Unless you’ve been hiding under a rockery for the past year, you’ll already know who Scott Pilgrim is. If you don’t (shame on you), you’ll soon have his name being yelled at you from every billboard and TV ad in your general vicinity.
A 23-year-old layabout with no job to his name, a gay best mate who lets him share his bed (not like that), and a band called Sex Bob-omb, Scott is the eternal, loveable slacker. Not exactly your typical comic book hero.
“There are so many stories and comics that are pure fantasy,” muses Bryan Lee O’Malley, “and I like that, and I want to do stuff like that, but I also want to ground it in my own reality.”
So even though Scott is able to kick butt with the rest of them, he’s also your archetypal directionless twenty-something. Not only that – he’s a massive hit in the world of publishing.
First appearing in Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, published in 2004, Pilgrim has gone on to head up four further tomes bearing his name, as well as the upcoming sixth and final book in the series.
Created by O’Malley after the writer – fresh from graphic novel Lost At Sea – wanted to take on a “challenge”, Scott’s adventures blend video game rules with a very recognisably Toronto reality (it’s entirely set in O’Malley’s Canadian home-town).
“The books are not just about Scott’s love life,” says director Edgar Wright, “but his exes and family, and friends. After I read the first book it reminded me of Spaced, in terms of combining the mundane with the fantastical.” Always a winning combination.
It was shortly after the first book was published that Oni Press slipped it under the door of Hollywood producer Marc Platt. And in the blink of an eye, it had caught the attention of Wright, who spied it as a fun and creative piece of work that chimed with his own interests.
“In a weird way, I think the whole film is Scott’s sort of diluted cheese dream of him as a badass,” he says. “If you start in a very real place, you can flower into the fantastical.”
Having optioned the novel with Universal, Wright still had to shoot Hot Fuzz before he could tackle the Scott Pilgrim universe. But it was something of a blessing, considering the rest of the novels in the series had yet to be written/sketched, let alone published.
Still, it’s no secret that Wright has kept his eye on the Pilgrim property throughout his other projects, developing the film’s script with Michael Bacall from as early as 2005.
It was at this time that Michael Cera’s name was first mentioned. And despite the fan reserve that Cera was a one-trick geek, Universal had no problem with him.
“Universal never really gave me any problems about casting bigger people,” says Wright, “because in a way Michael has starred in two $100 million-plus movies.”
For Wright, Cera was the perfect Pilgrim. Having first spied him in TV show Arrested Development, Cera was then too young for the role. But by the time shooting was to commence in 2009, Cera had grown up enough.
“People on the internet say he’s so miscast,” says Wright, “but then the people they suggest leave you going, ‘Yeah, but I don’t want to make the Zac Efron version of Scott Pilgrim.’
“So it’s like whenever people come up with suggestions of who it could be, I’m like are we reading the same books? I mean, shouldn’t he be like an underdog, physically?”
Considering he’s going to have to fight seven evil ex-boyfriends, we’re betting Scott wishes he was packing Arnie-sized guns…
Next: Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends