Released in 2017, Baby Driver is a musically driven movie directed by Edgar Wright, who is also famous for movies like Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Baby Driver focuses on the character of Baby as he tries to leave his job as a driver for hire and run away with a waitress named Deborah. He finds himself doing one more job that ends up going awry. The film also features terrific performances by the likes of Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, and Kevin Spacey.
A lot of work went into the movie behind the scenes and it featured plenty of music from the likes of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Beach Boys, and Sam & Dave, along with over a dozen other songs used to not only set the mood of the scene but the flow as well, as every action performed in the movie is set to the rhythm of the song playing in that scene. "Baby" actor Ansel Elgort was seemingly made for this movie, as he had been trained as a dancer since he was nine years old at request of his mother, who was a ballet dancer and choreographer. He later went on to study at the School of American Ballet.
Baby Driver has become a great modern day heist movie, with heavy emphasis on the cars featured in the movie. Car movies, which were once widely popular in the 60s and 70s, have slipped down in recent years. Since then, there have been few glimpses from cinema that keep the niche genre alive and us car-freaks salivating while we're glued to the screen watching some of the nicest cars do things we can only dream about trying on our own. Of course, we wouldn't do much of what shows up on the screen, as a lot of work goes into making sure the stunts are done perfectly by trained professionals.
Arrested in 1985, Joe Loya Jr. was in Lompoc Federal Penitentiary for 11 years, serving some time in solitary confinement for bad behavior. During this time, he befriended author Richard Rodriguez. Joe Loya has written his own memoir entitled The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell. Joe Loya lent his perspective and techniques to Edgar Wright, who used his advice throughout the movie. Joe even got a cameo in the movie, as a security guard—as ironic as that is.
The set designer and builders should be flattered about the diner I mentioned earlier. It must have played its part well, as random people were sitting down and attempted to have lunch in the set. I'm sure no one got on set while filming took place but otherwise, I could easily imagine the confusion that would occur when either a server was nowhere present to take an order or someone was telling them that it wasn't a restaurant and that they had to leave.
There were multiple Subaru Imprezas painted in the San Remo Red that became famous in the movie and most of them were destroyed in filming. One of them, however, was given to Ansel Elgort for his birthday after the movie had wrapped up. In an interview, Ansel stated that he had been hassling the studio to let him buy the car. When his birthday came around six months after shooting, the studio gave him the same car he can be seen dancing in at the beginning of the movie.
I've spoken already about Joe Loya being the main consultant on set, but Edgar Wright went farther than that by interviewing some ex-convicts to get the movie as close to authentic as he could. One of the cons directly inspired a superstition of the character Bats. Bats explains that there are “Hex” songs, or songs that play before something bad happens. The songs in the movie that he thought of as "Hex" songs included “Knocking on Heaven's Door” by Guns 'N Roses, “Hotel California” by The Eagles, and “End of the Road” by Boys II Men.
Not only stunt performers were on set to do some of the spectacular driving we see in the movie. Both Ansel Elgort and Jon Hamm got a month of driving training to prepare for the chase scenes. This served a purpose especially for Ansel, as his role includes a lot of driving, but less so for Jon, who only has one important driving scene where those skills could be utilized. It's not very often you hear of actors doing their own stunts these days and it further adds to the realism of the movie when you see it in the movie.
Edgar Wright stated that the movies The Driver, Raising Arizona, and The Blues Brothers were the inspiration for Baby Driver. This is especially apparent with The Blues Brothers, as both movies are heavily influenced by music, police chases, and committing crimes to try and better themselves—afterward which they get caught and jailed, of course. With these inspirations and Edgar at the helm, this movie turned out to be a good mix of crime, comedy, and car chases.
