“The only person who is in the movie who I wrote with them in mind is Jon Hamm,” says Baby Driver director Edgar Wright
Jon Hamm on his role in summer blockbuster Baby Driver
"I’m taking my sweater off guys, calm down,” Jon Hamm deadpans, pulling off the grey topper to amused hoots from a table of journalists.
In a deluxe hotel, not far from the Hollywood sign, Hamm seems in a good mood as he sits down to talk about Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, the fast-moving cars-and-guns action thriller with a killer soundtrack that’s destined to be one of the defining movies of the summer when it releases tomorrow.
Hamm, 46, made his name playing 1960s New York adman Don Draper in hit series Mad Men and his crack about pulling off his cardigan shows he’s not afraid to poke fun at his sexy-man image that grew from the series.
While he’s expanded his reach to comedy (Bridesmaids, TV series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and drama (The Town and Marjorie Prime), he has his best role since Draper with Buddy in Baby Driver, playing a manic bank robber.
Buddy comes across as cool, but has a dangerous air, with a permanent squint and shaved-sides haircut.
Rumoured to be a Wall Street refugee brought down by a drug habit, he may occasionally have trouble seeing straight. But he only really wants to look at his girlfriend, Darling (Eiza González, who joined Hamm in the interview). She’s a crook who is just a tough as he is when it comes to guns and fearless moxie.
“We’re in a relationship in the film that is not particularly healthy as relationships go, but it is for love,” Hamm says.
Buddy and Darling spend the movie either completely absorbed in each other or wielding automatic weapons, bullets firing in perfect sync with the music.
Music is a huge part of Baby Driver, based on what getaway wheelman Baby (Ansel Elgort of The Fault in Our Stars) hears through his ever-present earbuds to drown out the tinnituscaused by a childhood accident. It’s what his bank-job-planning boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) calls “the hum in the drum”.
Doc’s voice is another thing Baby would like to drown out, especially when he’s giving orders on how the next heist will go down. He’s working off a debt with his driving and isn’t happy about what he has to do.
Buddy has no such qualms about crime. He loves being trouble, along with Darling and their fellow crooks, played by Jamie Foxx and Jon Bernthal.
“It’s fun to be the bad guy,” says Hamm. “It’s fun to be a person that obviously very few of us have personal experience with. How many of us get to steal cars and do crimes and shoot guns?”
The part was written for Hamm by long-time pal, Wright. They have been friends since meeting at a wrap party when Hamm hosted Saturday Night Live in 2008.
“The only person who is in the movie who I wrote with them in mind is Jon Hamm,” says Wright.
The admiration is mutual. “I love (his) work. I love Edgar as a person and a friend and I told him at the beginning: ‘Sometimes it’s hard to work with friends’,” Hamm recalls. “I told him: ‘I don’t think it’s gonna be. Just tell you what you want and I’ll do it I’m here.’”
Besides the soundtrack and its creative use, Baby Driver stands out for the incredible driving scenes, all done without computer wizardry.
“This movie stacks up with some of the best,” Hamm adds when asked which classic driving flicks inspired him. “There’s a moment at which the climatic chase of the movie that is 10 minutes long and … the opening sequence is really tightly choreographed. It’s like, oh my ... this is how you start a movie.”
Both Hamm and González get behind the wheel, having been trained in driving skills before shooting started.
“This one may be the best driver in the movie,” Hamm says, grinning at González. “I was so impressed.”
While he wasn’t scared being in the backseat of a car driving the wrong way on an Atlanta highway before spinning 180 degrees to reverse direction, he says: “I was very aware that we were in the hands of very capable professionals [the drivers].”
Buddy seems like a dream role for the actor, but generally speaking, is he picky about the parts he chooses?
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"Am I picky?" he asks with a smile. "If being picky or being picked by pepole who have had the career of Edgar Wright is being picky, then I'll be picky for the rest of my life."
Hamm is humble about his success, which came in his 30s, later in life when compared with many actors. He calls himself “fortunate”.
He credits Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner as the figure who furthered his career. Weiner “had to fight every single person from the studio and the network that didn’t want me” to cast Hamm as Draper.
Hamm voices similar gratitude towards Wright for creating Buddy, in a movie that takes the car chase thriller to a new level of intensity. And that “adrenalin rush” kicks off the opening frames, Hamm points out.
“If you’re not ready to go after the first 10 minutes of this movie, then go see another movie.”