Feature: Scott Pilgrim European Premiere

Premiere time again in London’s Leicester Square, and on this particular Thursday evening at the rather legendary Empire cinema it was the turn of Edgar Wright’s much-hyped latest, Scott Pilgrim vs the World.  Following an explosive appearance at this year’s Comic-con (with the Scott Pilgim ‘experience’ towering over most of the other stalls) this was to be Wright’s triumphant homecoming to his native Blighty.

And yet – the internet was ablaze last week lamenting the poor US box office showing for the slacker comic adaptation.  Scott Pilgrim enjoyed the kind of online buzz usually reserved for big superheroes, but after only scraping into the top five on its opening weekend in North America, every blogger and his mum was trying to work out what the hell went wrong.

If Wright and his team were chastened by their film’s relative financial failure, they didn’t show it on the red carpet of the European premiere here in London.  The director, most of the cast including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, Brandon Routh, Chris Evans, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin and the original comic creator Bryan Lee O’Malley were all out to greet the crowds, and despite being in the thick of a heavy press tour, all were in high spirits.

And you would be with this crowd – as is de rigeur at these occasions, much of the fan’s screams bordered on hysterical, fanatically wailing the name of anyone remotely famous in their immediate proximity in the desperate hope of a scribble from their Sharpie or a cheek-to-cheek photo.  Many could be seen reading various volumes of the Pilgrim comics on which the film is based as they waited for the red carpet to be rolled out, their places at the front of the barrier secured.

The biggest screams were reserved for title star Michael Cera, who despite arriving dressed head-to-toe in geek-chic (complete with huge prescription-style glasses) nonetheless enjoyed a reception one might expect for a superhunk.  (One sign, quoting a line of dialogue in Juno, proclaimed ‘Michael Cera: You’re the coolest person I know’.)

Cera’s unique brand of caustic humour was very much on show, too; when a fellow journalist in the press pit asked “Who is Scott Pilgrim?”, Cera drily replied, “Well, Scott Pilgrim is the character that I play, and he is also in the title of the film, as you can see from that huge poster.”

With a careful effort to avoid those sort of questions, I asked Cera if making the film was a challenge.  It was indeed, “but we had the training,” Cera told me.  “I knew that Edgar wouldn’t make it look stupid.  He’s a perfectionist.  It’s nice when you’re working with someone so obsessive about their work, you don’t have to worry about things.”

Others were just as quick to praise the British director.  Brandon Routh (playing Romana’s evil ex Todd Ingram), looked sheepishly guilty to talk to us as hundreds of fans behind him screamed his name (“I feel so bad…too many people”), but applauded Wright’s “extraordinary originality”.  The delightful Brie Larson said she felt “privileged” to be part of “this piece of art”.  Co-writer of the screenplay and one-time Inglorious Basterd Michael Bacall modestly brushed aside his efforts, saying “it’s all down to Edgar and Bryan.”

Encouragingly, there were big cheers for Wright and O’Malley, a reception not usually seen for behind-the-camera talent.  Wright’s Twitter feed suggested he was operating on just a couple of hours sleep, but he didn’t show it, brightly spotting one journo’s print out for the Edgar Wright Wikipedia article and offering to “cross off the things that aren’t true”.  He told us he was simply “glad of the opportunity to make films” and was “blown away” by the crowds.  O’Malley was similarly flummoxed, claiming this was a bigger crowd than the American or Canadian premieres. “You Londoners, you’re insane…”

As the great and the good flowed down the red carpet into the Empire, a PR rep told the assembled press there were some spare seats for the screening, a rare treat not usually granted to lowly film hacks.  Needless to say, your plucky reporter gallantly took the call, and was only too happy to mingle in the stalls with the cream of British comedy, along with some rather pointless slebs.  It’s a rather curious feeling to share a toilet queue with Simon Pegg, comedy genius Graham Linehan, that bloke off the X-Factor and Superman.

Before the film, Wright and his producers introduced the cast onstage, and told the audience to “have a blast” watching the film.  “Or two blasts.  Seven blasts.  Twenty, if you want… A hundred.  A million blasts.  As many as you want.  Just enjoy it!”  As the lights went down and the cast exited down the aisles, Kieran Culkin whispered to anyone who was listening “this movie sucks!”, while Jason Schwartzman went for “Room 408…Room 408…Hi – Room 408”.

I hardly have to tell you that the film itself was an absolute joy, an explosion of fresh, funny, inventive filmmaking from a director born to do it.  It was clear from this premiere that both cast and crew had an unqualified riot of a time making the film, and enjoyed each other’s company off screen even as they beat the living hell out of each other onscreen. Scott Pilgrim vs the World is released in UK cinemas today; if you want good quality movies to continue being made, vote with your wallet.  For god’s sake, go see it.

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