With an increasing number of comic books being adapted for the big screen these days (and some before the book itself has even been finished), you’ve got to wonder how the creators feel about their work getting the Hollywood treatment. You see, for every Sin City that wows the critics and the collectors alike, there is an Elektra that pretty much no-one gets. It’s a game full of traps and pitfalls and there isn’t yet a manual (or a trade paperback) that shows you how to navigate it succesfully. Format caught up with Bryan Lee O’Malley – the author and illustrator of the popular Scott Pilgrim series – as an adaptation of his work (starring Michael Cera and directed by Edgar Wright) is currently being shot deep in the heart of the Greater Toronto Area, to find out his thoughts about everything from merchandising possibilities to how involved he, personally, has been in the actualisation of the project.
Probably the weirdest thing about this whole process has been having my old neighbourhood haunts exhumed for a big Hollywood movie.
Format: What was your first reaction when you heard the books had been optioned?
Bryan Lee O’ Malley: My first reaction was “who the fuck is Edgar Wright?” Then I illegally downloaded his television show, both because I was dirt poor and because it wasn’t available outside of England at the time (very early in 2005).
Format: Have you been on set much since the movie started shooting?
Bryan Lee O’ Malley: I’ve been on set for two out of fourteen days so far, but there are 89 days total and I’ll be there for more than two of them.
Format: How has it been seeing something that once only existed in your head being brought to life?
Bryan Lee O’ Malley: Well, it’s existed outside of my head for almost five years. It exists in a lot of people’s heads, and also in a bunch of printed copies of books, and in a screenplay since 2006, and… it’s not explosively blowing my mind at this point. It’s been a slow-ish process. My mind has been blown very gradually.
Format: Were you involved in any of the pre-production processes such as casting?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: I was privy to the casting sessions. I wasn’t in the room as such, but I saw all the tapes and discussed all the choices with Edgar. And it’s been like that with most of the other pre-production, at least at a higher level — I see things being put together, and am asked for input when it’s appropriate.
Format: Obviously, there are a series of Scott Pilgrim books – did Universal option just Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World or are they contracted to do the whole series?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: It’s an adaptation of the concept, I’d say — it sticks to the first three books quite faithfully, but puts things together in new ways and creates a real film narrative instead of just dumping in all the miscellaneous plot strands of the book. It’s really faithful to the spirit and details of the books, while still being a new creation that the screenwriter and director could really invest themselves in.
Format: The influence that computer games have had on your work is pretty obvious. Are there any plans for a computer game spin-off for the movie?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: I don’t know. Probably.
“I see things being put together, and am asked for input when it’s appropriate.”
Format: How important was it for you that the movie was infused with the vibe of Toronto?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: I think it’s important to the books — the specificity of the locations helps ground it in reality as much as is possible for a book where girl ninjas fly through subspace, etc. Anything that’s so integral to the books is integral to this adaptation. As for me, I never imagined they’d go into so much detail with digging up the real locations that inspired scenes in the book. Probably the weirdest thing about this whole process has been having my old neighbourhood haunts exhumed for a big Hollywood movie.
Format: What are Bryan Lee O’ Malley’s favourite spots to frequent in the city?
Bryan Lee O’Malley: People keep asking me this now, but like I said, I was dirt-poor when I lived in Toronto and I moved away four years ago. Things that I liked have gone or changed, or I’ve changed. The only place I tend to make a beeline for is The Beguiling, where I know I can always find old friends and new comics I’ve never heard of. I also really like to go to Fresh (any of the locations around town) — there’s no place quite like it in any other city I’ve been. It’s unique and great.
Format: You originally planned six volumes of Scott Pilgrim. You are up to five now. What can readers expect in the final one? They can expect the series to end.
Bryan Lee O’Malley: I don’t know; I’m still working on it