Some 22 years ago, British writer-director Edgar Wright was putting the finishing touches on his film A Fistful of Fingers. While editing the movie, he relentlessly listened to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion album Orange, which he had on repeat. He could visualize a car chase taking place to the rollicking garage blues track "Bell Bottoms."
Two decades later, he's finally brought that vision to fruition with Baby Driver, a thrilling heist film that features several Wright-like twists and benefits from witty dialogue, a killer soundtrack and some spectacular chase scenes. It opens areawide on Friday.
Wright came to prominence with his Three Flavours Cornetto film trilogy that consists of over-the-top comedies such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End. As a result, Baby Driver might seem like a stretch. But the film, which focuses on Baby (Ansel Elgort), a getaway driver coerced into working for a mobster (Kevin Spacey) and his cronies (Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx), doesn't come off as a huge departure.
"Within this gang, you have a dark and more sinister world," says Wright when asked about the movie's cast. "In terms of being the right age, Ansel is on the bubble. At the start of the movie, he's an apprentice of sorts. At the beginning, he fools himself into thinking that he's not a criminal."
When Baby meets Deborah (Lily James), a beautiful waitress at a diner, he simultaneously falls for her and realizes he can't keep driving for criminals if he wants to settle down with the girl next door.
"When he meets Deborah, rather than pursuing this glamorous life as a getaway driver, he realizes he'd rather be a regular guy with her," says Wright. "The idea is the aspiration of a better and more normal life."
Because of a hearing problem, Baby constantly listens to music via his iPod. Wright handpicked the tunes for the film's soundtrack, a mix of classics from the likes of Barry White and Simon & Garfunkel and more contemporary tunes from Blur, Kid Koala and Danger Mouse.
"One of the crazy things is that when I put the songs together and presented it to the actors, I did these mixes that had all the sound effects in there," says Wright. "As you're listening to it, you could really get a sense of what the music would be like. With the scene in which the gunfights are set in time with the "Tequila" song, I have a mix of that song that dates back to 2008. I've been thinking about it that long. When I started writing the movie 10 years ago, that was the first thing I did before I had written a single word. It was all planned from a long way back."
Ultimately, the movie possesses a message more serious than its often flippant tone.
"One of the earliest things I knew is that I wanted an escalation of heists," says Wright. "Each one gets stickier and more complicated. It starts with the clean chase. It's like a dream chase. You realize you could do it and not get a scratch on the car. Nothing goes wrong and nobody gets hurt. With the second heist, things go wrong. You're presented with tough, morally complex situations where members of the public are involved and people get hurt. Members of your gang get killed. I tried to make each situation as sticky as real life is."