In the Mike Myers bank scene, it was actually supposed to be two masks of Micheal Myers from the Halloween series and one Mike Myers (of Austin Powers fame) mask. Instead, all of them were Mike Myers because the people who held the rights to the Michael Myers likeness thought the scene was too light-hearted to have the masks in it. Mike Myers was reached and he had Edgar Wright read the scene to him over the phone before he said that he thought it was hilarious and agreed.
Dodge cars served their part in the movie, mostly as police cars, with a couple of Challengers used for the chase scene. Dodge supplied 15 Chargers to be used and including the Challenger, all but two were destroyed during filming. The one driven by Buddy, which sold on eBay for $3,000 with a description that says that it was beaten up but still drove fine, was almost a total loss. I'm sure the other cars have long been crushed or scrapped, leaving only a few surviving movie cars out in the wild.
The Subaru that everyone talks about when talking about the movie is one that not only had an upgraded rear differential and a turbo from a 2004 WRX STI but also had a rear-wheel-drive conversion done to better handle doing some of the stunts. This car was later sold on eBay on August 25th for almost $70,000, enough to buy a few hawk-eyed Subarus in good condition and modify them to your heart's content. But for fans of the movie, this is the cream of the crop.
Early in Edgar Wright's movie history, before he made Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz with Simon Pegg, he made a movie called A Fist Full of Fingers, a parody of the Old West style of movies so common in the 1950s and 60s. It was during this time that the idea for Baby Driver was born, while Wright was listening to the song “Bellbottoms” by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. Wright imagined a kid jamming out in his car while he waits for his friends who are performing a bank robbery. Over the course of over 20 years, Edgar slowly worked on it until he was finally given the chance to produce his idea that he's been writing since 1995.
Through all of the auditions for Joseph, CJ Jones was the only actor that was entirely deaf. Fellow actor Ansel Elgort had to learn sign language to communicate with CJ as he does in the movie. In an interview with CJ, he was so grateful to be able to take part in the movie despite his handicap—and he's hopeful that there are more roles, as he claims he is the first black and deaf actor to appear in a major movie. It's nice to see roles written for people like CJ who actually have chances to get on the big screen like anyone else.
The studio wanted to cut down the length of the foot chase scene because the movie was going over budget. To see his idea come to fruition fully, Edgar Wright deferred a portion of his director fee to ensure the scene would be shot properly and the movie would be complete. This isn't the only time where the director has sacrificed things for the sake of the movie—as compromises happen more than we know—but it's still good to hear someone take that kind of a financial hit for the sake of their art.
With the idea of the movie looming around for almost 20 years, it's a wonder that it didn't show up in one way or another in one of Edgar films. The first scene of Baby Driver sets the audience up with what to expect from the movie but anyone who is a fan of the Mint Royale, an electro duo, would recognize this scene from Baby Driver instantly as being similar to a scene that plays out in a 1997 music video also directed by Edgar Wright. The singer is a driver on a heist and he is rocking out while he waits for his team to return.
Communication between the actor and director is important—sometimes to an intense level like Stanley Kubrick's relationship with actress Shelley Duvall on the set of The Shining, when he famously may have overreached to get her to react how he wanted. Of course, that wasn't the case between Edgar Wright and Ansel Elgort. The unique communication came after Edgar taught Ansel the “Kubrick look” by showing him a picture of Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. When Edgar wanted Baby to be sterner, he'd say “Man Driver” to get the desired reaction.
The idea for the scene where Doc brings his “nephew” to stake out a bank came as another inspiration that Edgar Wright got from reviewing ex-convicts, one of whom would do the same thing when he robbed banks, bringing his son or nephew along with him to scope out a bank so he didn't look too conspicuous on the cameras. It seems like a smart move to us—as well as Edgar Wright, since he included it in his movie. It may be a little detail in the movie but the roots are very real.
Many modifications were put into the cars to get them to react like they needed to, mostly for the Subaru I mentioned earlier. Another major modification was done to Doc's Mercedes-Benz S 550, which had the computer modified so the Mercedes wouldn't try to correct itself during stunt scenes. Originally, they tried going to Mercedes-Benz themselves to get into the computer but the manufacturer said they couldn't do it, leaving the work to an in-house computer expert who was able to disable some of the computer functions.
