“Last Night in Soho”: interview with Edgar Wright on the horror film MeToo

The filmmaker’s long-term project finds him tackling his most risky subject.

Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” is made up of several films at once: an elegant appreciation of big city life and repudiation of its dark history, an uplifting tale of coming of age, and a disturbing ghost story. These layers reflect the director’s evolving relationship with material and his ability to use smooth, absorbing gender tropes to deepen the history of sexual assault in London show business.

They also reflect years of effort on the part of the filmmaker to tackle a subject much riskier than the male slackers who populate his cinematic universe in everything from “Shaun of the Dead” to “Baby Driver.” With the new film finally opening after its pandemic delays last year, it puts Wright, 47, at another career turning point. “I’m sort of not ready to let go of the movie,” he said in an interview at the end of a lengthy press tour for “Last Night in Soho” this week. “There is so much about it that is so personal and emotional.”

The film follows fashionable college student Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), who finds herself haunted by the plight of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a 1960s singer whose aspirations are derailed by violent men who claim they can. open doors for him to close them. them. Sandie’s tragic story sheds light on Ellie the stories of countless women in show business whose big dreams have met harsh reality, an experience that mirrors Wright’s awakening many years ago.

“The sad truth is these stories were there, but they weren’t heard firsthand,” Wright said. “At worst, it was malicious gossip in that a lot of the stories in show biz aren’t the victims themselves telling their side of the story. I think the saddest thing obviously is that some of these 60s stories will never be heard because some of these people are no longer with us. “

“The last night in Soho”

Focus Features

In Wright’s case, the seeds of “Soho” were first planted over ten years ago, when someone presented him with the book “Hammer Glamor: Classic Images From the Archive of Hammer Films”. The book featured lavish images of the horror studio’s central women, from Ingrid Pitt to Raquel Welch, along with biographical details. “I was really struck that a quarter of biographies ended in tragedy and careers were cut short,” Wright said. “It was completely dissonant from that kind of iced coffee table book.”

This realization came to fruition in Wright’s complicated relationship with bustling central London, better known for the birth of mod fashion than the sexism that surrounds it, and many potential talents whose lives have been destroyed by unseemly industry. He first began conceptualizing the film while filming “The World’s End,” a film that dealt with toxic masculinity from a different perspective. In the meantime, Wright decided to develop a foundation for “Last Night in Soho” that would flesh out the real-world circumstances that inspired his premise. He turned to Lucy Pardee, researcher and casting director, to compile stories of women who lived and worked in Soho at the time in question. “There were a lot of topics in the movie that I didn’t want to take lightly,” he said.

On the release of “World’s End,” he found himself with more than enough material to flesh out the way Sandie – whose experiences are lived by Ellie every night in her dreams – goes from idealistic performer to victim, to less until a sudden turn finds its ability in a whole new way. Nonetheless, Wright insisted that Sandie’s experiences weren’t inspired by any particular person. “The sad truth is that the story is myriad,” he said. “At the time, there was this feeling that was how it worked, especially at the lower rungs of the showbiz ladder.”

Wright had just finished “World’s End” when he sat on the jury for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which turned out to be a landmark year for Anja Taylor-Joy, thanks to her performance in Robert Eggers’ “The Witch”. Initially, he envisioned her for the role of Ellie, the modern day character. In addition to awarding a Best Director award to Eggers, Wright connected with the 17-year-old Discovery and shared the concept for the film with her a few weeks later in Los Angeles, just in time for a series of complications to launch. the off-piste project. First, Wright was hired to helm Marvel’s “Ant-Man,” before leaving the project due to creative differences in early 2014. Then he bounced back with “Baby Driver,” which ultimately grossed 226, $ 9 million. During this time, Taylor-Joy’s stardom grew, with lead roles in “Split” and “Thoroughbreds” establishing her lineup.

“I felt like the boy crying wolf, because every time I met her I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll send you this script as soon as I do,'” Wright said. “At that time, I felt like she had already moved beyond that kind of role.” But the script for “Soho” continued to evolve, and Wright eventually teamed up with “1917” screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns to complete it. The couple met in Soho, where Wilson-Cairns worked as a bartender at the Toucan Pub, which features prominently in the film. Like Ellie, Wilson-Cairns lived next door to a strip club, the Sunset Strip, and constantly witnessed the misogyny that coexisted with the pizzazz of the neighborhood. Her own experiences merged with the countless others Pardee had gathered for Wright earlier, as well as the stories Wright’s own mother shared about the lustful men of the day.

“I had this huge ton of research that was completely heartbreaking, unsettling, and revealing – all of your worst fears were confirmed,” Wright said. “It was really useful to validate the story and found it. But it was also something that made me less afraid to do the project.

Which isn’t to say the premise left him comfortable. “For a horror movie, there must be something that is bothering you,” he said. “If this isn’t hitting near you, you’re probably not doing it right. “

Despite its curvy timeline, “Last Night in Soho” has some consistency with “Baby Driver” in that both films required a choreographer for their elaborate dance scenes (as well as some of the spooky visions of the past). Wright marveled at the recent resurgence of musicals and said he wouldn’t rule out directing one himself. “If someone came to me with a musical that I thought I could do, I would grab it with both hands,” he said. He recently got a preview of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s debut film, an adaptation of Jonathan Larson’s “Tick Tick Boom”, after recommending “Baby Driver” choreographer Ryan Heffington for the concert. “I think it’s very impressive,” Wright said. “The shooting and editing have an impression of ‘All That Jazz’, which I really liked, where you cut between two periods. I thought it was fascinating.

"Last night in Soho"

“The last night in Soho”

To concentrate

Wright grew superstitious about discussing his own upcoming projects after the “Ant Man” experience, where he did several interviews about the film before abandoning it. “The interviews I did for a movie that I never did haunt me more than the fact that I didn’t do the movie,” he said with a laugh. There are some clues to his next moves, however, including reports of a new version of “The Running Man” and a potential “Baby Driver” sequel. “I have a bunch of scripts that are written or well placed,” he said. “One of the things with the pandemic is that it really changed everything in terms of life priorities. While he doesn’t rule out another offer for a franchise, his post-“Ant Man” experiences with “Baby Driver” and “Soho” made him wary of the current fascination with intellectual property. “It has always been confusing to me that the studios weren’t betting more on the original films,” he said. “So many things that are recycled were original scripts once. ‘Halloween’ was an original script, as was ‘Alien’, and ‘Star Wars’ too.” I had the opportunity to make original movies with them. “He said.” I don’t take it for granted. “

Wright added that he did not view his career in the precise terms of his colleague Quentin Tarantino, who has often said that his tenth feature will be his last. “I don’t have a big plan like Quentin,” Wright said. “So as not to sound morbid, but you make every movie like it’s the last, because you don’t really know what’s going to happen.”

He hopes to wait a bit before going into production. “I know people are doing things right now in film and television and it’s very difficult in terms of money on screen,” he said. Nonetheless, he was delighted that “Last Night in Soho” managed to get a theatrical release, adding that he was advocating for the success of other new releases going down the same path. “Here’s the funny thing,” he said. “If I had a schadenfreude of various franchises that I used to be interested in, that is gone, because as far as I’m concerned, any movie that keeps theaters going helps. Some of the movies that came out this year really don’t interest me, but I’m glad they worked out well because I want theaters to continue.

“Last Night in Soho” hits theaters October 29, 2021.

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