Baby Driver director awed by his cast of award winners such as Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx

Director Edgar Wright (centre) and actor Ansel Elgort (right) on the set of the heist thriller Baby Driver. PHOTO: TRISTAR PICTURES
Director Edgar Wright (centre) and actor Ansel Elgort (right) on the set of the heist thriller Baby Driver. PHOTO: TRISTAR PICTURES

KUALA LUMPUR - One of the most pleasant surprises of the blockbuster summer season this year has been the success of the heist thriller Baby Driver.

It made US$21 million its opening weekend in the United States, double the takings of English writer-director Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim Vs The World in 2010, and has been hailed by critics for its freshness and energy.

What makes it even more unusual is that the film is a musical - of sorts.

Speaking at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur, on Monday (July 17), Wright, 43, says: "It's not a musical in the traditional sense. Nobody really sings out loud in there."

He pitched it as a "car-chase movie driven by music" because, he adds: "I'm a big fan of musicals and a big fan of action movies and the idea of combining the two in a new and distinct way is really exciting to me."

The film opens in Singapore on Thursday (July 20).

Also in Kuala Lumpur for the press conference are American actor Ansel Elgort, who plays the titular getaway driver Baby, and English actress Lily James, who plays his love interest, a waitress named Debora.

Wright quips: "I cast Ansel because he's like me, but taller."

At their first meeting, they "talked about music solidly for an hour" before the actor had even read the script.

The director says: "He's a hugely charismatic performer, but also has that kind of passion for music and the ability to play music and write music that feed into the character."

The actor is a singer and DJ and also has a background in ballet, which helped with the driving stunts and the parkour choreography.

Elgort, 23, wearing a blazer over a striped shirt, says: "I got to keep the Subaru from the first scene and I feel like, for some reason, I want to turn it around all the time. I'm definitely a better driver now and I enjoy driving more than ever."

He also enjoyed working with cast members such as Oscar winners Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx and Emmy winner Jon Hamm, whose successes he would like to emulate.

"Hopefully one day I'll be as successful as them and there'll be a young guy on set and I'll try to be as nice to him as they were to me."

Even the director was a little starstruck by his heavyweight cast. Whenever Spacey and Foxx appeared in a scene together, Wright recalls he would whisper to his cinematographer: "It's a double Oscar shot."

He made his breakthrough with the zombie comedy Shaun Of The Dead (2004), which he calls a valentine to film-maker George Romero (Night Of The Living Dead, 1968), who died on July 16.

Wright says: "Him liking the movie was the only review we needed. Very proud to have called him a friend and very sad that he's passed away.

"He inspired so many artists in film, TV, video games, literature and comic books, so his legacy will remain. And that's the best you can say of any artist."

Baby Driver opens in Singapore on Thursday (July 20).