With Baby Driver zooming into theaters, we are reminded what an ingenious director Edgar Wright really is. With each film, Wright picks up a beloved Hollywood genre and transforms it into both a comic masterpiece and stunning example of that tradition.
Working with his cohorts, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Wright created his enduring saga, The Cornetto Trilogy—named after, of all things, a British ice cream treat. Starting with Shaun of the Dead, a hilarious revival of the genre that refuses to die, Wright went on to make Hot Fuzz, a madcap takedown of action films, and then The World’s End, an apocalyptic sci-fi comedy. While each is distinct in its on way, similar themes, gags, and actors knit the trilogy together as a cohesive work and demonstrate the genius of Wright’s craft.
As we celebrate Focus Features' 15th anniversary, we are especially proud of how Wright’s Cornetto films showcase their director’s extraordinary talent.
1) He is a fanboy’s fanboy.
Named “the Patron Saint of Fanboy Culture” by Vulture, Wright often casts his characters as consummate geeks, from the couch-surfing, video gamer Ed in Shaun of the Dead to the action-film aficionado, PC Danny Butterman in Hot Fuzz. The films he makes are, as he told The Week, “like the movies we loved growing up.”
2) He loves—really loves—movies
From the Reservoir Dogs-styled Mexican stand off in Shaun of the Dead to the Point Break-inspired gun work in Hot Fuzz, Wright demonstrates an encyclopedic knowledge of cinema—and he’s willing to put it to good use. To get a sense of how movie smart he really is, just peruse his “1000 Favorite Films” on the Mubi film site, from 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to 2016’s Train to Busan.
3) He creatively directs every aspect of his films.
Even though Pegg co-wrote the Cornetto Trilogy with Wright, as an actor in his films he's hesitant to improvise. It’s not that their scripts are perfect, but rather Wright's auteur filmmaking has already calculated how every action should land and every line should be delivered. His vision “is like a character,” Pegg tells Empire. “We have to be in line with Edgar's directorial style – and that's not a burden on us."
4) He’s got a black belt in genres.
Wright reveres the films and filmmakers of the genres he mocks. To get the parody of Hot Fuzz pitch perfect, Wright and Pegg watched over 138 action films and talked to scores of real cops. Such attention to detail makes the film, as Vice writes, “an incredible send-up of the action genre which also happens to be a great entry in that genre.”
5) Unexpected celebrity cameos add extra spice.
Wright pays homage to his celebrity fans and cinema influences by sneaking them into his films. In Shaun of the Dead, Coldplay’s Chris Martin shuffles about with the other undead extras. Cate Blanchett (as Pegg’s forensic scientist girlfriend) and director Peter Jackson (as a deranged Santa Claus) show up in Hot Fuzz. In The World’s End, the most noted cameo is Wright himself, whose voice is heard at the film’s end screaming expletives offscreen.
6) He stays true to his roots.
Despite being filled with zombies and aliens, there is something cozy about Wright’s films. In Hot Fuzz, he returned to his hometown of Wells in Somerset to use it as the backdrop for the village of Sandford. He even included the supermarket he worked in as a youth, no doubt fulfilling an adolescent fantasy by wreaking complete havoc on it.
7) His use of music is inspired.
Not only are his song cues spot on, but they often have a backstory all their own. Shaun of the Dead starts with The Specials' “Ghost Town” playing under a black screen as an instrumental. The unheard lyrics, however, hint at what’s about to happen: “This town is coming like a ghost town, All the clubs have been closed down.” Wright explains to Empire how in The World’s End, “Music is the biggest thing that helps you understand where [the main character] Gary is coming from.”
8) He takes his action scenes seriously.
Wright might make comedies, but he is meticulous when it comes to staging fights or showcasing mayhem. To make Hot Fuzz look like a real cop movie, Wright worked with editor Chris Dickens to make over 5,500 cuts to ensure “a fast-paced style to mimic action films.” For The World’s End, Wright shot much of the hand-to-hand combat in one take because as he tells Indiewire, “There’s a thrill when it really is in-camera.”
9) Each film delivers more than laughs.
While Wright’s films can be enjoyed as hilarious flights of fantasy, they also touch on more serious and personal themes. “People who may watch something in a comedy or a science fiction film…may not watch a drama about the same things,” Wright explains. Many reviewers were quick to see the sly social satire in Shaun of the Dead, “implying that Britain may already be populated with the living dead,” as The New York Times wrote. "There is a Trojan horse element to these movies,” he tells Empire. “We're able to put so much of ourselves in there.”