Giving life to the already lively characters of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series surely has its challenges. Yet when you are working under the direction of the restless and often humorously tangential Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), your acting job becomes all the more easier. That is not to say that one should get complacent and rely on the man’s talent for slick hyper-editing and pop art stylized special effects.
Luckily for the die-hard fans of the graphic novel, Wright put together a stellar cast of actors that includes future Captain America Chris Evans, indie film veteran Jason Schwartzman, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Ramona Flowers in the film. Add to that the surprisingly goofy Academy Award-nominee Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air) who plays Scott’s older sister, Brandon Routh (Superman Returns), one of Ramona’s exes, and of course nerdy heart-throb Michael Cera as the film’s title character. This latter threesome joined Edgar for the San Francisco stop of their national press tour, holding interviews at The Connecticut Yankee, a modest live music venue and bar that keeps within Scott Pilgrim’s garage rock aesthetic.
Along with myself, this roundtable interview included Joshua Blackburn of TheFilmStage.net, Bryan Gerhart from DailyCal.Org, and ThePopBuzz’s Claudia Pierce.
Claudia Pierece: You had some really intense fight scenes. How much of that did you do yourself and how much did you train for it?
Michael Cera: A lot of it was me except for the really crazy stuff I could never do. But anytime it’s like blocking and punching it’s normally me and the other actors too. We trained for a few months, we ran every morning, about two months before we started shooting. It’s just conditioning, sit-ups and all sorts of other stuff. And it was a real bonding experience because all of us were out of shape and embarrassed. Once you put yourself on the line like that for each other, all pretenses go away and you really connect with people. Yeah, it was a really nice thing for us to be able to do together.
Joshua Blackburn: How were you approached with the role and why did you decide to take it?
M.C.: I met with Edgar in Toronto and he was there for Hot Fuzz. He told me he wanted to put me in this movie, which was really exciting, but I was too young at the time. I think I was 18 and he told me he wasn’t going to make it for a few years, so hopefully it would work out. That he wanted to do it with me was amazing. That was the first time we had met and I was a big fan of his, and I really wanted to do anything with him. It was really exciting.
Anna Kendrick: I met Edgar the morning before I flew up to Oregon to shoot the first Twilight film and it was sort of a general meeting. When I came back he sent me the comics and asked me to come in and read for Stacey and I guess I was the only girl they thought of for Stacey. And then he gave me the job, which was awesome.
Miguel Concepcion: What was it like working with Edgar’s hyper-editing style, where a single shot can last as little as one second? Must’ve been a stark contrast to anything you’ve done in theater.
M.C.: Yeah, I’d never done any kind of work like this really. It was a totally unique in process. And it was fun, trying something like this for the first time. It was exciting to watch his process because I was really familiar with his work and really love all of it. It was cool to see how he want about it.
A.K.: I would say that for the majority of the actors on the film, it was the least amount of improv we’ve ever done. This was especially the case in our phone call scenes. I had to fit my lines in between the pauses that Michael left, because he shot his end of the phone calls three months before I did.
M.C.: Yeah, I said “Good luck with this film!”
A.K.: It was weird. He was this earwig in my ear and I wouldn’t be finished with my line and he would start talking. And I was like, “Michael, what the eff! Interrupting cow….” It was challenging and it’s really rewarding when you get it, but I don’t know if I could work like that all the time. It was really challenging.
Bryan Gerhart: Comic junkies really love this series and these characters. Was there any pressure knowing that this material was seen as holy to someone and being able to step into the shoes of a character that some people care so much about?
M.C.: Yeah, definitely, but I did have total faith in Edgar. He’d been thinking so much about this for years and knew it so well. He’d been talking to Bryan who created the graphic novels. I never really was too worried. I felt like I was in really good hands and that he was going to do something really special.
A.K.: People really don’t seem to care about who plays Stacey. That wasn’t like one of the IMDB topics, “Who should play Stacey!? My fantasy Stacey Pilgrim casting!” So I didn’t have to contend with people going, “It should have been…..”
