Edgar Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” is celebrating its 10th anniversary this summer, but the film would’ve been completely different had Universal Pictures had its way with casting. In a new oral history of the film published by Entertainment Weekly, Wright reveals that Donna Langley, Universal’s president of production at the time, pitched Seth Rogen to play the leading role.
Rogen at the time was coming off the breakthrough success of Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up,” which earned Universal $219 million worldwide on a $30 million budget. While Wright loved Seth Rogen, it was a casting decision he “couldn’t get [his] head around.”
“Michael Cera was the only person who came to mind,” Wright said about casting Scott Pilgrim. “I loved ‘Arrested Development,’ he’s Canadian, he’s scrawny, he plays guitar, and the idea of Michael as a Romeo is just inherently amusing.”
Wright also remembered living through the movie’s disappointing box office opening. “Scott Pilgrim” opened in U.S. theaters on August 13 and grossed just $10 million during its debut weekend, making it all but assured the film would not recoup its $85 million budget domestically. The film lost the box office race to fellow new entries “The Expendables” and “Eat Pray Love.”
“I remember getting an email from Marc Platt, one of the film’s producers, on the Friday asking Universal to put more into the spend and predicting doom for the weekend,” Wright said. “And I thought — naively — I thought, ‘Well, it’s only Friday morning, how could they know?’ They know. It opened at number five.”
For Wright, watching the film get turned into “a bit of a punchline” after its low box office performance wasn’t easy to swallow. The director remembered getting particularly annoyed with “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane.
“I’ve never liked Seth MacFarlane, because that weekend he tweeted ‘Scott Pilgrim 0, the World 2,'” Wright said. “I was like, fuck you. And then I lay in wait until [‘A Million Ways to Die in the West’] came out, or whatever it was called, and I rubbed my hands with glee. I didn’t tweet anything because I’m not a total monster.”
MacFarlane’s 2014 comedy “A Million Ways to Die in the West” was a similar box office under-performer for Universal Pictures, grossing just $16 million on its opening weekend (well below the $54 million opening “Ted” earned for the director and the studio in 2012). Unlike MacFarlane, Universal’s then co-president of marketing Michael Moses sent along a more encouraging note after “Scott Pilgrim” bombed.
“Monday morning Michael Moses sent an email with three words,” Wright said. “It was one of the sweetest emails I’ve ever gotten from anybody in the industry. It said, ‘Years, not days.'”
Moses was right, as “Scott Pilgrim” has become a beloved cult favorite over the last decade. Read the full “Scott Pilgrim” oral history over on Entertainment Weekly’s website.