Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver hit the ground with tires squealing this evening at its world premiere at SXSW, with the writer-director and key cast along for the ride for the packed screening at the Paramount Theater. “That is going to make a lot of money,” was among the comments overheard as the revved-up audience left the screening and a boisterous post-movie Q&A that climaxed Day 2 at the festival.
Wright took the stage for the Q&A joined by stars Jon Hamm, Eiza González and Ansel Elgort, who plays the young innocent Baby, an unlikely maestro behind the wheel of a getaway car. The music-fueled actioner is the first film Wright wrote by himself (he previously co-wrote features he also directed including Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and The World’s End), and said tonight that Baby Driver had “existed” in his head for 22 years.
Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal and Jamie Foxx also star in the TriStar pic, which after a couple of staggered release-date starts is now aimed full-speed ahead at its August 11 theatrical bow via Sony. The distributor unveiled the first trailer right after the festivities and Q&A wrapped (check it out above).
“I was just listening through my record collection and I’d envision scenes,” Wright said tonight of how his movie came together. “I wouldn’t write scenes until I found the right track.”
Music is central to the film. Gunshots, dialogue and action sequences are choreographed to the mostly high-energy soundtrack. Elgort’s Baby is the getaway driver for a crime boss (Spacey) who taps various criminals to pull off high-stakes heists. Each job becomes more intense than the last, and the chases more outlandish. Baby Driver is an homage to the ’70s car chase movies of Walter Hill, whose voice can be heard in the movie.
In 2012, Wright did the first read-through of a draft screenplay with Hamm, the only actor from that year who remained on the project. “This is a departure from the films I’ve done in the past,” said Wright. “It definitely took the longest [of my projects] to write.”
Wright said tonight he didn’t use CGI and only minimal green screen. He gave kudos to the stunt crew, though the filmmaker managed to get some off-camera action going as well: The director said he often strapped himself to the car during chase scenes in order to have better communication with the actors. “Once you commit to that, it’s a harebrained thing you just have to do,” he said.
Baby Driver shot in Atlanta, though Wright had written the screenplay with Los Angeles in mind. Tax incentives brought him to Georgia, though he didn’t want Atlanta to simply “play L.A.” The production closed a portion of Interstate 85 in the city twice. “I knew [Atlanta] had doubled for other cities before, but I don’t really like that idea,” said Wright. “I was adamant it had to look concrete. Atlanta is a leafy city and usually they’ll put you out on a country road for chase scenes. But as soon as you see trees, it looks like they’ve already gotten away. I wanted concrete.”
Here’s a new poster that Sony also debuted tonight: