Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Blu-ray Interview

On Monday, November 1, 2010, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was screened at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood and followed by a Q&A with the film’s director, Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), its star Michael Cera (Superbad, Arrested Development), and the creator of the original comic book series, Bryan Lee O’Malley.  This entertaining Q&A was moderated by director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy), which can be found in video form Here.

Before this screening, a more private event took place nearby at the Roosevelt Hotel, where a select group of press members were invited to preview the special features on the Blu-ray for the film, which is set to be released on November 9, 2010.  A full review for the Blu-ray, courtesy of Sean Ferguson, can be found Here.

In attendance at this preview event were Edgar Wright, Michael Cera, Bryan Lee O’Malley, and star Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Live Free or Die Hard, Death Proof),  who took the time to answer questions related to these special features and about the film in general.  I was among the press members at this event, and the following is a mix of the questions asked by its moderator and those of us watching the footage.


Regarding the test shoot footage.

Edgar Wright:  This was shot in the summer of 2008 and it was the first thing we ever shot.  And it was basically a way of showing the studio what the film was going to look like.  So we made this two minutes of test stuff with a lot of the crew… and everybody worked on it, pretty much for nothing, just to get it up to a point where we felt we could show it to the studio.  And it stars two of the stuntmen, who ended up both having parts in the film.


Regarding the reaction to the test shoot footage.

Edgar Wright:  Well it showed how much work was going to go into it, especially with the post-production, because we spent with [the test footage] like three months just to finish it on a very low budget scale. But yeah, working with Bill Pope [director of photography] and Brad Allen [fight coordinator], those guys are kind of world class, so it’s great because you have ambitious ideas visually, so you know that these guys can be able to accomplish them.  [Stuntman] Chris Mark who played Matthew Patel [in the test footage] basically doubled everybody at some point during the movie.  He doubled both Michael and Mary. [Laughs]

Michael Cera:  I once walked into the men’s restroom, and he was dressed as Mary at the urinal and I was like “…?” [Laughs]

Edgar Wright:  It was the most erotic thing that happened in that restroom.


On casting and early audition tapes shown on the Blu-ray.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead:  I’m not sure if we had actual audition tapes.

Edgar Wright:  You appear with like Ellen [Wong] and Kieran [Culkan].  We did sort of some auditions, but we didn’t need to be stubborn with some, like knowing if Kieran Culkan could do it, but I wanted to see him and Michael together and that was really fun.  We pretty much acted out all of their scenes.

Bryan Lee O’Malley:  It took about ten minutes. [Laughs]

Edgar Wright:  And there were some people that came in and read once and that was it, so I had to make sure the actors were cool with the thing on the Blu-ray.  I think it’s great because all of the dates are on there, and you see how far back some of that casting was done because the film was in pre-production in some form for…well it was in development for five years, but I think even Michael and Mary were cast back in 07 or 08.  And some of the other casting… well to show you how far back it goes, Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick’s casting both pre-date Twilight and Parks and Recreation and Funny People.  So it’s funny because the film took like a year to make and a year to edit, so most of the casting tapes go back to early 2009 at least.


On the physical training required for getting shape and working on all the fighting in the film.

Michael Cera:  I know my family was divided on the fighting. [Laughs]  We trained for over a month…two months, and after we started shooting none of us continued to train, so you could watch us slowly fall apart.


Reactions after watching some of the training footage.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead:  I was just kind of a mess.  I would just constantly get injured all the time.  I developed tendinitis from practicing all the time with that hammer and doing most so much choreography, mostly my shoulder would just pop out all the time.  Then I had this completely freak spinal injury that I got from stunt work, but I had to do the stunt work and didn’t know what was wrong with me until we finished shooting, so it was definitely a lot of physical stuff I was working through on the shoot, but it was really kind of cool because I feel way stronger now than before the film, so it’s kind of a unique experience.


Bryan and Edgar on watching the training process and seeing the characters come to life.

Bryan Lee O’Malley:  [Laughs] I can never put words to it, but it was all pretty fantastic, the whole crew was fantastic.

