke--somebody who needles you, both loves and hates you at the same time. And he’s such a great part of the books, Wallace Wells is great. Weirdly, two days ago in Toronto, Kieran met the real Wallace for the first time, because Brian based it on a friend of his.
MC: His former roommate actually, right?
EW: His former roommate, yeah. So a lot of that stuff, and then the guy, Chris, who works at [comic book store] The Beguiling in Toronto, watched the film for the first time and loved it, but the scene in the film where he comes home drunk and flops on the bed is based on a real incident. But Kieran is amazing. My note to Kieran was I said, because he’s playing a very out gay character and a very predatory gay character. He turns straight men like that [snaps his fingers]. My note to him in the first audition that he did, I said, “Wallace Wells should appear more straight than Scott Pilgrim.” How I feel in the books is like--and I think it’s a really great way that he wrote the characters in the book--and it’s also nice for like a PG-13 comedy to have gay characters where there is absolutely zero stigma about it, you know what I mean?
Capone: You don’t even call attention to it, even though he's this hyper-sexual guy.
EW: He turns Stacey’s boyfriend in seemingly 10 seconds flat.
Capone: So Michael, have you retained any of your fight training? Could you go out on the street and just kick some ass?
MC: I couldn’t do a thing. Even if I had retained it, I couldn’t kick ass. It’s just like a ballet you know? I could do it if the opponent was Satya [Bhabha, who plays evil ex- Matthew Patel], and if he happened to remember his part.
EW: Didn’t you do that late at night in a street?
MC: Yeah, we did actually. We were in L.A. and me and Satya were trying to remember our fight sequence, like this was like a couple of months ago and somebody screamed, “I’m calling the cops!”
MC: I don’t know if she thought we were really fighting, or maybe we were just being too loud.
Capone: Was this the most preparation--I’m talking about the music and the fighting--that you ever done before shooting?
MC: By far. Yeah, I mean we did band rehearsals and two months of training and rehearsing with other actors and just constant preparation. It was kind of nice.
EW: That was something that was kind of built into everybody’s contract, as well, in terms of like “We have to have everybody in Toronto for like eight weeks before we start shooting.”
MC: It was smart to do that.
EW: I remember I talked to Quentin Tarantino about the prep on KILL BILL and he had said “Minimum eight weeks training for the actors,” and it was actually really good, because I think--and hopefully it comes across in the finished film--that the actors became really close, especially for the ones who didn’t know each other already, a couple of them already knew each other. Allison Pill and Mark Webber had been in DEAR WENDY before. But what was great is it really, we all trained together, like me and [Wright's co-writer] Michael Bacall trained with the actors every morning as a sort of solidarity thing, but also as a way for me and understanding what they had to go through.
We are working… like they were trained by one of the fight trainers, Max White, who was a stunt double for HELLBOY. We were talking about this in the car on the way here, both of us were saying, “Man, I would pay Max White to be my trainer everyday.” I said, “I really miss the fight training.” We did it for two hours every morning during prep for like two months and it was amazing. And then lots of other actors who aren’t in the fights came and trained as well. Suddenly Kieran Culkin and Brie Larson were training even though they don’t actually appear in any fight scenes. Then people really start to feel left out, like there was this kind of, almost like a networking thing.
MC: Like a speakeasy.
EW: Yes, a speakeasy. It’s like there’s a poker game going on at 8 in the morning, like “Aw, I want to play too!” “I want to be in fight club!”
MC: A “speak difficult.”
Capone: Real quick, what is next for both of you? What do you have lined up?
EW: We can answer for each other on ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and ANT-MAN.
Capone: I wasn't even going to ask about ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT this time. I asked you about ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT before, and I just spent a couple of days on Ron Howard’s set here in Chicago, so I kind of know what’s going on with that.
MC: I don’t know what my next job is. I don’t know if I really have anything lined up. I really want to do this play with Kieran Culkin that I’m hoping will work out.
EW: That’s cool.
MC: I don’t know if it’s going to, but if it does I would be so happy.
Capone: In L.A.?
MC: In New York.
EW: Oh wow, that would be amazing. I didn’t know about that.
MC: It would be amazing. We will see.
Capone: You can’t say what it is?
MC: THIS IS OUR YOUTH [written by Kenneth Lonergan]. Do you know of it?
EW: Oh yeah.
MC: It’s a great play, but I really don’t know if it’s going to work out, but that’s what I want to do the most right now.
EW: That’d be cool.
EW: I don’t know when the last time you interviewed me, but it’s probably still exactly the same. I’ve got like three things that I still need to finish writing, including ANT-MAN and one with Simon [Pegg] and Nick [Frost] and one solo project. At some point, I want to kind of collapse, even just a couple of days would be nice--maybe longer--but then get back into writing. I’m a really bad multi-tasker and pretty much, I’ve been working on the script for like five years, but in July of 2008 I started working on [SCOTT PILGRIM] full time and didn’t stop until, well it’s happening now and still going.
Capone: There was a part of me that thought that you might have secretly cast your Ant-Man already and that would have been part of the AVENGERS lineup, because I can’t imagine an AVENGERS without Henry Pym. He’s always been there.
MC: Ant-Man? He’s part of THE AVENGERS?
MC: Oh, I didn’t know that.
Capone: He was always…
EW: He was in the original… Well the original issue of THE AVENGERS is like sort of, by Stan Lee’s own admission, was just like “How can we get all of the heroes into one comic?” They team up to capture the Hulk in the very first issue.
EW: But the thing is that the script that I had written for Marvel, if we end up doing it, is actually wouldn’t work with that timeline the way that I’ve written it. So I actually had a talk with [Marvel Studios] Kevin Feige a couple of months ago--I think before Joss [Whedon] got involved--about “Is Ant Man going to be a part of THE AVENGERS?” and we kind of both agreed that maybe he shouldn’t on this first one, because of the way that my origin script works. And I think also because they are going for more like the Ultimates kind of version of The Avengers, but I hope I get to do the script that we did for Ant-Man, because it’s pretty…
MC: Is it funny?
EW: Yeah. It’s a different kind of origin film. I kind of figured you had seen every different variation of mad scientist creating a formula and stuff, so this is something a bit different.
Capone: Okay, well looking forward to it. Good to see you both again.
EW: Are you going to the screening tonight?
Capone: No, I’m not going to the one tonight, although I will see it again.
EW: But some Ain’t It Cool readers are going, right?
Capone: Yeah, we did give away a bunch of tickets.
EW: That’s cool.
Capone: Too bad you wont be able to make that.
EW: We'll do it again in a couple of years. [laughs]
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