Scott Pilgrim vs. The World bursts forth with such confidence the experience compares to a couple of hours of super-charged storytelling. It’s little wonder as director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) specializes in hyper-kinetic action mixed with deep layers of cinematic relief. Appropriately Scott Pilgrim blazes with an explosion of stunts, rock music, graphic titles, and visual mayhem, usually all at the same time.
The film’s based on a graphic novel series, which is itself set in Toronto where Wright shot the film. Speaking to Free Press Houston at a recent roundtable interview during a whirlwind stop in Houston, Wright recounted some of the details of making Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. In the highly representational movie, SP must battle the seven evil exs of the girl he’s started dating.
“In addition to Scott’s love interest Ramona Flowers, many of her exs are from the United States, and there’s a strain of culture-clash comedy,” said Wright. “It was nice shooting in the real city because the books reference a lot of artwork. We could stand in the same spot that Bryan had six years ago when he drew the comic.” Wright says referencing Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley. Wright launches into a description of Honest Ed’s, “a discount store with a million light bulbs that’s very recognizable.” That location is seen in many American films shot in Toronto. “Scott Pilgrim is one film where we didn’t have to digitally erase the CN Tower.”
Wright has made a splash with the right people. It’s easy to recognize the power of his mise en scene just from the genre bending Hot Fuzz. A listen to that film’s commentary proves that Wright watches a lot of films so voluminous are his total recall of directors and titles. Currently Wright is attached as co-writer for The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn being made by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson as well as in development on an adaptation of another comic series Ant Man, the latter project he’s worked on for years, not unlike the five years Wright spent bringing Scott Pilgrim to fruition.
There are so many edits and montages to go along with over one dozen primary and supporting players it’s little surprise that Wright reveals the film “contained around 2700 slates.” He points out that many scenes were shot with multiple cameras and mentions the split-screen and multi-imaging effects.
“The fight scenes were incredibly meticulous. The fight scenes took as long to shoot as they are quick to watch,” quipped Wright. “An American film will shoot with wide, mid and close-ups during the action,” notes Wright, but for the kind of stunt choreography he wanted it meant shooting the various pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. Members of the stunt team had shot films Hong Kong style. For some shots “this is the only angle for this particular punch or this is the only angle for this particular kick. And it’s easier on the actors; you’re breaking down the sequence like a dance number. The first shot is 1, 2, 3 – the second shot is 4, 5, 6, and so on,” explained Wright.
About the many shots involved in the montage Wright proudly states that it’s the work of the main unit, not insert shots done by the second unit. “You don’t want to hand that out to someone else. Even if the shots are on the screen for half-a-second, they’ve all got to look perfect,” says Wright. Jokingly he adds about the size of SP’s production boards “You could probably kill a man with the storyboard bible.”
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World starts Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead and is currently playing in general release throughout the free world.
— Michael Bergeron