Edgar Wright:  I miss those training sessions, makes me nostalgic.  It’s not often that you get to work with Superman and Captain America. [Laughs]  And also, you can see in that tape that I was training with the guys as well and there was always like these world class professionals doing the most perfect roundhouse kick in the background and all of the acrobats and stuff in it, so that was amazing doing that training.  And it was a great bonding experience, because a lot of the actors in the training sessions didn’t have any scenes with each other, so a lot of the Exes would all kind of hang out together and then wouldn’t see each other until the premiere.  So it was nice to have the entire cast together for such a long period before shooting, which doesn’t usually happen.  Like most films the cast meets like the night before the first day of shooting.


On the choices for the music featured and played by the bands in the film, including the idea of not actually showing the bands play their music.

Edgar Wright:  Yeah, that was something we had in the first draft of the script, because Bryan and me thought it would be funny and the book only has sort of whispers of the songs, so there was an idea of not showing the songs and the running joke would be something that you didn’t see on screen, but would hear it was awesome.  Because in a lot of music biopics or films with fictional bands in them, you hear people saying, “That was greatest song ever!” and it usually isn’t [Laughs], so was a way of getting around that.  But then once we started to get the tracks, I think the Beck song, “Garbage Truck,” originally they were just gonna play the intro and then Matthew Patel was going to crash through the roof, and then when we heard it, I think Nigel Godrick [score composer] was the first one to have said, “Well you have this amazing song and you’re going to miss it?  That’s ridiculous.” So, I think it sort of started to expand in that respect.  And I like it, because it starts to feel weirdly like a musical and you have a little musical break.  And it’s something with so much action in it; it’s nice when it just stops for a song you know?  It reminds me of like old 60s and 70s films in that respect.[Laughs]


On the evolution of the band, “Sex Bob-Omb,” and how the actors continued to jam.

Michael Cera:  It was great to play all of those songs over and over.  It was just six songs, I think, so we just went over those, endlessly, and by the time it came to shoot, it really felt like they were our songs.  You know, because no on one else had heard of them and we had a lot of ownership over them and knew how to play them and really liked them too.  It was nice.  I think we kind of found our group dynamic too, just by learning how to hang out with each other.  We would sit around and eat, and then play the songs; yeah it was great.


On the opening title sequence and further song usage.

Edgar Wright:  The actual thing of playing the song (“We Are Sex Bob-Omb”) longer came quite late.  The credits that were developed came about two months before the film came out.  So that was a late addition, just the idea of sort of expanding it.  Originally all the credits were at the end, but then it felt like…well a couple of the people at the screenings felt that having the credits at the beginning would give it more of a feeling of prologue, getting us into the story, and suddenly it felt much better once it went there.  So that was the addition, but [the basic concept] was done in like 2008 or maybe earlier. This is how it was originally thought of.

On the animatics features on the Blu-ray.

Edgar Wright:  What’s funny is that when you get to the Lucas Lee animatics, you see how many drafts it goes through, because you have like…well Bryan wrote and drew, he had the script; and you have like full storyboards for everything and then you have like Double Negative and my brother getting involved and making some of those stills into like 3D pieces, then you have what Brad Allen and his team do, and they tend to shoot the rehearsal videos that end up looking like these weird “sweded” versions of the film. [Laughs]  They end up looking like an amateur cover version of the movie…Once you put it all together, you end up having like twenty versions, and I wanted to put in on the Blu-ray because I feel it shows how many authors have been on in order to get to the end.  There’s so much action in the film, and we had a long schedule, but it was still like every single day was panicked.  And if you’re not kind of prepped like this, there’s just no sort of way to get through the day.  You just have to have it all mapped out.


Edgar’s story after watching the animatics feature.

Edgar Wright:  During one of the shots, between one of the two cuts, one of the extras went to the bathroom [Laughs].  So it’s in the first bit, but not the second bit, and it wasn’t until much later, with me thinking, “Hang on, what’s wrong with this shot?”  And this guy literally just disappears, between the two things, so we had to digitally put this guy back in.  So that guy who went for a pee break had no idea of the hours and hours of rendering that he had caused.  I always found that funny. [Laughs]  If I knew his name, I’d call him out.


On the environment and stylizing Toronto.

Edgar Wright:  Bryan takes a photo of Toronto and then draws it, and he’ll simplify it, so you look at Bryan’s artwork and what’s not there is like all the satellites and crap and extra wires and things that are not as ostensibly pleasing.  So we took real shots of Toronto and then just rubbed stuff out to make it look as nice and simple as like – would you be able to draw from memory essentially?  Or just the things that look more aesthetically pleasing.  Even the trees, the trees are all sort of stripped down to kind of look more like Bryan’s artwork.


