As the most critically acclaimed movie of the summer thus far (it’s currently sitting at 98 percent on RottenTomatoes), the action-musical hybrid “Baby Driver” is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Written and directed by Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz”), most of the action sequences in the film are thrown into high gear by its diverse soundtrack, which is choreographed and edited in sync with the images flashing on screen — guns blazing, cars swerving, things blowing up. It’s a revved-up symphony that stimulates the senses in the same vein as Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 action-drama “Drive,” except a lot less glum.
As eclectic a cast as the music featured (the playlist includes Danger Mouse, the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Queen, Barry White and everything in between), “Baby Driver” stars Ansel Elgort (“The Fault in Our Stars”) as the title character Baby, a getaway driver who chooses to drown out the buzzing in his head by always listening to music from his iPod earphones. Trapped inside a life of crime, Baby is the man behind the wheel in a series of bank robberies planned by his persuasive boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Along for the ride: Bats (Jamie Foxx), an ex-con who doesn’t seem too impressed with Baby’s cool demeanor and skills behind the wheel, together with Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza González), a hot-blooded couple who would put their lives on the line for one another without question.
While names like Academy Award winners Spacey and Foxx, and TV heartthrobs like Hamm (“Mad Men”) might be familiar to moviegoers, it’s González who breaks out in a big way. Originally from Sonora, Mexico, González, 27, started her career working on Spanish-language TV shows before landing a recurring role in director Robert Rodriguez’s small-screen remake of his 1996 horror-action movie “From Dusk Till Dawn.” On the series, which ended last year, González starred as Santanico Pandemonium, a character who shared the same name as the vampiress Salma Hayek played in the original film.
In “Baby Driver,” González’s Darling isn’t the quintessential arm candy you might find in other testosterone-heavy heist films. She is no damsel in distress and holds her own with the men on her crew. At the same time, Darling leaves a mysterious impression as one of the main characters of the film. We know where her heart lies, but are never too sure if a more ruthless side of her personality will take charge before all is said and done.
During an interview with me earlier this month, Gonzalez, who is re-teaming with Rodriguez on his newest movie “Atila: Battle Angel” next year, talked about working out the little details of her character to give her what she describes as “feminine energy,” and explained how that blended with her co-star Jon Hamm’s role. She also described one of her favorite scenes in the film, and why timing was such an integral part of the shooting process.
What was the auditioning process like on this project and did part of it include just seeing how cool you looked holding a gun?
I had to use a lot of air guns in the audition, which was always very awkward. Honestly, I was very nervous. I went through a lot of auditions. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The thing that was most nerve-wracking for me what that I was so in love with the movie. I had high hopes and wanted to be a part of it. As an actor, you’re crushed when you’re so in love with something and you don’t get it. Luckily, it all worked out for the best and I got a chance to be a part of this unbelievably amazing movie.
What was your reaction when you found out you landed the role?
I cried profusely. I was very excited. I had gone to about four auditions already and I was waiting for their call. They were still making their choice. After getting a chance to work with Edgar, I found out that he is very specific. I was walking to a coffee shop and I got the call from my whole [management] team. They told me, and I could not believe it. I called my mom and we cried and screamed. I was outside on the street in Los Angeles, so it was actually not that weird.
What kind of conversations did you have with your director Edgar Wright about the kind of character you wanted Darling to be? What kind of character did you want to create?
I was very respectful and wanted to hear what Edgar had in mind first. He had waited for so long to create this beautiful movie. I heard what he had to say and heard the backstory. And then, I sort of added my own take to it and we started adding all these little things to the character. I’ve always been an actor who thinks you can find a big performance in the little details. I thought she was very outside of herself — a space cadet. When we started shooting, none of the bubblegum or the lollipops were in the script. I thought it was a key thing for her to have. I wanted to give her this feminine energy. I thought it was important for her to be chewing gum and shooting guns. At the end of the day, she’s a bank robber. She’s using her primal instincts. It was really fun to engage in that feeling.
She has a tattoo on her neck with the word “His” in cursive. What does that marking say about her?
Buddy has one, too, that says “Hers.” I loved that subtle, hidden message that Edgar sends with that, which is this feeling of ownership. It’s this feeling of “We are one together. I’m yours and your mine. I’d die for you. I’d kill for you. I’d do anything for you.” That’s [Darling and Buddy’s] dynamic. When things go south, their love had to be paved during the beginning of the movie so you could really believe how it ends. [Buddy] is so obsessed with her, and they have this co-dependent relationship. They were two very raw human beings that found themselves in each other. That was very beautiful. Even talking about it now makes me feel hopelessly romantic.
Do you think that’s the kind of connection people are looking for these days—to find someone that would die for you?
We’re always looking for that person who will give us everything — not necessarily to die or kill, but definitely passion and love. Don’t we all look for that in our lives subconsciously? I think Edgar was very smart in the way he layered the two relationships in the film. You have the innocent relationship — the light of the story — which is Baby and Debora (Lily James). It’s their first love and the beginning of everything. Then, there is the end of everything, which is Buddy and Darling.
How physical did the film get for you in terms of stunts?
We would barely use our body doubles. Edgar really wanted to have that feeling of us in the car, and with good reason. After watching the film, I finally understood why. As an audience, you can see the actors flying across in a car and that just makes it more real. It was like Disney for adults. I love adrenaline. I really enjoy that part of the job. As an actor, we don’t get to do that on a daily basis. I really enjoyed being able to do it on screen and being around people who are so good at it like all our stunt drivers. We were learning from the best. I tried to milk it as much as possible. I knew Edgar would never put us in a risky position, so I had a blast.
The film is fun for a lot of different reasons, but, of course, people are really loving how Edgar was able to use music to style it in a very interesting way. Are there any scenes that resonated with you the most because of the music?
I really like the “Tequila” scene (performed by the Button Down Brass). I think it’s such a dynamic, fun scene. It has a lot of action. Everyone shines. Everyone does a great job. It was a hard scene to shoot, but the outcome of it was absolutely amazing. It was probably the heaviest musical scene through the whole movie. Every gunshot played on every beat of “Tequila.” Even the bullet casings hitting the floor were timed — the movement, the punches, the driving. It was wild. I was really excited to see the outcome because it was so hard to shoot and the result was amazing.
If you, Eiza Gonzalez, were walking into a building and pushed open a pair of doors and all of a sudden everything started moving in slow motion, what song would you want to start playing at that exact moment? What would you want your theme song to be?
(Laughs) Maybe something sultry. Or maybe something like “Waiting for Tonight” from J-Lo — something super feminine and super girly, but really fun and sexy.
This interview first ran at Remezcla.com.