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How BABY DRIVER Timed Every Single Thing Onscreen to its Soundtrack

Though Edgar Wright‘s agonizingly short (as of now) filmography consists of only four films, he’s certainly earned quite a stature in cinema by giving each of them an energy and pace dictated through music choices and visual specificity. This tendency comes to a head in his latest film, Baby Driver, a heist film about a getaway driver who has to listen to music all the time to abate his tinnitus. The music plays an integral part in the film, as Wright’s vision was to have every movement on screen specifically timed with the soundtrack. It proved quite a unique challenge.

Baby Driver

“There’s a LOT of music in it,” Wright told us in between set-ups. “Ansel [Elgort]‘s character is playing music the entire time. So it’s taking things that are in Scorsese or Tarantino or Soderbergh films–and in those films you have the jukebox kind of soundtrack–and the idea with this is that the lead character is actually playing those songs. So the songs are always sourced. They’re either in his ears or playing in a diner or playing on a stereo, so they’re always within the scenes.”

Such a robust soundtrack made the film’s legal issues a bit of a monster. “We have a great clearance person who’s been working on it a long time, and actually we’ve had time to do it,” Wright said. He shared that a delay in production actually helped in this respect. “[It] actually gave us time to clear all the music,” he continued. “So the unusual thing was, we cleared all the music before we started shooting, so we can actually play it on set knowing that that’s the track we’re going to use.” He also shared that the one track they couldn’t clear was, ironically, from a local Atlanta act. “The track I wanted to use, they hadn’t cleared one of their samples.”

Baby Driver

The music aspect of the script is actually what drew many of the actors to the project. Jon Hamm, who was one of the earliest actors to join the project, said the unique musical was exciting, but also proved a major challenge. “We have these choreographers on set all the time whenever we’re doing any kind of action sequence,” Hamm said. “You know, there’s already a million things going around at any shoot day anyway, and then you add guns or you add explosions or you add car crashes or you add any action element to it, and it gets even weirder. Then you have to realize, ‘Oh yeah, we’re supposed to be doing this choreographed and in time.'”

And it’s not just the actors that have had to learn the timing surrounding the music; everything from windshield wipers to bullet collisions to full explosions needed to be timed perfectly the music playing in Baby’s ears. Actress Eiza Gonzales felt all of the action sequences were like a dance, with each move requiring a degree of perfection. “The [choreographers will say], ‘The bullets go to certain beats,'” Gonzales said, acting out the movements. “So you go, ‘One, two,’ and then ‘three, four,’ and then ‘five, six.’ So, everything is timed. So you already know that you’re like ‘five,’ ‘eight.’ But, at the same time, you’re just pulling out the whole scene. So, it looks amazing.”

Baby Driver

Special Effects Supervisor Mark Byers says entire rigs had to be made in order for inanimate objects to keep the beat. “It’s pretty cool how we have several different rigs: windshield wiper rigs, raindrop rig, obviously gunfire [rigs]. Some of the body hits and car hits and explosions all go to music,” Byers explained. “When there’s certain percussions and different things that would escalate [the action] and happen we have to make those effects happen on those cues.”

The entire situation was all very impressive, and Byers was in awe of everything coming together. “It’s hard enough just thinking about it,” he explained, “but we shoot a scene where there’s dialogue, they get out of the car and continue, there’s dialogue–and that’s all to music–and then it escalates to gunfire, which is all to music. They get out of the car different every time. They take a different step every time. They elongate the second, two second, three second differences and it doesn’t line up with the music so they have to go again. Everybody has to do it the exact same so the beat happens at the right time, so the gunfire does, because you can’t change the song.”

Hamm continued, “I wasn’t sure how that wasn’t going to play, like, on the day and in real life. Having seen it cut together and working, I was impressed. Edgar’s crazy encyclopedic knowledge of film is only matched by his crazy encyclopedic knowledge of music, it’s all very specific and interesting and it works incredibly well with this weird tone of this movie. It definitely sets its own world, and again, it’s all kind of from the aural POV of this one savant character.”

We’ll see how the whole symphony comes together when Baby Driver hits theaters on June 28! For the ways the movie’s characters are revealed through color, click here. Are you excited for the ride? Let us know in the comments below!

Images: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Kyle Anderson is the Associate Editor for Nerdist. You can find his film and TV reviews here. Follow him on Twitter!

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