Edgar Wright on the music of ‘Baby Driver’ and its unexpected influences

Photo via Audra Schroeder (Licensed)

Wright has a tradition of choreographing scenes to music.

On a rainy, gray afternoon in Austin on Saturday, Edgar Wright talked about his new film, Baby Driver, and how foundational music is.

During an interview on the cozy second floor of Freedmen’s restaurant, Wright held forth on his new film, which he revealed was 22 years in the making. Wright, director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, premieres the film at SXSW on Saturday night, and he described it as a “car chase film set to music,” with the eclectic playlist of a young getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) as the soundtrack. Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, and Lily James also star, and Wright tried to put the right label on it.

“If Blockbuster still existed, I think it would be in the action section,” he said. Later, he summed it up with a question: “Can you be in crime without being a criminal?” (The answer is no, silly.) Wright said he actually interviewed ex-cons and former getaway drivers for the film to get some perspective. The key for a good getaway driver? “Blend in as quickly as you can,” he says.

Baby Driver, which was shot in Atlanta, is a thriller with elaborate car chases, but beyond that, it continues Wright’s tradition of choreographing scenes to music, a la Shaun of the Dead’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” scene. Wright explained that the 1994 Jon Spencer Blues Explosion album Orange was a big influence, specifically the song “Bellbottoms,” which he thought would make a great car chase song. Older films like Point Break, The Driver, Deadfall, and Straight Time were influential too.

But Baby Driver doesn’t just make music part of the film: It’s a character. Baby suffers from tinnitus due to a childhood car accident, so the music is a constant. The soundtrack has been largely kept a secret, but Wright did reveal that a Dave Brubeck song makes an appearance.

It’s about “our relationship to sound and music, and how that informs our lives,” he said. The character of Baby isn’t trying to ape the “strong, silent” characters of action films past. He says very little because he’s “living in a slightly different kind of audio existence.”

Baby Driver premieres Saturday at the Paramount Theatre in Austin at 9pm CT.

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