In Universal Studios’ “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” Scott’s roommate Wallace and sister Stacey try to reel in the titular character’s frequent flights of fancy. For actors Kieran Culkin and Anna Kendrick, who play Scott’s friend and sister respectively, “conscience” is a good word to describe their function in Scott’s headspace. “[I’m] sort of the Jiminy Cricket character, the voice in the back of everybody’s head saying, ‘You know this is a bad idea, but you know you’re not going to listen to me.’ I think Stacey knows that Scott is not going to listen, but she just has to say her peace anyway. That’s what sisters do,” Kendrick explained.
“I think Wallace shares a lot of that, too,” added Culkin. “Being as they live together, [Scott] feels like every time he comes back to Wallace, he’s sort of coming home.”
“I don’t know what I represent to him other than just a strong negative force that he tries to avoid,” interjected Aubrey Plaza, who plays Julie Powers in the film. “I’m just that thorn in his…side.”
“I like how you choose the word ‘side,'” Culkin quipped. “You were looking for another word; ‘Thorn in his…side.'”
While Plaza’s character is not necessarily a part of Scott’s conscience, she is unusual in her seething animosity toward him. The actress learned the source of that anger thanks to the sheet of secrets given to her by director Edgar Wright. “Julie Powers, in fact, had a really big crush on Scott Pilgrim and he proceeded to like all of her friends and always have crushes on everyone around her, but he never liked her and she didn’t understand why,” she revealed. There’s also the conflict between Julie’s hard working persona and Scott’s rampant slackerism. “She’s working in a million places, and I think all that can factor into hating the world and hating people that are lazy and appear to get what they want without trying,” said Plaza.
The actress came to the role in an unusual way, telling CBR, “The same casting director that cast this movie cast ‘Funny People’ and – I think this is correct – she used my tape for that and sent it to Edgar and that was the first thing he saw; me doing an audition for a completely different movie,” she recalled. “Then he brought me in [because of] that tape and then I [read] once.”
Culkin had an odd audition story of his own to share. “Apparently, it was supposed to be sent to me [to read] for Wallace, but the cover sheet read ‘Young Neil,'” he recalled. “But by page thirteen, fifteen, somewhere in there, I was like, ‘I like this guy. This is the one I want.’ I can’t really put my finger on why that is, but that [character] drew me to it right away.” In the end, Culkin did indeed audition for the role he was initially though of for. “Two months went by and they said, ‘Hey, would you like to do that again, but with Michael [Cera]?’ I had sort of forgotten. I figured if two months had gone by, I didn’t get it.”
For Kendrick, it was smooth sailing from the outset. “Edgar asked me to read for Stacey,” she said. “I guess I was the only girl that read for Stacey, so I’m not sure what it was that screamed ‘obnoxious little sister’ except my whole life.” Emulating her older brother, Kendrick often stole comics from his room. “I kind of got a comics 101,” she reflected. “A little bit of ‘Spider-Man,’ ‘Batman,’ ‘Superman,’ ‘X-Men.’ I got into ‘X-Men’ just because there were so many cool chicks.”
Being the central observers to Scott Pilgrim’s life, the trio of actors also reflected on working with actor Michael Cera. “I’m just constantly impressed, not just by his delivery, but how much he’s doing physically,” Kendrick said. “On my first day of shooting, [Cera] ran away from a group of people and during rehearsals he did something I thought was really funny, but I thought, ‘Oh, they’re not going to shoot that.’ Then they did and it’s in the film. It was just him goofing around.”
Plaza related an off-screen running gag Cera entertained the cast with. “He always had a water bottle in his hand and he was like, ‘Whenever I tell a lie, I’m going to drop this bottle.’ He kept that up for the rest of the shoot,” she recalled. “So, he’d be like, ‘You look really nice today.” She then dropped a nearby water bottle, mimicking Cera’s physical punchline. “That was an everyday thing.”
“Almost all of my stuff is with Michael,” Culkin said of his scenes in the movie. “Of the three months I was there, we shot almost all of my stuff within the first four or five weeks and then the rest of it was mostly sitting around and watching fight sequences.”
After a pause, he quipped, “And collecting a pay check. It was nice.”
The group also sat out all of the film’s fight scenes, which they found had its advantages and disadvantages. “I’m upset that we didn’t get to kick ass, not upset that we didn’t hang on wires,” Kendrick opined. “They’re very different things.”
“I was cool with not doing any of it,” added Culkin.
Many of Kendrick’s scenes consisted of split-screen shots simulating Scott and Stacey on the phone. The actors shot their parts separately, with Kendrick getting a voice track of Cera through an earpiece. “It was like having a conversation with someone really inconsiderate because ‘he’ kept interrupting me,” she joked. “Or I’d say [the line] too fast and there would be a long pause. I was like, ‘shit.’ So, it took a long time to get right.”
Asked if the film could inspire imitations or straight up rip-offs, Plaza replied, “It’s a form of flattery, I guess. If people are ripping the movie off, that means that it did something really huge. So, bring it on.”
“We get to be really snooty about it, too if we feel like it. ‘Pfft. We’ve seen that before,'” laughed Culkin.
“And you know all the nerds will be like, ‘Hey, Aubrey Plaza did it better in ‘Scott Pilgrim,” added Kendrick.