On the outtakes, particularly Michael Cera attempting to make a behind the back basket (33 takes).

Edgar Wright:  Oh yeah, it’s you throwing the package.

Michael Cera:  Is this embarrassing for me? [Laughs]

Edgar Wright:  No, well you did it, eventually. [Laughs]  I wouldn’t be able to do it at all.

Michael Cera:  They should have had me do a commentary on this going like, “Oh my god…” [Laughs]

Moderator:  Yeah, but it’s one of those things that proves – you did it, it wasn’t a trick, it wasn’t a gag, you did it, and it is kind of amazing to see how well you work, and how patient you were to get that shot, and it’s so casual and off-handed in the film.


On the television edited version.

Edgar Wright:  You contractually have to do a TV safe edit.  And the thing is if you don’t provide them, they’ll be the silliest ones.  And if you watch something like Die Hard 2, you can tell that like Bruce Willis did not show up for his TV edit recordings [Laughs].  We have a thing about ADR (additional recording), I actually really like doing them, and some people watch them and saying, “Oh, that’s retarded, why do they have to like change “ass,””  And I’m thinking, well I think it’s funny.  And what we do is we try to think of the weirdest ones to put in, and then we only do one take of them. [Laughs]  So they start to get really weird – every iteration of the word “ass” is replaced by the word “owl” [Laughs].  What else?  “Shit” is turned to “Smurf” or “Snarf.”

Michael Cera:  “Hell” is turned to “Hootch”

Edgar Wright:  I just like it.  I saw Hot Fuzz on Comedy Central for the first time the other day and I just thought, “Wow, if you’ve only ever seen that film on Comedy Central, you honestly have like another twenty minutes to look forward to” [Laughs].  I was amazed at how butchered it was.  So with these things, if you have to provide like a safety version, it at least helps to have fun with it.


On the use of the Phantom Camera, which shoots images at 1000 frames per second, making for crystal clear images in super slow motion.

Edgar Wright:  It was the only digital camera that we used in the entire film.  The rest of it was shot on 35 mm film or Vista Vision.  They used to be able to do this stuff, but it was like with equipment as big as a room.  Now you have a better-sized camera and it has a hard drive that plays back this work immediately, so it’d be a strange thing whenever we would do these shots, everyone would gather around the monitor because everyone would be able to see it.  What’s cool about this is that most of the fancy stuff is for the actors doing their own stunts, so I wanted to put this on the Blu-ray because it felt like it really shows how much the performers actually did and how dangerous some of it is.  It was an amazing tool and fascinating doing this stuff.


On having someone take new control of Bryan’s material.

Bryan Lee O’Malley:  Well it already belonged to the fans I guess, but I would have never given the material away to anyone, it had to be this guy.  I was like, “Oh, this guy did Shaun of the Dead, awesome.”  And I was a starving artist [Laughs], so maybe it could have been anyone, but fortunately, it was Edgar.


On the music created by Beck for the film, and the additional material he produced.

Edgar Wright:  I guess anything that we didn’t use in the film is Beck’s to keep.  He gave me like a CD after he recorded it, which was like 22 tracks long, including 10 different versions of “Ramona.”  The “Ramona” acoustic one that Michael sings in the film and then the Beck version that it ends on; there were like 10 different versions of that, and the one we used in the film, I think it’s just him like improvising.  I think it’s basically the first take.  So there were a lot of different variations of things and different things changed around.  There is only like one track, the “Ramona” one, which Beck applied strings to and did any more work on.  The whole point of it was like, this is supposed to be the band’s first demo, and it’s supposed to be sort of great and crappy at the same time.  So it didn’t feel right to really do too much work to it.  I don’t know if the other stuff will ever surface, but it was fascinating to see his process.

On seeing different Scott Pilgrim themed Halloween costumes.

Edgar Wright:  The best one I saw was two guys who went as Scott and Nega Scott together.  One of them was completely in “gray face,” and that was pretty amazing. [Laughs]

Michael Cera:  I ran into eight guys dressed as The Expendables and they got the shit kicked out of them. [Laughs]


On the actors seeing themselves on film.

