Though Michael Cera and Jason Schwartzman have an epic battle at the end of Universal Studios’ “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” Scott’s worldview certainly does not help him through his final – or any other – conflict, Cera suggested of his character. “The one that really stays in my head is that Scott, in his mind, is the star of his own movie. This movie is, in a way, existing in his own mind. This is his weird perception of the world around him,” Cera explained to CBR News. Both he and co-star Schwartzman were given secrets about the characters by director Edgar Wright, Scott Pilgrim’s understanding of the world being one of them.
For Schwartzman’s Gideon Graves, it was the lack of being overtly evil. “One that I really liked was just that Gideon is very passive aggressive,” the actor said. “He smiles a lot, just kind of ‘kill ’em with kindness,’ but you can feel that it’s not sincere almost instantly.” Despite having real world experience in the music business, Schwartzman could not recall a person he encountered that gave him the vibe Gideon required. “Maybe I wasn’t creative enough with my thinking, but I kind of just scanned my memory for anyone who was exactly like Gideon and I didn’t find anybody.”
“It took five hours to do the scan,” joked Cera.
“As in any industry, you meet some people who don’t mean what they say, but we always had older [Artists and Repertoire] guys. We never had a young whippersnapper-type guy,” he explained. Instead, he focused on Paul Williams’s Swan from “Phantom of the Paradise” and John Lazar’s Z-Man in “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” To Schwartzman, Gideon is “more like a ’70s kind of like Phil Spector-y – those kind of producer stars. You know what I mean? Not really many of them now. Maybe like Mark Robson is one.”
“Rick Reubens,” added Cera.
“Rick Rubin, yeah,” Schwartzman corrected.
“Rubin. Reubens,” retorted Cera.
“Rubin, yeah,” Schwartzman replied once more.
Cera smiled. “Reubens.” (Schwartzman was correct.)
Returning to the movie, Cera mentioned he was worried before the film’s first screening, which happened to take place at Comic-Con International in San Diego. “That’s a very scary frying pan to jump into. People who loved the books and were instantly, well, they have expectations and they want to be wowed,” he said. “It was a real event; it was more than just a movie. The theater was a big, beautiful theater. A 1,300 seat theater, and pretty full, and they were just ready for a fun movie experience. They were right in the right place. [Edgar]’s smart. He made them happy and they were on our side.”
As for the movie itself, Schwartzman enthused, “It’s just so exuberant and it’s got a spirit of total freedom and it’s just like a giant, fun time. It’s like running through a crowd of people trying to hug you all the time.”
Cera added, “Like taking a people bath; taking a youcuzi.”
Asked if the film might inspire imitations, Schwartzman replied, “Bill Hader said right after the screening that this is the kind of film a thirteen year-old kid sees and then they get a camera and they make a bunch of movies in their backyard.”
Schwartzman had always hoped to work with Wright, but was unsure it would happen. “Maybe he would never have an American part or something in one of his movies,” the actor conjectured. “So to work with him it was a real dream come true.” Despite being a very visual director, Schwartzman always felt Wright was there for the actors in equal measure to the technical aspects. “He’s so communicative as a director, and articulate, and enthusiastic. You just felt so close to him, and that was such a great, awesome thing coming from this guy working on this big, kind of overwhelmingly scary movie. You always felt like he was close and focused on you and what you needed.”
“You walk on the set and he has nothing else he wants to do more than make that movie. He’s smiling all the time with enthusiasm and wanting to come up with new ways to try things,” the actor continued. “But my favorite aspect of working with him, it never felt like a huge movie. The set was kind of big, it was in a room the size of this studio set, but he was always just, like, five feet from us.”
Though Cera was involved with the movie’s shoot much longer than was Schwartzman, the on-screen villain never felt that connection to Wright waver. “Edgar would have this little hand-held monitor that he would hold and just sit right behind the camera instead of being over sitting at his chair. So he was always right there, on the ground. It was really nice,” Schwartzman recalled. To the actor, part of Wright’s talent is his sensitivity to the emotions contained in the heightened reality of his films. “It’s what makes him special. There are a lot of people who are capable of making really funny comedies, which I think he does incredibly, but he’ll always leave you feeling something afterwards. They always really resonate because there was something in there that was really true, whether it be a story about friendship, like ‘Shaun of the Dead’ with the two friends [and] Nick Frost at the end. Or even [Shaun’s] step-father – the thing with Bill Nighy – I think he realizes the value of that in cinema and does it really, really beautifully. ”
“I didn’t want to watch any of the stuff he did because I didn’t want to be influence by it. I wanted this to be its own thing,” joked Schwartzman.
Though the story of Gideon Graves is mostly told in the final volume of the comic series, both Cera and Schwatzman have yet to read it. “I’ve signed a few copies and I was flipping through them at Comic-Con and it looks amazing,” Cera said.
When told that co-stars Ellen Wong and Mary Elizabeth Winstead had already read it, Schwartzman replied, “Well, girls tend to read things quicker than us. That’s my experience from high school.” He then played out a hypothetical scene from high school. “Have you done summer reading?” he asked in the scenario. “Yeah, I did it in June,” responds the theoretical girl, leaving him no choice but to say “Oh,” back to her.
Cera meekly added “I started in June” to the playlet.