Edgar Wright’s new horror thriller Last night in Soho is packed with visual references. Cineastes may recognize a recording from Roman Polanski’s rejection here a color scheme from Dario Argentos Suspiria there. He loved Rita Tushingham in Tony Richardson’s 1961 drama A touch of honey so much, he cast her as a grandmother Soho. He admired Café De Paris in the 1961s West End jungle, so he created it as a prominent set for one of them Soho‘s key scenes. His list of film inspirations is long and thorough. They also extend to music – he said the entire film started out as a series of impressions around the ’60s playlist he put together from his parents’ notes.
But he wants viewers to understand that they don’t need to know about this in order to watch the film, in which Thomasin McKenzie plays a shy London fashion student who has visions of a would-be 1960s stage star (Anya Taylor- Joy) and her troubling new love interest (former Doctor Who Star Matt Smith). Before the film was released, the writer and director of Shaun vs. the dead, Hot fuzz, Baby driver, Scott Pilgrim vs. the world, and other indelible reference films spoke to Polygon about the film’s horror roots and inspirations, the huge playlist of films he gave his cast for inspiration, and why he wouldn’t want to play the Stanley Kubrick writer game.
Much has been said about it if Last night in Soho should be viewed as a Giallo film. Are you investing in the debate or in the categorization?
Edgar Wright: I mean, I like Giallo films, and they certainly have been an influence. But in a strange way, I stumbled back to find the source of the influences in these films as well. The films I was looking for for this film were the films that influenced the great Giallo films that go back to British directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
I will be the influence of. do not deny it Deep red or The bird with the crystal plumagebecause I love these films. But I was interested in what influenced these directors. Black daffodil is not a Giallo movie, but there are many elements in it Black daffodil that obviously inspired Giallo films. What I like about the best of these films is that they become expressionistic and operatic and maybe slowly burn from one thing to another. The idea of the end Last night in Soho Opera horror has always been the goal for me.
Thomasin McKenzie said you gave her a playlist of around 50 movies to watch when you put her in the movie –
I will say this – I always say this. I gave everyone in the cast and crew a hub and said, “Look as much as you want or not!” But the two hardest-working people were Thomasin and Odile Dicks-Mireaux, my costume designer, whom I think they all went to see. But I never told her to see all 50! She is just a very hardworking young lady.
What did you want your cast and crew to get off the list?
Well, that wasn’t all horror films! In fact, more than half of them were 1960s dramas, with some documentaries. I’ve pointed different things out to different people. With Matt and Anya, I thought it would be interesting to show them films from that period because the acting was different back then. So I asked Anya to look at John Schlesinger Darling, or movies like [Edmond T. Gréville’s] Beat girl.
I think they all, Matt and Anya and Thomasin, have Ken Loachs Poor cow, not just because Terence Stamp [who has a significant role in Last Night in Soho
You talked about how this movie started with your own huge 1960s music playlist, and then there’s this movie list. Does your work have a curatorial aspect? Do you want to attract people to this music or these films? Is it more about reflecting on what you love?
I think it’s a bit of both! It’s fun doing the press for this film, I wrote more lists [for cultural outlets] than I’ve ever had before. As for the next film I make, I won’t be writing lists.
I think the thing about me about working with a crew is that I’m just waiting for total transparency. So many directors get the idea that they should be some kind of dark, mysterious writer who never tells their crew what the hell is going on and says, “This is my method, no one should know what I’m doing.” You hear too many stories about people trying to be the next Stanley Kubrick and leaving the rest of the crew out. I won’t give names, but I’ll go the other way around. I will say to my cast and crew – especially if we are working with a crew where we are filming a lot of scenes from the 60s – “I will give you as much to listen, watch, read, watch as you want and you can , but is not required reading. If you want some things to immerse you in, this is interesting. “
I feel the same way with the films. Sometimes people ask me, “What films should I watch beforehand? Last night in Soho? No need to watch movies before watching them! The movie should work if it’s the first movie you’ve ever seen. [Laughs] Imagine if Last night in Soho was the first movie you ever saw. But it should work on its own terms. All that other stuff is just read on: “If you liked this, listen to this.” I put out a playlist for the cinemas: “Here are things that get you in the mood. Here’s a playlist in case the cinemas want to play this in the auditorium before the movie. These are songs that don’t appear in the film, but all of them at the right time to create the mood. “But I don’t want to give anyone homework! It’s just read on.
But I want to find the person whose first film is ever Last night in Soho. It must be someone out there.
However, they may have to be very young.
Yes sir. You can get away with it if you have irresponsible parents.
Polygon will have more of Edgar Wright next week as he walks us through the turning process Last night in Sohothe most complicated and addicting scenes.