I WAS AT A PRE-SCREENING OF SHAUN OF THE Dead and two of the film’s producers came up to me and said, ‘We have your next movie’,” remembers director Edgar Wright. “They had the rights to this new comic book and thought it was right up my alley – they said it was like a cross between John Hughes and Kill Bill.”
It’s been a decade since Wright crossed paths with Scott Pilgrim, the slacker hero of Canadian cartoonist Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series, which follows a guy forced to battle his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes. The British director behind cult series Spaced had already taken a bite out of the big screen with 2004’s rom-zom-com, swiftly followed by 2007’s police actioner Hot Fuzz. However, with a new decade looming, he was keen to move into something more ambitious.
“I loved the premise, Bryan’s artwork and his way of writing young characters and their dialogue,” Wright tells SFX, as Scott Pilgrim Vs The World turns 10. “There was also this overriding idea that was in some of my other work: of characters relating to their own emotional struggles through the pop culture they consume,” he adds. “Scott’s playing his life like it’s a videogame, and ultimately has to learn that you can’t treat people like they’re shiny objects on your solipsistic quest. That really appealed to me.”
Throw into the mix O’Malley’s kinetic storytelling and Scott Pilgrim felt like the perfect material to help the director make the leap to Hollywood. “I felt like I needed to prove myself beyond Simon [Pegg] and Nick [Frost] and do something without them,” reveals Wright. “Scott gave me the opportunity to take some of the magical realism that was in Spaced and bring it to the big screen in a different way, in a different country, with a different cast.” When he signed on to direct, only three of O’Malley’s six-instalment collection had been released, leaving Scott’s story far from complete. “We went to see Bryan in Canada and basically picked his brains about what the idea was for the next three books. He had a lot of rough outlines – some of which went into the movie but not into the last three books,” chuckles Wright. “He had a plan but wanted to keep it quite fluid.”
Luckily, pre-production coincided with a national writer’s strike, giving Wright and writing partner Michael Bacall the unexpected luxury of time: “We had so much access to Bryan. It was almost the complete opposite of an Alan Moore situation where Alan doesn’t want anything to do with an adaptation,” he laughs. “Bryan was extremely accessible. When we made the movie, anything that was drawn or written, I insisted he did it. There was a time he came to set and we basically held him hostage and made him write signs and draw all the doodles.”
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