Alison Pill and Mark Webber portray Kim Pine and Stephen Stills in Universal Studios’ “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” forming the other two thirds of the band Sex Bob-Omb. While both actors avoided the stunt-training and fight scenes most of the cast endured, they did have at least one major challenge to face: performing music. While playing to pre-recorded tracks provided by Beck during shooting, both actors had to look convincing. “I didn’t think I was going to be able to learn more than the upper body, and then by the end of it, I was like ‘No, no I’m going to learn to play the drums. I’m not just faking it,'” Pill said of her drum training.
Webber had to stretch his vocal talents to singing, a first for him. “Thankfully, Sex Bob-omb is not supposed to be that great, so the bar wasn’t so high that I had to reach. Which was good, because I don’t ever really get there; it was good enough for what it needed to be,” he explained. The actor also had an extra layer to the challenge. “It was said to me very early on, ‘Look Mark, you’ll have a shot at this. If you can record these songs and its good enough, we’re going to use your voice.’ If not, they were probably going to use Kevin [Drew] as [Stephen’s] vocals. ”
“So, I made it! I got through that, so it was good,” he revealed. Indeed, the actor’s voice appears both in the film and “Scott Pilgrim” soundtrack for the songs credited to Sex Bob-Omb.
It should be of little surprise to fans of the graphic novels that music permeates the film as much as the references to video games. In addition to Beck’s Sex Bob-Omb material, musicians Nigel Godrich, Kevin Drew and Chris Murphy visited the set. “We were really spoiled. Nigel was there at the beginning,” Pill recalled.
“Chris was there the whole time,” added Webber.
Most of the band’s scenes were shot in practical locations. Consequently, both Pill and Webber never felt the strain of “green screen acting.” Even when post-production effects were in the plans to be added, the actors themselves felt grounded in reality. “We understood what would be going on. A lot of times, there was weird balls on the end of sticks, but not even that much. There’s so much of it that’s real,” Pill explained. “There’s certain things, like Lucas Lee’s skateboard that it’s like, of course [not real], and the Yeti and the dragons, but for the most part, a lot of those stunts were there.”
Webber credits director Edgar Wright’s facility created to facilitate and create the various aspects of filmmaking for the sense of ease he felt while on set. “Edgar’s very much like a technical filmmaker who is also very aware of tone and comedic time and all that kind of stuff. I learned a lot from him about where he puts the camera and his work ethic. It’s very inspiring; just the sheer dedication that the guy has and how many people were coming and how many people he was responsible for was very incredible.” A director himself, the actor told us that he learned a lot from Wright. “I approached my first film on more of an actory kind of thing. That was my skill set going into it,” he revealed. “Edgar is very inspiring in terms of the way he uses his camera in the panning and the way he’s so precise about everything.”
“I don’t think there’s really any other filmmaker who could do it in the way which Edgar did,” continued Webber. “I think that there are techniques and where he got to in his own style in this film that others are going to be inspired by and perhaps try and emulate in their own films. We were in very good hands, and it was very apparent with him being so specific about the camera, and the whip-pans, and the timing.”
Of course, Wright’s precision did mean a certain amount of constraint for the actors. “For the movie to work, the movie doesn’t have any wiggle room,” Pill explained. “You can’t just throw a penny under this fast moving train. That could be like, ‘Derail!’ You can’t do that shit,” she laughed.
Asked to compare working on the film to working on the stage, Pill answered, “It’s a totally different skill set to be able to fit yourself into this bigger puzzle; to try and maintain a through-line over six months. To try and make your character believable when unbelievable things are happening, to try and maintain your loyalty to the books as well as to the different medium of the movie. There are a lot of different challenges to making this work.” Pill did not consider herself a true actor until she started taking on stage work, characterizing herself before that time as a “faker-pants.” She went on to say, “[Stage acting] just teaches you so much about using your body, about preparation, about following the through-line of your character, about building something slowly over time. It takes patience. You can’t rush it.”
“Then, [with] film acting, you have to accept that it is rushed,” she continued. “You’re not given that much time and there are so many other things to be worried about that you’re lower on the totem pole.”
When the topic of group dynamics came up, Webber offered, “Thankfully, we all really admired one other’s work beforehand. Me and Alison had worked two times before; we did a play together and a movie together. We had our own history and Alison had her own history with other people.”
“Yeah, like Kieran and Satya are two of my best friends. Not that Mark’s not, Mark’s also a really good friend,” added Pill.
“Yeah, shut up,” quipped Webber to Pill’s amusement. “But that helped so much, tremendously. If someone was a huge asshole, we would’ve been screwed.”
“Yeah, we really would have,” followed Pill.
“Particularly if Michael was a huge asshole, we all would’ve been fucked. It would’ve been miserable,” explained Webber.
“And then it turns out he is,” joked Pill.
Both actors attended the screening of the film at Comic-Con International, and Webber offered his reaction to the audience response. “I want every day of my life to be like this. I’ll never be able to go to another premiere again unless I have that response. I’ll think people will hate the movie unless they’re screaming throughout it,” he joked. “We and Michael made a pact that we were going to see it for the first time at Comic-Con and resisted the urge to see it beforehand, just to be able to see it that way. It was absolutely incredible.”