Welcome to Commentary Commentary, our long-running series of articles exploring the things we can learn from the most interesting filmmaker commentaries available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Edgar Wright’s fifth feature film hits theaters today, so we decided to give a listen to the commentary track on his third movie. It was an easy decision seeing as we’ve already covered the tracks for Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for…
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Commentators: Edgar Wright (director, co-writer), Michael Bacall (co-writer), Bryan Lee O’Malley (author)
1. O’Malley brought photographic references for the film’s production including pictures of the street he grew up on which they’ve captured in the opening shot.
2. “I wanted this to have a kind of Sesame Street feel,” says Wright regarding the film’s focus on numbers.
3. Wright name-drops Quentin Tarantino and signifies the event by dropping a pen.
4. Wright says the lame poster on the wall of Scott (Michael Cera) and Wallace’s (Kieran Culkin) apartment would be a certain female tennis player scratching her butt in a British film. “Is that a big thing in the States as well?” he asks, before advising you image search it with “safe search” turned off. I’ve saved you the effort though, and here’s the infamous “Tennis Girl” poster that he’s referring to.
5. The Catholic girls’ school that Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) attends is actually an all-boys school in reality.
6. The comics don’t explain the characters’ fighting abilities, but notes from the studio suggested the film needed to do so. They added the Ninja Ninja Revolution game to “show a little bit of prowess.”
7. O’Malley never actually shared his apartment bed with a homosexual roommate, but he did share one with a heterosexual roommate. “We would have a body pillow between us. We were that unsure of our masculinity.”
8. Scott’s Pac-Man story/joke is a replacement of the one in the comic which was much more image/drawing-based. It couldn’t be recreated on-screen in a reasonable way.
9. They “painstakingly” went through the dialogue in films by John Hughes and Cameron Crowe “looking for any dialogue that had any relevance to fights or league.”
10. Culkin improvised throwing the house keys at Scott’s head before he crashes into bed.
11. Knives’ name was inspired by a woman from O’Malley’s childhood church whose name sounded similar to that. “The other half of it is a friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend, and she pulled a knife on him.”
12. Wong actually made her character’s Sex Bob-Omb shirt.
13. Wright stole all of Scott’s tee-shirts from the film. “Now I have to lose about 30lbs to get into them.”
14. Per Wright, the best way to watch the film is normal speed first; frame advance on the second watch; “third watch, just look for numbers and X’s; fourth watch, just watch Johnny Simmons; fifth watch, watch it backwards.”
15. He threatens a Logan’s Run-like cut of the film eliminating everyone over the age of thirty including Thomas Jane and Clifton Collins Jr.
16. Wright says if there was ever a director’s cut of the film it would basically just include longer versions of the songs.
17. The idea behind the League of Evil Exes came to O’Malley after discovering that his girlfriend at the time (and then-wife but now ex) had dated three guys named Matthew. He joked to himself about there being a League of Matthews, and the first ex, Matthew Patel, is named in their honor.
18. Cera was kicked in the throat while filming Scott’s fight with Matthew.
19. O’Malley’s first viewing of the film left him not thrilled by the scenes using his art to tell Ramona Flowers’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) history with each ex, but he loves it now.
20. O’Malley points out an authentic “KO” voice from a Street Fighter game, but Wright corrects him that they actually recreated it with Bill Hader.
21. Scott’s quick change at the 37:08 mark is a gag done in-camera. Culkin just froze in place while Cera changed behind the door, and then they made a quick cut during that intermission.
22. Wright prefers Ramona’s blue hair while O’Malley likes the pink.
23. Winstead leaned into frame immediately before the take of Ramona removing her boots and said “For Quentin.”
24. Scott’s “SARS” tee-shirt was inspired by the Tokyo Tribe manga (which eventually became a Sion Sono film) which featured a gang called SARS.
25. O’Malley cameos briefly at the 1:00:52 mark.
26. Simmons nailed his audition with his delivery of the “He punched the highlights out of her hair!” line.
27. Wright and Bacall wrote the Roxy Richter (Mae Whitman) scenes before O’Malley reached in his graphic novels so he “borrowed” some of what they had written.
28. Original drafts had Gideon (Jason Schwartzman) turning into a robot as the final villain, Mech-Gideon. “We took out the robots because we felt that after Iron Man and Transformers that people would just think we were doing a spoof.”
29. Gideon’s look is inspired by the villainous Swan from Phantom of the Paradise.
30. One of the deleted scenes involves “the hero’s journey,” and it was initially written as a nod of sorts to J.J. Abrams. When Abrams saw an early cut of the film he asked as much saying “I feel like that scene is written especially for me” to which Wright replied, “It is, and that’s probably why general audiences are not going to get it.”
31. The end fight scenes at Gideon’s club went over schedule by ten days.
32. They returned a year after wrapping production to film some re-shoots including a new ending and some of Gideon’s final dialogue. “He didn’t really show teeth enough,” says Wright of Schwartzman’s initial performance. “He wasn’t properly boo-able.”
33. The film’s original ending sees Scott end up with Knives while Ramona wanders off into the night. “This was our attempt to reverse Pretty in Pink,” says Wright. They “felt like it disempowered Knives” though and changed it to Scott and Ramona winding up together. I’m still in the (very small) camp that feels all three should have gone their separate ways.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“We ended up literally living in a Toronto snow globe.”
“I think Toronto squirrels look evil.”
“Homeless people love to read.”
“Matthew seems so unthreatening until there’s three of them.”
“Brandon [Routh] is wearing a Punisher tee-shirt, which is ironic because Thomas Jane is about to crash into the film.”
Buy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World remains a fun, funny, and ridiculously energetic movie, and Wright and company’s commentary is the perfect pairing. The disc includes a second commentary featuring a few of the supporting cast members, but this is the one to listen to for filmmaking details, insight, and anecdotes.