More than 40 streets across Atlanta were closed for filming, including State Route 9, which is also known as the Gladys Knight Highway. They also were able to close down the very busy I-85 twice for the opening chase at the beginning of the movie. The had to reshoot about 85% of the sequence, which was cut together with the first chase to create what we see in the movie. Another street that was cut off was the coffee run scene at the beginning, the only scene where you'll see Edgar Wright in the reflection of one of the windows.
When scouting Atlanta, the film crew found that too many leaves were around to be able to perform their stunts in the outskirts of Atlanta. This is why the movie is primarily set in urban and downtown areas, as the leaves were less ubiquitous and thus there was less worry on the part of the crew for something to go wrong during the stunts. Although the scenery would be prettier with some foliage around, the risk of the leaves getting caught under the tires during a stunt was too great, confining the production to the inner city.
The music featured throughout the movie isn't set to the movie but rather, it was the other way around, as the movie was made around the music. To ensure the world moved around the music, specific timing was used when shooting every shot. The action was said to be the hardest part, as each shot had to be timed with the beat. Another task that was carefully planned was the car chase scene, where the filmmakers carefully measured the roads to ensure the car would react a certain way during that scene to perfectly match the music playing.
I've mentioned some of the cars featured in the movie but overall, there were 150 cars that were utilized during the filming of Baby Driver. Some of them were of the same make and model and they needed to be fit with different modifications, like the many Subaru Imprezas used for the chase scenes, most of which were destroyed. Dodge Chargers outfitted to look like cop cars also took up a majority of the models used and were also, ultimately, destroyed during filming.
The bulk of the movie is set in Atlanta, with some scenes shot out of town. The diner, however, never existed; it was repurposed out of an old Denny's. This set is used quite a bit throughout the film, so much so, in fact, that some fans have tried to find it, only to find that it doesn't exist. The same goes for Baby's apartment, as it, too, was a set shot off-site in Hollywood. It's not unusual but I actually predicted more of the movie would be filmed on sets, like the bank, which technically wasn't a bank at all but was only made to look like one.
According to director Edgar Wright, CGI was not used in the driving scenes, leaving the actors and stuntmen to do all the dirty work to make the cars do what they do. The stunts in the movie are all done live and some are even done by the actors themselves, as I will explain later. When this kind of old fashioned way of making a movie is used, it can create some unbelievably harrowing moments in cinema which not only create some wonderfully complex shots but truly reveal that talented stuntmen still exist in Hollywood.
Since Baby Driver is essentially a movie played to music, there was a ton of music that had to be licensed and cleared to use in the film. Kristin Lane took a full 18 months to clear all the music to be used in the movie, starting with Simon and Garfunkel, whose song Baby Driver is where the movie's title derives from. Though director Edgar Wright only had 10 songs in his mind in the beginning stages, this grew to about three times as much during the planning stages of the movie.
When the main cast was decided upon, all the actors received an iPod along with their scripts. The iPods featured music that was to be played when reading certain parts of the script to help set the mood for that scene. I've never heard of this type of devotion going into a movie before. It's these crazy little details that are really fascinating and it shows the type of commitment Edgar Wright has when making a movie, making sure the cast is on the same page and in the right mood to turn out a good performance.
Edgar Wright had his heart set on using LA as the city where he would shoot the movie, but when production ended up moving to Georgia, he had to warm up to the idea. Later on, Wright would confess that Atlanta turned out to be the better decision as the city has close ties with the music industry, as well as the fact that there seemed to be more domestic cars on the roads. Atlanta also proved to be better when having to shut down roads, although the I-85 scenes took a little longer than projected and the police tried to hurry them up.
Sources: IMDb, Collider.com, LipStiq.com, FreshFiction.tv