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Playback: Edgar Wright on ‘Baby Driver,’ Music and Walking Away From ‘Ant-Man’

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

With movies like “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and his latest, “Baby Driver,” filmmaker Edgar Wright has forged his own path through the modern cinema landscape with his own original voice. That’s no easy task. Along the way, like any artist, he has stumbled, whether learning the value of an abundance of coverage on his first film, “A Fistful of Fingers,” or making the heartbreaking decision to walk on “Ant-Man” due to creative differences with Marvel.

Unsurprisingly, and even with dedicated production partners, maintaining that original voice has been a challenge throughout. But Wright finds inspiration in others who have managed it with aplomb.

Listen to this week’s episode of “Playback” below. New episodes air every Thursday.

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“I think I’ve been really inspired by other directors who sort of double down on their own style or persistence of vision,” Wright says. “I felt that way about Quentin Tarantino or Wes Anderson. ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ was [Anderson’s] eighth film and his biggest hit. If you looked at the title and synopsis alone, it’s seemingly the most esoteric and idiosyncratic, but it’s a massive worldwide hit.”

Following early successes, Wright hit a couple speed bumps. He first turned his eye toward “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” a Universal Pictures collaboration that disappointed at the box office. Along the way he was developing “Ant-Man,” a bit of a dream project. But eventually he had to step away from that.

“The most diplomatic answer is I wanted to make a Marvel movie but I don’t think they really wanted to make an Edgar Wright movie,” Wright says. “I was the writer-director on it and then they wanted to do a draft without me, and having written all my other movies, that’s a tough thing to move forward. Suddenly becoming a director for hire on it, you’re sort of less emotionally invested and you start to wonder why you’re there, really.”

He expected the success of something like “Ant-Man” might help propel him toward making his true dream project, “Baby Driver,” a reality. Yet he was still able to get the audacious musical/car chase actioner done at a major studio, and happily, keep his devoted crew (who departed “Ant-Man” in solidarity) employed. And like many of Wright’s creative pursuits, it all began with a song.

“I think that’s where me and the main character in ‘Baby Driver’ are the same, is that we’re completely motivated by music,” he says. “This is a universal thing, that people use music as an escape or motivation or inspiration. I have to drive to music. I have to walk to music. I have to work out to music. I have to clean the house to music. And I have to give a shout-out to Kirsten Lane, our clearance person, who managed to clear 35 tracks for this movie.”

For more, including stories about sneaking into Pinewood Studios to edit his first feature and what the press tour for “Scott Pilgrim” taught him, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” at iTunes.

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