Mary Elizabeth Winsted:  I’m pretty good after the fact.  When you see it for the first time, I usually cringe at everything and I get embarrassed and nervous at the premiere and stuff like that, but pretty much subsequently after that I’m just really happy to watch it and feel really excited about it.  Like I’m so excited to get the Blu-ray to watch all of the behind the scenes stuff because it feels like it’s our own home movies that we get to watch all over again and kind of revisit.  So there’s nothing about watching any of this stuff that would make me uncomfortable.

Michael Cera:  I feel the same way.  When I watch this movie specifically, I remember everything about the shoot, about the day that we started scenes.  It’s really like reliving the whole shoot and it was such an amazing time, so it’s really nice watching the movie.


The actors on how all the physical training affected them.

Michael Cera:  I loved doing it.  It was so much fun getting on set.  The first thing in the morning was putting a harness on and having to be alert or else an opportunity to duck and get hit in the head could occur. It’s exciting.  The way we did it, we would do scenes for a while, and then we would do fights that would last like a week.  It was fun, but I don’t know if I would do it again.  Obviously I wanted to do it for this movie, because I love the material and Edgar, and I don’t know if I could do a movie, just because there were fight scenes unless it was guaranteed to be hugely successful. [Laughs]

Mary Elizabeth Winstead:  I think everybody had a lot of fun.  It was just something about the energy of when we were all training together and the way that we sort of put it together, it just was a really fun way to get in shape and be able to learn how to do all this stuff.  I think by the end of it, we were all ready not to like…ever move.  We all wanted to just lay on the couch for like four months.  But I think now I kind of miss it and hopefully I’ll get a reason to get in shape like that again, and have someone pay me to learn all that stuff.  That’s what’s sort of mind-boggling about the whole thing, is that you get paid to do that stuff, so it’s pretty exciting.


On concerns about how concerned they were towards gaining a wide audience.

Edgar Wright:  I don’t think that came up too much during the production of it really.  That didn’t really come up until we started doing our first press, and people would say, “Oh, do you think this film will appeal to the under-30 crowd.”  And I’m thinking, “Well, 1.  I’m 36, and 2.  If everybody under 30 did go and see it, we’d be billionaires. [Laughs]  I think the thing I gotta give credit to Universal for is that they let us make the film that we wanted to make.  It’s not really compromised in that sense.  It’s only really that we tried to absolutely get every single penny of budget on screen, and that was the biggest challenge.  I think if something has a specific voice and is speaking directly to some people, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing, because I think people feel there’s a connection to the material and there’s plenty of films that have been successful that nobody likes, but everybody goes and sees, but you would be hard-pressed to find somebody in the world who says that it’s their favorite film.  It’s nice to find that sort of person who’s like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe they made this film just for me,” and we just have to find those “me’s.” [Laughs]

On putting the alternate ending on the Blu-ray.

Edgar Wright:  I think it was sort of common knowledge that it existed, so I think that if we hadn’t done that, we would have been asked in every interview why it’s not there. [Laughs]  It was also part of the process.  We talk about it on the commentary, and what the thought process was, and that the ending was there before the release of Volume 6 [of the comic book series], and how we then brought it back to be more like Bryan’s ending.  I think it’s an interesting thing to show the process.  For those kinds of people who are definitely on “Team Knives,” it’s kind of like a fun thing to see.  That said, I think we all prefer and acknowledge the theatrical ending as the official ending.  And it took us a while to get there because we ended up living with the film for a year before we got to writing and shooting the new ending.  And then what’s crazy in the film, is that we did one scene, and it’s been like a year, and Michael, Mary, and Ellen [Wong] all look no different, and if anything they look better in the new ending because they had all slept. [Laughs]  So there was no question of not including that, it was just something interesting to see and you can also see how the original piece of music worked.  But I prefer the ending that went out in theaters.


Again, the jam-packed Blu-ray (review) will be released on Nov. 9th!

See all the Special Features HERE!


2 Responses to “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Blu-ray Interview”

  1. Brian White

    As always, great coverage here Aaron! I’m looking forward to checking this film out on Blu-ray this coming Thursday. I will let you know what I think of it.

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Have I mentioned how much I “love” the picture of myself with two directors I admire. But yes, this was very much an exciting night.