When “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” arrives on movie screens everywhere Friday, it’ll be the end of a long odyssey for filmmaker Edgar Wright. The director and co-writer of the beloved 2004 zom-rom-com (zombie romantic comedy) “Shaun of the Dead” and the 2007 cop spoof “Hot Fuzz” first became interested in adapting Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic-novel series six years ago — when he was given the first volume, during the “Shaun of the Dead” press tour.
In town recently for another press tour, with stars Michael Cera and Anna Kendrick, Wright spoke of his immediate affection for the books, which feature the adventures of 22-year-old Scott Pilgrim (Cera). An unemployed musician in a garage band, Scott is dazzled when he meets the girl of his dreams, Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) — and dismayed when he learns that he must fight her seven evil exes in order to win her heart.
“I felt that the essential conceit of having to literally fight for love was really strong,” said Wright. “And the books themselves are really imaginative, really fun, really relatable.” The series uses video-game and manga conventions to create a slightly surreal, spiky world of young people (virtually no one over 30 appears in the film) as they find their way toward adulthood — “those lost years,” Wright said, “before people fall into whatever their professions will be.”
Wright, who wrote the screenplay with Michael Bacall, worked closely with O’Malley throughout the project — which began when O’Malley had written only one book of an eventual six-book series.
“Over the six years, it’s been a really organic process, adapting the material and working with the original author. In some cases, the books and the film started to influence each other. It’s been really great — it’s rare that you have this much access to the author and you can create something as he’s doing it as well.” Wright noted that the film does diverge from the books — “round about the third book actually, but we did try to keep it all in the same spirit.”
O’Malley, Wright said, was pleased with the finished film, understanding that “it doesn’t have to be an absolutely literal panel-for-panel translation of the books. ... When I first watched it with him, he laughed at all the jokes that are in the film and not the ones in the books. He said, ‘I’ve already laughed at my jokes.’ “
Recently returned from the San Diego comics convention Comic-Con, Wright said the film was a hit with audiences there — which included many hard-core “Scott Pilgrim” fans. “You see people turn up in costume, girls in Ramona costumes, I saw one girl who was kind of gushing, and I said, did we do Ramona proud? And she said, ‘Oh yes.’”
And while he’s a little vague on his next project (“I’m really just going to sleep the rest of the year — find a spot, get some canned food, just hole up for a bit”), the chances of a “Scott Pilgrim” sequel seem unlikely.
“We splurged on all six books on one film,” Wright said. “Anything further is to throw the ball back into Brian’s court. I certainly wouldn’t want to write anything that he hadn’t already done. It’s an all-encapsulating film, and it has a slightly cyclical kind of ending as well — it’s a film to be designed on a loop, because that’s exactly how it turned out. So maybe if we don’t do a sequel, they can just show the first one again.”