A.K.: “Abigail Breslin!”
M.C.: She was at the premiere.
A.K.: Was she?
M.C.: She was fresh in my mind.
Claudia Pierece: Were you two familiar at all with the comic before signing on to the project? How did you prepare to embody the characters?
M.C.: I had read the first two and really loved them. As far as embodying them, the rehearsals were a big help just because some of the dialogue you’d read and you ask to yourself, “How am I gonna pull that off?” It’s so ridiculous, so over the top. It just can’t picture yourself saying it or selling it. So rehearsing was really focused. Edgar made me realize how big it can be. Also seeing everyone else do their stuff and helped get a sense of what the movie was going to be like and that was really helpful.
A.K.: I was not aware of the comic. I’m not aware of most things that are cool until someone else tells me. The great thing about the comic is how expressive Bryan’s artwork is. There’s a panel in the book that Edgar has on-set for our phone call scenes and it summed up their entire relationship. There’s Stacey’s judgmental face and Scott’s embarrassed face.
Joshua Blackburn: Are there any comedians, actors, actresses that you guys look up to and you mimic?
A.K.: I want to be more like Louis CK all the time in my life.
M.C.: He’s pretty awesome. I like Gary Shandling a lot. Some Bill Murray.
Miguel Concepcion: Coming to this interview, I was trying to recall anything you might’ve done video game related in the past, and I was thinking about the baseball game you were playing on the PlayStation in Frequency.
M.C.: Right, that’s true! But I was not really playing it. It was a pre-recorded thing. They had this video game set up and I’d sit there and pretend to be playing it all day.
A.K.: You didn’t have to get to play?
M.C.: No, it was just a video loop so they would have to match it to the scene…
A.K.: Boooooooo. BOOOOO!!!!!
Bryan Gerhart: What was it about these roles that was new to you in terms of things you haven’t done before as an actor, and what was new that you think you brought to the characters that were already established in the comic?
A.K.: Michael’s gonna have the more interesting answer for this. I’m gonna answer for Michael. I think Michael’s done tons of stuff in this that he’s never done before. I’m saying that in the commentary. We did the DVD commentary yesterday. You (Michael) weren’t in my group, but I think Michael is charming in a way that I’ve never seen before.
M.C.: Thank you very much. And so are you.
A.K.: I’m playing me. I’m me in this movie.
M.C.: It’s really hard to say, I don’t know. I felt like every moment was a crafted thing by Edgar. Every moment was so thought out that we kinda found it all in rehearsal and went and did it. We found a way that worked and just tried to do that.
A.K.: The moment that makes me laugh so much is when you say “What if I want the satisfaction?” Was that you? Was that him (Edgar) who came up with that?
M.C.: I really don’t remember.
A.K.: I just want to laugh thinking about it now. I’ve seen it so many times and that part still makes me laugh.
Claudia Pierce: Was there anything you saw when you finally got to see the movie that was phenomenal that you didn’t think was going to be in there?
A.K.: I thought the swords looked so much better than I thought. You first see the mock-ups, but in my head a flaming sword looked like a faded tattoo on the back of a guy’s butt. I just could not picture it but it looked really great in the movie. When you think ‘flaming sword’ you’d think “That’s stupid! That’s gonna look so stupid!” but it looked really cool.
M.C.: I couldn’t think of anything that was gonna be in there.
Joshua Blackburn: Even hearing the Seinfeld theme song?
M.C: Edgar jokingly mentioned that on-set and then he actually did it.
A.K.: ‘Cause Kieran was saying that at one point Edgar was telling him, “You have to pause for the laugh track.” and Kieran said, ‘Oh! You’re serious!’
M.C.: Edgar was doing the laugh track on-set.
A.K.: Oh really?!
M.C.: Yeah, in between lines he just sat and laughed.
A.K.: No way!