Director Edgar Wright had Baby Driver’s opening scene planned for 20 years.
Listening to 'Bellbottoms' by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, he envisioned a bank heist, with the pensive first half of the song accompanying a tense wait by a getaway driver. During the second half - when 'Bellbottoms' kicks into high gear – the scene becomes a high octane police chase.
Wright eventually picked an entire soundtrack for his film, and then wrote the movie to fit the songs. Each scene in Baby Driver has a musical accompaniment, provided by the lead character’s iPod, which he uses to drown out his tinnitus.
On set, actors wore earpieces, and most scenes, including dialogue-driven ones, were paced to fit with the songs. It’s not an exaggeration to call the film a musical, even though no one breaks into song.
Edgar talked to RNZ Music about some of the tunes that ended up in the film.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – 'Bellbottoms' (Orange)
“I own Orange in every format. Originally I just had it on audio cassette. I remember me and Nick Frost going on a road trip once, ostensibly to get some writing done. All we did was smoke weed and listen to Orange in the car the whole time.”
Beck – 'Debra' (Midnight Vultures)
“That album’s a weird one. People were trying to get their heads around him releasing a mellow folk album and then a party one. He was alternating between two different Becks, there was this Jekyll and Hyde aspect to him. Midnight Vultures is a perfect crystallisation of 1999 (when it came out), and also strangely ahead of its time.”
Hocus Pocus – 'Focus' (Focus ll)
“Sometimes I’d let the structure of the song dictate what was going to happen. So, Hocus Pocus has a very dramatic time structure, and I just let myself be led by that. So I would be writing the scene and listening to the song, and then think ‘Ok, fast guitars… running. Ok, he’s hiding behind a tree during this yodelling breakdown… and now the fast guitars kick in again, ok he’s running again.’ It was like playing musical chairs.”
When asked if the actors felt limited by having to pace the scenes to match the music, Wright says “Because I’d made it so explicit in the script how important the music was, everybody that signed on was on board. For someone like Kevin (Spacey), who’s such a pro and who’s done everything, I think for him it was amusing and entertaining for me to say ‘Hey, could you count out this money to Egyptian Reggae by Jonathan Richman?’ And he goes ‘…Sure!’”