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The Damned, Atlanta, & Burt Reynolds: An Interview with Baby Driver Director Edgar Wright


It was back in the summer of 2004 when a little film called Shaun of the Dead came into my life and with that came a love and appreciation of the man behind the film, Edgar Wright. As the years went on and Wright continued to create equally wonderful cinematic gems in Hot Fuzz, The World’s End and the criminally underseen and underrated Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Wright would further cement himself as one of the most imaginative and hilarious directors working not only today, but throughout the history of cinema. Wright has such an understanding of pace and timing that is truly exceptional and in all of his work manages to balance heart and hilarity with absolute ease. His latest work, Baby Driver, carries on this tradition and is geared to take the summer by storm.

If you keep up with Edgar on his various social media outlets you know that he is equally hilarious and charming but also a workaholic and is somehow seemingly in a million places at once, so I was quite elated to hear that I’d have a chance to interview him. While I knew the opportunity would be in a round table setting with some fellow journalists and that it was also gonna be a bit crunched for time I couldn’t pass up that chance to speak with this wonderfully creative human being that’s brought myself and my friends so much joy. He certainly did not disappoint.

Nerdlocker: One of the thing’s that stuck with me the most is Atlanta finally getting to be Atlanta in a movie. Having grown up in the south and having lived many years in Georgia, Atlanta was always the primary getaway city. Being able to see specific spots, like when Baby (Ansel Elgort) walks into Criminal Records and it’s actually Criminal Records it’s so rad. It’s one of my all time favorite record shops.

Edgar Wright: Yes! Excellent!

NL: It reminded me again of my younger days. I was around 14 or 15 and found this UK Punk compilation cassette at a bookstore of all places which had The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat” on it. While I never imagined it as being a good car chase song it works brilliantly. I’m like, ‘This is a perfect car chase song!”

EW: And that’s the kind of albums you would find in Criminal Records.

NL: Exactly! The songs he loves are so eclectic but with having such a natural resource of music knowledge right there adds some real authenticity to Baby’s tastes.

EW: I walked into Criminal Records at one point when we were scouting and in pride of place in the vinyl was “Sheer Heart Attack”, the Queen album that we actually use in the movie. So I was like, there you go!

NL: Knowing how awful Atlanta traffic can be I’m also genuinely shocked at what you were able to pull off on the actual highways and interstates there.

EW: What’s funny is when people are filming there…we used two freeways there; the I-85 and the I-20.

NL: Both of which have crumbled and fallen to pieces now! 

EW: Yes! But that was not us! The I-85 on fire has nothing to do with us. But yes, these (freeways) are not easy things to close down.

NL: Absolutely. I can’t even imagine.

EW: So there was this sort of amazing effort by our locations department and the start of Georgia to let us do those sequences. The police as well! We were all working together. One thing that’s funny is that before that they’d show you all the other freeways and they’d be like, “Well we can close this freeway.” and then they’d reel off all these other movies and stuff like, “You know Walking Dead and Anchorman 2 and Need for Speed all used this freeway.” It’s this freeway that’s a country freeway. So you start looking at it and it’s like, the thing with this one is as soon as you see the country and the green it feels like they got away already.

NL: Exactly. 

EW: And the main point of the action is that they are like…like a lot of professional bank robbers is, rob a bank in downtown then get on the freeway, get off in midtown and switch cars and then go back the other way. Anybody that’s stuck out on the freeway and starts heading for the sticks is gonna get caught. So what’s funny is we kept getting shown this country freeway and I was just like, “This is like Smokey and the Bandit country.” This just doesn’t look like the movie in my head. I even said to my location manager, Doug Dresser, who did an amazing job, I was like, “If we don’t get the I-85 then we have no movie.” And it was sort of a big gauntlet to throw down. But then they came up with the goods! It took months and months to get that together.

NL: Seeing the finished product it was clearly well worth it.

EW: We also had this thing that was revolving around two Burt Reynolds films; Smokey and the Bandit, which Paul Williams was also in. Smokey and the Bandit which is all leafy and country freeways and the other Burt Reynolds film Sharky’s Machine, which was also shot in Atlanta but it’s all downtown Atlanta. It’s all concrete gray. So I would show bit’s of Sharky’s Machine to the location manager and say, “Think of it this way. It’s more Sharky and less Smokey.

(Both laughing)

EW: So that would be a thing that we’d say all throughout the shoot. Then he’d come up to me and he goes, “We’ve got a new location that we think is very Sharky.” So yeah, more Sharky less Smokey. It was like the Burt-o-meter. I feel very fondly about it. To make the stunt team laugh whenever we were driving down I would plug the iPhone into the car stereo and would blast out “East Bound and Down” in regular intervals and somehow they never saw it coming.

I’d like to thank Edgar Wright for taking the time out of his unbelievably busy schedule to sit down and chat. Thanks as always to the wonderful folks at Fons PR for helping set it up.

Baby Driver is in theaters now! Stop what you’re doing and go see it immediately.


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