Edgar Wright brings such an exacting, lovingly detailed sensibility to films like Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and last year’s Last Night in Soho that you’d never guess he, like everyone else, just gets stuck sometimes. Reading our fall 2021 cover story on Last Night in Soho, it’s clear that he draws on a wealth of influences — and like his biggest challenge might be whittling them all down into one film.
But in a fascinating new interview with Collider, pegged to Wright’s new BBC Maestro Course for aspiring filmmakers, Wright noted that in the process of writing a film like Baby Driver, “there’ll be whole days, maybe even weeks, where nothing will come.” So what does he do during those long, difficult times? To answer that question, he described his process of “creative procrastination.”
“Doing something that’s nothing to do with the work is maybe not helpful, although sometimes just walking around the block is a good idea if you’re kind of stuck, but I would just try and read and watch and listen,” Edgar Wright told Collider‘s Steve Weintraub. “Even when I was doing Baby Driver, if I was getting stuck, I would go to the Starbucks, I would buy the L.A. Times, and I would read the sort of local section about crimes, and I would just write down names, streets, cars, and just kind of do things where you’re just — it’s sort of like you’re picking up things by osmosis, and then something will unlock, and then in the middle of the night, you’ll say, ‘Ah! I know what it is!'”
There are lots of stories about how directors made films for $100 million, but they aren’t necessarily helpful for beginning filmmakers working with micro-budgets. Wright is perfectly equipped to help people on the outside break in because he’s seen both sides of the industry. He made his first film, the Western A Fistful of Fingers for a reported $15,000 when he was just 20 years old. After moving on to television, including the British series Spaced, he returned to filmmaking with 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, paying homage to George Romero’s zombie masterpiece Dawn of the Dead — an experience deeply detailed in the terrific Clark Collis book You’ve Got Red on You: How Shaun of the Dead Was Brought to Life.
His other collaborations with Simon Pegg, 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End, usurped and honored the buddy-cop and sci-fi genres, respectively, and 2010’s comic-book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was a love letter to rock music that featured many of the next decade’s breakout stars, including Aubrey Plaza, who recently told us the story of a slightly confusing audition for the film — at first she didn’t realize she was auditioning for Wright himself, until he helpfully explained, “Hello? You do realize that I am the director. I’m Edgar Wright.” The two still keep in touch, including when our cover photo convinced him she might be the next Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.
And it turns out we owe Baby Driver, his biggest hit, in part to Starbucks and L.A. Times crime stories.
Main image: Edgar Wright with Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith on the Last Night In Soho set.