From Spaced to his latest film Last Night in Soho, Wright breaks down his favorite visual tricks from his filmmaking career.
Many of Wright’s films draw inspiration from films and music that he loves, and how he incorporates those elements into his films is a masterclass at how to pay homage to pop culture. Wright sat down with Variety and broke down some of his favorite scenes from his career as a filmmaker, and how the mix of practical and digital effects made these stunts possible.
One of Edgar Wright’s favorite moments that happened early in his career was the telepathy gunfight scene in his show, Spaced. All of the actors are creating the sound effects themselves of the guns firing and the splattering sound of their squibs, then the sounds of real guns were dubbed over the actor’s sound effects.
The scene was filled with joy for not only Wright but for the cast and crew. There was little to no storyboard, so actors were free to perform however they interpreted the script with some direction from Wright.
Shaun of the Dead
Although Shaun of the Dead’s cinematographer, David M. Dunlap, told Wright that the sequence where Shaun (Simon Pegg) goes to the store, oblivious to the fact that the dead have come back to life, was going to be cut from the movie, Wright was determined to make sure it stayed in the film. To do this he filmed the scene to act as a parallel to a previous sequence earlier in the film. The guy washing his car is now lingering in the distance from his now destroyed car, and the jogger from earlier is now running away in fear of the zombies. Wright crammed in as many sight gags and pay-offs as possible to keep the scene in the movie.
How many can you find when you watch the scene?
The chase scene in Hot Fuzz is one of Wright’s many tributes to his childhood. Filmed in his hometown, the chase scene was heavily influenced by Raiders of the Lost Ark, drawing parallels to the moment Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is looking for Marion (Karen Allen) in the market.
As Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) jumps over the fences during the chase, Wright uses his favorite trick in the book—the Texas switch. The Texas switch is used in every single one of Wright’s movies. Pegg jumps over the first three fences himself, but an acrobat takes his place for the last jump. This is another callback to Pegg’s failed fence jump in Shaun on the Dead.
Nick Frost falls through the fence for his stunt, and Wright had him look back so the audience could see that Frost was the one who performed the stunt. He said, “Take the glory of doing the stunt.”
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Speaking of the Texas switch, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has one of my favorite stunts in it. In the scene, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is trying desperately to avoid his new ex, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong). To escape her from the shabby apartment he shares with Wallace (Kieran Culkin), he jumps out a tiny window.
The Texas switch is fairly easy to spot in this scene. As Cera dips behind the door and out of frame, a stunt double runs, bounces off a trampoline, and through the tiny window.
Check out this behind-the-scenes shot of how The texas switch was done:
The World’s End
The pub brawl is a fantastically fun fight scene that has a mix of practical and digital effects. The aliens in the scene all wore goggles with lights on them that flared out due to the anamorphic lens Wright was using. They also had practical lights in their mouths to add a touch of realism to the scene.
When the aliens start getting their heads blown off by the fury of Nick Frost’s stool hands, the stuntmen are people pulled on wires after each punch while their heads are digitally edited out and replaced with a lego-like stump.
Wright loves to make what looks like a long take, especially during a fight scene. Anytime there is a whip pan or a frame whip, there is an invisible edit to set up for a stunt.
Many of the driving sequences in Baby Driver were choreographed and edited to the music that Baby (Ansel Elgort) listened to. All the sequences had to be reverse engineered, making sure the stunts matched the mood of the music, the acting, and anything that passed by in the frame followed the beat, and that the chase looked like the music video to the song.
And just to show how much Wright loves continuity, the route Baby takes while driving is geologically correct to how the streets match up in Atlanta.
Last Night in Soho
There are many dream sequences in Last Night in Soho in which Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie are playing each other. The audience can see this effect in the mirror which isn’t fully there. Anytime there is a mirror, both actresses are in frame mimicking whoever has control in the scene.
It’s a clever visual trick that is accomplished through digital and practical effects. Part of the mirror is in the scene to reflect the actors and the setting, and McKenzie is placed on a side with no mirror. A greenscreen is placed behind her, and the FX team digitally dropped in a new background using the mirror in the scene for reference.
Remember how I told you that Wright loves a Texas switch? During the dance sequence, Taylor-Joy and McKenzie are constantly switching places throughout the dance. One will dip out of the frame and the other will come back into it. The amazing choreography makes the entire sequence look cleverly edited when really everything was already in the frame.
Through the Texas switch, carefully choreographed scenes to his favorite music, and dedication to always making the movie he wants to make, Wright has made waves in cinema with his smartly crafted films over the last 20 years.
If we can learn anything from him, it is that you should make the films that you want to see. Whether it is a thriller, comedy, or drama, don’t be afraid to celebrate the films that inspired you and pull of in-frame visual tricks that make your film stand above the rest.
Do you have a favorite Wright scene that we didn’t mention? Let us know why you love it in the comments below!