Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” is the toast of South by Southwest. The allusive writer/director gives credit where it’s due in a new interview published by Empire, namely Walter Hill’s 1978 “The Driver”; Wright praises Hill in general and his 1978 car-chase movie in particular throughout their discussion, which seems a continual surprise to the genre auteur. “The Driver” “did not find an audience,” says Hill, who has to be reminded of his film’s impact on a generation of filmmakers by the “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” director.
Other than the title and basic idea, “The Driver” seems to have influenced Wright in a really specific way. He says he read the film’s screenplay “because I wanted to know, how do you write a car chase? I have to write this thing in words which is only going to be really exciting in action on screen. However, you really write action beautifully. It’s almost like little haiku of action.”
Hill says that Wright is “probably too kind in [his] assessment,” then says his time as second assistant director on “Bullitt” lent him “a very different perspective” on directing car chases himself, as his logistical duties involved the safety of everyone on set; the experience scared him to death.
Perhaps the greatest point Wright makes about “The Driver” comes when he likens it to the Velvet Underground. “There’s that quote about the Velvet Underground Andy Warhol album — nobody bought it at the time, but the people who did buy it went on to form a band,” he says. “I feel the same way about ‘The Driver.’ The people who were watching are directors — we watched that movie and were excited and inspired. And I had to make a movie called ‘Baby Driver’ just to prove to you that ‘The Driver’ is influential.”
Wright has always embraced his predecessors, as anyone who remembers the love shown to “Point Break” and “Bad Boys II” in “Hot Fuzz” can attest, and this discussion with Hill is another reminder of his love of film. Read the full exchange here.