Scott Pilgrim vs. The World director Edgar Wright says that he has “ no bitterness at all for how [the movie] did 11 years ago.”
In a lengthy interview with Collider, Wright discussed the film’s legacy as a cult favorite, how he coped with its lackluster performance at the box office (earning only roughly half of its $85 million budget back), and how the divisive ending came to be.
“It’s a funny thing,” Wright said. “Michael Moses, who’s the head of marketing at Universal, he sent me the best email the Monday after it came out. I was very proud of the movie, but it’s that weird thing where you get emails from people where they kind of think that you might be suicidal or something (laughs). I was like, ‘Well, I’m still promoting the movie. I’m here in London in fact, to do a premiere. So I’m keeping upbeat about things.'”
Wright continued, “But he sent the best email that I’ve ever had about movie. So it opens it number five. I deliberately that weekend did not read any of the trades. I figured it’s not a good thing. It’s not useful in any way to read Deadline or Box Office Mojo, or any of those things. So I didn’t, and I still never have. But he sent me this email, and all it said was, “Years, not days.” It was just one of the best emails about anything in my career I’ve ever received. Michael Moses sent an email and all it said was, “Years, not days.”
Scott Pilgrim, based on Bryan Lee O’Malley’s then in-progress graphic novel, did eventually become a cultural success, spawning countless bits of merchandise, including a beat-em-up video game and multiple board games. The film is returning for a 10th-anniversary celebration on April 30 at select Dolby Cinema locations across the U.S.
Wright compared Scott Pilgrim’s life beyond the box office to similar cinema classics, like John Carpenter’s The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, or Blade Runner, none of which performed exceptionally in theaters.
“There’s tons of them that obviously you think were hits, and then you realize, “Oh, that wasn’t a hit when it came out?” It’s funny, when you look at Big Trouble in Little China, it did not even crack the top 10 when it came out, which is insane,” Wright said. “But then I think about when I saw it in 1986, I was alone in the cinema watching it (laughs).”
Throughout the years, there’s been plenty of rumors and tidbits about the possibility of a Scott Pilgrim sequel, but almost never any confirmation either way. Wright told Collider that there’s still some potential for more Scott Pilgrim universe adventures.
“So the nice thing was I knew that people there loved it, and also — because over the years there’s never been a call for a sequel because I think that’s something that is financially not manageable, but it kept getting re-released on Blu-ray,” Wright said. “I mean, more fucking Funko Pops than you can imagine. You could fill a house with Funko Pops of Scott Pilgrim. And then occasionally you’d get calls from Universal saying, ‘Is there anything else we can do with Scott Pilgrim?’ I can’t speak out of turn, but there’s still some potential things that might happen in that regard.”
As for Scott Pilgrim’s lasting legacy, Wright intimates that he’s just happy the cast largely still considers it a positive step in their career. For many, it was an early step towards absolute stardom, with Captain America’s Chris Evans and Captain Marvel’s Brie Larson appearing as members of Ramona Flowers’ evil exes. The cast also included Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Superman actor Brandon Routh, and others.
“That’s the funny thing is the trailer now, you can rattle off all those names,” Wright said. “Back then, there was nobody above the title. Not even Michael was above the title when it came out before. Listen, I have no bitterness at all for how it did 11 years ago. It just doesn’t matter. And I sort of knew that at the time, even though it was a tough thing — basically, when that happens, more what you’re thinking is like, “Will I be allowed to work again?” (laughs) That’s what your main priority is, will they let me make another film? And so, I’ve been very fortunate. ”
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Scott Pilgrim diehards also know that the theatrical ending (wherein Scott and Ramona get together again) wasn’t the original one the crew had filmed. The original had Knives Chau, Scott’s 17-year-old ex, get back together with him even after he cheated on her with Ramona. Of the two endings, Wright says he prefers the theatrical cut with Scott and Ramona.
“I think me and [writer] Michael Bacall originally, we were trying to write an ending that was in the vein of The Graduate or The Heartbreak Kid, where our hero gets what he wants, but maybe that isn’t what he needs,” Wright said. “But then trying to do that scene or that tone with Ellen Wong, the most adorable actress on the planet, it just didn’t feel right. It felt like trying to do this kind of ending is unfair on Knives and unfair on Ellen. […] But then when I told her, I said, “So we’re going to shoot a new ending.” And then when I told her what it was, she goes, “Oh, I’m so glad you said that, because I was thinking Knives is too proud to take him back. It makes her look really weak that she takes him back after he cheated on her.” And I was thinking, “Oh, thank God.’”
Scott Pilgrim’s 10th anniversary is past, but the film lives on. You can also read our original review of the game, which recently returned to modern platforms.
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer/ve-gone for IGN.