Edgar Wright is bringing a bit of London in the swinging ‘60s to Toronto with his latest film, the psychological thriller “Last Night In Soho”. Together with co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns, the duo tells ET Canada about bringing Soho to life with Anya Taylor-Joy and Thomasin McKenzie.
“Last Night In Soho” is about a young aspiring fashion designer named Eloise (McKenzie) who finds herself mysteriously transported into the body of the dazzling 1960s wannabe nightclub singer Sandy (Taylor-Joy) each night when she falls asleep. Intrigued by the glitz and glamour of the Soho of the 1960s, Eloise soon begins to see that the past isn’t all it’s cracked up to be as her nightmares begin to blur with her reality.
For Wright, the idea of the story was one that has “been haunting” him for years to the point he “couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s like, I have to make this movie and get it out of my system,” he says. Finally, the missing piece of the story was Oscar-nominated “1917” writer Wilson-Cairns who was “very happy to be an instant ‘yes.’” She adds, “I don’t even think he finished the sentence.”
Together, Wright and Wilson-Cairns wanted to reclaim the classic storyline of the young, naive woman in London. “One of the inspirations for the movie was watching a lot of ‘60s dramas where there are a lot of those narratives about a girl who comes to London and has the audacity to want to make it big and to be punished for it,” Wright says. “And I saw a lot of those movies and I thought this is interesting that it seemed like these movies are very sort of punitive. And so then I have the idea of like, ‘what if he saw, like, a modern girl coming to London who wants to escape back into the seemingly more glamorous, like London of the ‘60s and I guess gets a rude awakening.’”
In the dual lead roles are McKenzie and Taylor-Joy, the latter of whom Wright says he had his eye on “maybe three years before we’d written the first draft.” Initially considering her for the role of Eloise, Wright says when they began to expand the character of Sandy, “she totally agreed and was like, ‘I’d love to play that part.’ And then we went looking for Eloise, which we found in the amazing performance of Thomasin McKenzie.”
In addition to the young cast, which also includes Matt Smith and Michael Ajao, Wright had veteran British actors on board in the form of Terrence Stamp, Rita Tushingham, and former James Bond actresses Dame Diana Rigg and Maragaret Nolan – both of whom died in late 2020, making “Last Night In Soho” their final film roles.
“Having written a film that takes place in the ‘60s and then having some of these icons being the movie and get their perspective on the script was like, you know, really validating both of us and just working with them [was special]. And Terence Stamp is just, you know, it was incredible,” Wright says. Adds Wilson-Cairns of having Rigg in the film, “I used to watch ‘The Avengers’ when I was very young. She was like the first female superhero I’d ever watched on screen. And you’re getting to meet her and getting to hear her, you know, act words that you had written is sort of like totally I mean, it’s a memory. I’ll treasure all this.”
With a tendency to look back at the past with rose-coloured glasses, Wright says this film was an “attempt to kill that.” “I think in a way what the movie is about is this or the danger of doing that. People always talk about the good old days, like there was some perfect decade where everything was great and nothing was bad. And of course, it’s a fallacy. It doesn’t exist.”
“I just think obviously I would love to be able to time travel and visit the ‘60s, but I wouldn’t hang around for too long,” Wilson-Cairns agrees.
Ultimately, Wright says “if there’s something to take away from the movie, like aside from maybe having some interesting nightmares” he wants the audience to “think about the past.”
“I think a lot of people kind of like with or so people who walk around London or any city in history and think about the buildings and what the buildings have seen. And that’s something that we can’t kind of escape the sort of the shadows of the past. And so we just want to make people stop and think, ‘Hang on, what happened in the city?’” he continues.
Though he can’t wait for audiences to be able to see “Last Night In Soho” when it arrives in theatres on Oct. 29, two people whose opinions he is eager to hear are his parents, Lesley and Chris.
“I’m really excited for my mom and dad to see it because I guess my obsession with the ‘60s started with them because they were both around,” he says. “They were art college in the ‘60s. My obsession with the decade sort of starts with their record collection. So I’m excited for them to see the movie.”