Words by Steven Goldman; photos by Nino Munoz; special thanks to Sony Pictures Entertainment
In Baby Driver, Jon Hamm stars as ‘Buddy’, a ballistic bank robber who takes his cues from Kevin Spacey’s ‘Doc’, his marching orders from his machine gun-toting wife (Mexican bombshell, Eiza Gonzalez), and his getaway ride from Ansel Elgort’s eponymous ‘Baby’. Still, Baby Driver—whose eclectic all-star cast also includes Jamie Foxx, Downton Abbey’s Lily James and Michael Peter Balzary (aka, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers)—is no straightforward affair. The highly stylised movie delivers not only the heist genre staples of high-octane car chases and killer gunplay, but an aesthetic all its own.
In Baby Driver, much of the action is also synchronised to a musical beat from a preselected 30-song playlist, handpicked by director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead; Hot Fuzz), himself. “It’s definitely not a musical in the grand MGM tradition, but it’s an important element,” says Hamm. “Music is in 90 % of the film and drives a big portion of the plot as well.” Best known for his breakthrough turn as Don Draper on Mad Men, Jon Hamm has enjoyed prominent roles in such films as The Town, Sucker Punch, Bridesmaids and Keeping Up with the Joneses. We spoke with him about the making of Baby Driver in Los Angeles.
What initially attracted you to Baby Driver? Were you a fan of Edgar Wright’s previous films?
I was a massive fan of Edgar’s body of work—it’s so impressive for such a young man. I remember once being back home in St. Louis and my childhood friend and I were looking for something to do, you know getting away from our families (laughs)… It was rainy and gross outside and we were like, “Let’s go and see a movie.” And so we went to this theatre that we went to when we were kids… Shaun of the Dead? Let’s go check that out.” And it just blew my mind. I was like, “Who is this filmmaker?” Ever since then, everything Edgar has come out with has had this sensibility that is so impressive. His vocabulary is so visual and so filmic. There are very few people that have that, that mind that works in a visual way. I mean, I can direct a movie. I can tell a story. But I can’t do what Edgar does. I just don’t have the capacity. I am both envious of it and fascinated by it. And as an actor I love being in the presence of it.
After the success of Mad Men is it important for you to choose roles that are a departure for you? What do you look for these days?
Mad Men has a life of its own. Not only in my life, but in the firmament of the culture and I can only be humbly gracious and grateful for that. We don’t all get opportunities to do that… Do I then make conscious decisions to go 180 degrees from that? No. But I will say that I get to do things that are interesting and work with people who I find challenging and exciting like Edgar because of it. I’d be silly to shy away from it. I really do think that I am so lucky.
How did this film come about?
I was involved with the project probably six or seven years ago when I was invited to a table read. I had met Edgar through some friends and he was like, “Will you come read this? I’ve got this idea for a script. It’s a first draft, so please don’t judge.”
Tell us about the character you’re playing.
I play ‘Buddy’ who is one of the heist crew. And I love the way that Edgar wrote him. He’s an interesting guy who appears to be sort of avuncular, caring and even mentoring in some ways, and yet by the time it all goes to pieces, he becomes something very different (laughs)…
You’ve got a pretty distinctive look in your new film. How did you come up with it?
That was driven by Edgar. He really wanted to play it up. I think there’s that guy who’s a little older, who’s got that girlfriend who’s a little too young. He’s wearing clothes that are a little bit too young for him, and it just doesn’t quite work… You see guys like that in the clubs in Hollywood or Miami. The 60-year-olds in designer jeans, and you’re just like, “Oh dear. No, no, no.” I think Buddy is very much that guy. He has gone all in on this relationship with this younger lady (Eiza González’s ‘Darling’) and he is committed to it. A part of that is the haircut.
What is that haircut, by the way?
I don’t know what it’s called. They shave the sides and then you’ve got a mop on top. I’ve basically had a version of the same haircut for the last decade, so when I got this one I was like, “Oh Goodness.” But in many ways it was also fun. Literally changing your hairstyle that much does a lot not only for yourself to inform the character, but really lets an audience wash away, if you’re any good at least, any previous perceptions of what your persona might be.
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