Director’s Chair Introduction: Edgar Wright

by Tony Cogan · November 8, 2021 · Director's Chair · No Comments

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Deadline: 4th December 2021

Hello everyone, it’s time to announce the featured director for November and this month, for the release of Last Night in Soho, I’ve decided to highlight Edgar Wright.

Wright got his start in film at a young age directing short films, including a parody of Dirty Harry that was subsequently included on the Hot Fuzz DVD and a series of short films that probably won’t see the light of day now, given that they were comedy parodies based on a real person who was arrested as part of Operation Yewtree.

After finishing university, he made his feature film debut with the western pastiche A Fistful of Fingers. It did get a limited theatrical release, premiering at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, with an American release following 20 years later, and was picked up by Sky to be shown on one of their film channels. Whilst it has not been released commercially since then, it did get the attention of comedy duo Matt Lucas and David Walliams, who asked Wright to direct their show Mash and Peas. This helped open the door to Wright, bringing him work with other comedic talents including Bill Bailey and Alexei Sayle, along with allowing Wright to direct the series Asylum, which brought him into contact with Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes.

The positive experience Pegg and Hynes had with Wright on Asylum led to them asking Wright to direct the sitcom they were developing, Spaced. Wright used the language of horror and sci-fi films to help give Spaced a unique feel, with a lot of the visual signifiers we know Wright for getting their start with Spaced.

The success of Spaced allowed Wright and Pegg to develop Shaun of the Dead, a homage to the films of people like George A Romero and Sam Raimi, with events like Wright not noticing the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic for 2 weeks and the success Wright had using the iconography of Resident Evil in Spaced helping to inform the film. The film was a critical and commercial success, given it’s budget, on release, earning 2 BAFTA nominations (for Best British Film and Best Debut by a British Writer, Director or Produce for producer Nira Park) and has become a cult classic.

The success of Shaun of the Dead allowed Wright and Pegg to plan out a thematic trilogy, partially inspired in feel by the Three Colours Trilogy, the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. The second of these films was Hot Fuzz in 2007, a send up of police films filmed in the area where Wright grew up. The film was another critical and commercial success, with it being constantly recognised as one of the great modern comedies.

After directing a trailer parodying the Hammer horror films and video nasties for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’ Grindhouse, Wright’s next film though was not a conclusion to the Cornetto Trilogy, instead being his most high profile, and expensive, film to date, Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Wright was hired to direct in 2005, but it took until 2008 for serious progress to be made, with the script for the film being written concurrent to the comics. The film was a critical success upon release but ended up being a commercial disappointment, making back just over half its budget but is now a cult classic.

After doing a rewrite on Steven Spielberg’s Tintin film after original writer Steven Moffat was named showrunner of Doctor Who, Wright returned to the Cornetto Trilogy with The World’s End, this part of the Cornetto trilogy being in the sci-fi genre. The film was again a critical and commercial success, being the highest grossing film in the Cornetto trilogy.

During the time Wright was working on these films, he was also working on a film version of Ant Man with Joe Cornish, as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Wright’s version got to pre-production stage, with most of the casting of the characters being from Wright’s time on the film. However, shortly before filming, Wright left the project, citing creative differences. Whilst we probably won’t know the exact nature of the differences and why Wright left the film, he did say that a draft of the script was being worked on without him and he felt like a director for hire. The film ended up being completed with Peyton Reed as director, with Wright and Cornish being credited as co-writers and executive producers.

After these experiences, Wright moved on to Baby Driver. The idea of the film had been forming in Wright’s mind for years, including forming the basis of a music video he directed, with Noel Fielding in the ‘Baby’ role. Upon release, Baby Driver was, again, a critical and commercial success, being the highest grossing film in Wright’s career and earning 3 Oscar nominations for Best Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing (although all 3 ended up going to Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk).

The two films Wright has released this year have been departures from his typical comedic bent. The first is The Sparks Brothers, a documentary about Ron and Russell Mael of the band Sparks, with Wright spending over a year working with them, including filming a concert film of their show at the O2 Forum, premiering at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Wright’s most recent film moved him into the horror genre with Last Night in Soho, a throwback to the Swinging Sixties. Whilst the release of the film was delayed several times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was released this year, although to a more muted, albeit still positive, response compared to Wright’s other films, with Wright’s direction receiving praise.

As a reminder, the films of Wright’s you can cover are below (I’ve not included A Fistful of Fingers as it is not currently commercially available).

  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World
  • The World’s End
  • Baby Driver
  • The Sparks Brothers
  • Last Night in Soho

I look forward to reading what you send me.