Baby Driver: Interview with Star Ansel Elgort

Getting the Role

Ansel Elgort: I had to audition a lot. I met with Edgar Wright before I had even read the script. And I didn’t know what I was meeting about, but I just knew it was a movie and I knew Edgar. We ended up talking about music the whole time, because I love music and I am making music. And finally he said, read the script.’ And I read it and I realized we talked about music the whole time because it was this movie. The music was in the script. So then we did a few auditions, maybe five or six, we kept auditioning. And it wasn’t until we were sitting together and he started showing me pictures of Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx. And I was like, am I playing Baby? And he said, ‘yeah, yeah, you are playing Baby.’ It was never like a phone call or anything, it was just like meeting Edgar. And I was trying to get this role and he just told me casually, yeah, you are playing the role.

I didn’t do any chemistry reads with the other actors. I did work with the choreographer Ryan Heffington though. I did the scene where I am lip reading Doc, and I do the whole room at ten AM sharp. It was kind of difficult to audition for it, because he wanted to get a vibe where can he walk down the street to music, and can he do choreography but do it in a subtle way, the way Baby does it in the movie.

Driving and other stunts

AE: I did a bunch of stunt training and I did probably ten sessions with the stunt team, which was a dream come true, because everybody wants to do all the tricks with the car. I got really into that and I really enjoyed that. And then once I was on set, I kept saying, am I going to do any driving today? No, not today. Everyday I was like, so today am I going to do any stunts? No. And by the end of the first week, I realized I am going to be doing very few stunts. I probably did like four or five. I was working on a rig most of the time but the reason why they wanted me to do the driving training, was so that it wouldn’t be disconcerting and I would feel connected to even the rig. The stunt driver would say okay, the car here will do this drift around the corner and go here and then go drift around this corner, so I know how to drift around a corner. You turn the wheel and put the e-brake and soft foot left, and then you kind of steer. I knew what I would be doing if I actually drove the car. With stunt driving, you just see people going vroom and it looks ridiculous.  People driving aren’t like that at all. I really prepared in every way for this role.

I love any chance I get to be physical. In “Divergent,” it was painful whenever we were doing stunts because I am supposed to be the guy who isn’t a physical guy. But in my life, I am playing basketball every day and I am rock climbing. I love being physical. I had been waiting to actually finally do real stunt work in a movie and this was my chance.

Music in Life

AE: Music is completely a rhythm of my life. I am always working on music, I have been in the studios the last three nights in a row, I will finish press at the end of the day, and then from like seven to three AM I am in the studio making music.  I hear the tunes that are in my head and I put them down and I write music and I write lyrics and I am having so much fun.  Even though I haven’t been sleeping, I would have lack of sleep rather than lack of creativity in my life.  And sometimes doing interviews all day isn’t the most creative thing, so at the end of the night, I have to be creative.  So music is an everyday thing for me.  And Edgar probably knew that and knew that I would be right for this role.

Recording Singles and Albums

AE: I had a song come out on June 2 called “You Can Count on Me” and it’s featuring a young American rapper named Logic.  I was able to go and perform with him at Gov Ball in New York City, which was amazing.  And then I am putting a song out on June 23 called “All I Think About Is You.” I have enough music to put out an album right now.  But these days, as a new artist, you are not supposed to put out an album and everyone is saying singles.  So I am going to try to put out one single every month, until I am ready to put out an album.

Music in Film

AE: There were hardly any changes.  He first wrote the scripts around these songs, and they were the first ones that stuck.   He is also the one that is smart enough to choose ones that won’t be impossible to clear.  But a few did change and I will tell you the story about in the audition. One of the days, I was moving to the music that was in the script, and I think it was “Harlem Shuffle,” that walking scene.  And I knew the track, but I didn’t know every little guitar lick and every little vocal part, and Edgar finally said, okay, are there any songs that you know that you can fit into the soundtrack, and every guitar lick and every vocal?  And I thought, well maybe “Easy” by the Commodores.  And I said let’s do “Easy” by the Commodores and Edgar said that is a great idea. And I am going to play “Easy” by the Commodores and it was one of those things where you can’t help but sing along and you can’t help but sort of feel the music, but there is a dead body right there that you have to dispose of.  So we filmed me with that kind of improvisational scene, and he said, that’s the reason that I got the role and that song now is in the movie and a big part of the movie that wasn’t in the script before.  So that was pretty cool.

I hope my music taste when I get to his age is as eclectic and well rounded. He knows everything, he knows every band and every song and he is like Baby.  What I realized about my characters is that very often, I look to the director as inspiration and study them.  Obviously Baby and Edgar are very different, but they are not, they are similar and Baby knows his music like Edgar knows his music.

Working with Choreographer

AE: It was really cool, and sometimes it was subtle.  There were days where the choreographer would be there all day and then it would just be because I was tapping my foot.  He would always be there and for the subtle stuff.  But for the big stuff, we worked it all out in advance.  So we did at least a month of prep for the movie.  I remember that everything we worked out was in the movie and so the whole “Harlem Shuffle” opening, we didn’t have a sidewalk, but we had a dance studio.  And we worked it out that, okay, here is going to be the trumpet, and here is going to be the construction workers that work with the pole and you are going to go under them. And here you are going to do a little moonwalk and then into the thing. This was a very ambitious movie for the budget that we had, and we had to get a lot of shots. So we didn’t have time to figure stuff out.  We really choreographed everything, even when it looked like it wasn’t choreographed.