Edgar Wright Wanted Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World To Be Gene Kelly Meets John Woo

Edgar Wright obviously drew inspiration from a bunch of disparate sources for "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," the 2010 film in which Michael Cera faces off with superhero stars like Chris Evans and Brandon Routh — and wins. Wright is, as dubbed by Time, something of a "cinematic DJ," known for sampling a number of genres to build his surreal, cinematic worlds. And true to form, "Scott Pilgrim" is a perfect storm of homages, winks, and nods to a treasure trove of well-known film.

Some of that is due in part to Bryan Lee O'Malley, who wrote the graphic novels that Wright adapted for "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World." The 10-part series was first described to Wright as "John Hughes meets 'Kill Bill,'" the director told Rotten Tomatoes — and though he did use both as key influences, his mumblecore mashup found equal inspiration in another, less likely place.

Remixing classic musicals

Wright and Tarantino both share a love for the Hong Kong martial arts films of the '70s and '80s. While the latter emulated the classic Shaw brothers vibe (as well as Bruce Lee's "Game of Death") for his blood-soaked "Kill Bill" duology, Wright set his sights on the early work of Jackie Chan and John Woo.

Both choices make total sense: the director has been emulating Woo's own balletic style since "Shaun of the Dead," and it's hard to ignore the cocktail of slapstick and martial arts that once made Jackie Chan a household name. Both motifs feel right at home in a film that's as much a coming of age romance as it is a first-person arcade game. But the experimentation didn't stop there. Wright was also studying the MGM-era musicals that starred Gene Kelly — films that influenced both Chan and Woo as well.

"If you watch a Jackie Chan film from the late '70s through the '80s, you can see that there are elements where they've got the structure of like a Gene Kelly musical," Wright explained. Kelly's films are obviously sprinkled with dance breaks throughout, but each sequence introduces something fresh to distinguish itself from whatever came before.

Lovers turned fighters

Just like musicals, no two sequences in a martial arts film should feel too similar. "There should be some new novelty every time," Wright continued, "or some new setting, or something that makes it interesting." That principle definitely helped the director keep each fight between Scott and Ramona Flowers' seven evil exes from treading familiar ground. Wright told Time:

"The second fight, with Lucas Lee, isn't really a fight with Lucas Lee, it's Scott Pilgrim fighting his henchman, you know, like in a video game; the third fight is a face-off; or the fourth fight is not really between Scott and the ex, it's mostly between Roxie and Ramona, and then Scott gets brought into it."

Wright's observation isn't all that surprising upon closer inspection. Ironically, the director is merely relaying what some of our most foundational action filmmakers have already known. Woo himself is a truly outspoken lover of musicals. Growing up in the slums of Hong Kong, musical films — especially those of Kelly and Fred Astaire — were one of his few solaces, and they've since helped create the template for his aesthetic, despite his love of "guns blazing" set pieces.

It might be easier to track the genealogy of Jackie Chan's signature style than it might be for Woo's, and he's not shy about his influences either. "I learned a lot of things from Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire," Chan told The Los Angeles Times in 1996. "Actually, I totally copied from Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire."

Of course, there are hints of Buster Keaton and Bruce Lee there too. But it's surprising to learn how many foundational action filmmakers were inspired by ... well, singers and dancers. It certainly makes you look at musicals — and the athleticism of its stars — a lot differently.