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Baby Driver, the new film from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright, stars Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver who attempts to leave the criminal life behind after meeting the girl of his dreams (Lily James). The twist? Elgort’s titular character suffers from tinnitus and the movie’s action is choreographed to the music he plays to drown out the ringing in his ears.
“I always wanted to do an action movie that was powered by music,” says Wright, who also wrote Baby Driver. “It’s something that’s very much a part of my previous films and I thought of this idea of how to take that a stage further by having a character who listens to music the entire time. So, you have this young getaway driver who has to soundtrack his entire existence, particularly the bank robberies and fast getaways that come afterwards.”
Wright explains that Elgort’s character listens to an eclectic array of music as he burns rubber — but the filmmaker declines to go into specifics. “I’ll wait until nearer the time [of release],” says Wright. “You don’t want somebody to go, ‘Oh, that’s a good idea for this advert that comes out three months before!’ It’s quite a wide range of music, though. There’s about 35 songs in the movie and they range from very famous to more obscure. It’s supposed to reflect the character’s extremely eclectic taste in music.”
Baby Driver also stars Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Kevin Spacey, who plays a crime boss. “He’s amazing,” says Wright of the American Beauty and House of Cards actor. “I had a slight out of body experience, the first day on set with [him]. His first scene was a big monologue scene, and he started doing it, and even though we’d done a table read and we’d rehearsed it, when we were doing a take, I was just completely lost in the moment of him talking. Then I thought, Oh, yeah, I wrote this! [Laughs] I was briefly hypnotized by Spacey — and him spitting out my words was an absolute joy.”
The director of the zombie-filled Shaun of the Dead, the buddy cop-homaging Hot Fuzz, and the alien invasion film The World’s End is no stranger to genre movies. But while those projects had a thick comedic streak, Wright reveals that Baby Driver is designed to shred nerves more than tickle funny-bones. “It’s an action crime film,” says Wright. “It’s funny in places but it’s not a comedy. It gets genuinely tense and threatening. That was actually a fun thing for me — to do dramatic or thriller scenes which just up the ante.”
Baby Driver will be released Aug. 11.