VENICE, Italy — It’s a few hours before Edgar Wright’s ” Last Night in Soho ” has its global debut at the Venice Film Festival, and Wright is teary-eyed. He’s narrating a story about Diana Rigg, the actress. On the final day he saw her, he had a terrific one containing Campari and soda.
Campari and Coke play a supporting role in most Rigg tales.
It’s a story he’s told before, and one he’ll tell again because she died at the age of 82 just a few weeks after that encounter. But it’s been a long day, and Wright has realized that it’s difficult to divorce this film, which he’s been working on for over ten years, from the odd experience of not just working with, but also knowing and losing a performer who embodied 1960s elegance.
“Last Night in Soho” is a film to watch if you want to think about the past, present, imagination, and reality. Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a young, 1960s-obsessed fashion designer, travels to London for education in this stylized narrative. When she rents a room in an old house in Soho, she begins to have more vivid dreams about the era and an aspiring singer named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), which begins as dazzling, bubbly fun but quickly become menacing. The film will be released in cinemas on Friday.
“Essentially, the film is about the hazards of nostalgia,” Wright explained. “There is no such thing as a wonderful decade in which everything was perfect.” It’s just a fallacy to assert that such a thing exists.”
It’s a bold move for Wright, who’s become recognized for his unique style of satirical comedy, and once he’s been considering for some time. He had a “phone book” full of interviews with individuals who had lived, worked, and drunk at Soho venues like the Café De Paris throughout the years, as well as the plot and soundtrack. When he eventually sat down to write it, though, he was met with nothing but a blank page.
Krysty Wilson-Cairns, a screenwriter whom he’d met on the night of Brexit and who also used to work in a pub in Soho, might be of assistance (The Toucan, which features prominently in the film). They wrote for six weeks in a leased Soho office.
“I had initially planned for all of the 1960s moments to remain quiet as if they were musical set-pieces,” Wright explained. “(Krysty) stated that we won’t be able to fall in love with Sandie until we hear her talk. It had a significant impact on the dynamic.”
Taylor-Joy was originally cast as Eloise by Wright. When he met her in 2015, just as she was breaking out following her role in the independent horror film “The Witch,” he told her as much. But as they started fleshing out Sandie’s persona, he understood it was suited for her.
Wright explained, “It was sort of having seen her in previous films and even just seeing her on the carpet.” “Doesn’t she look like a silent movie star?”
As a result, he was left without an Eloise. Then McKenzie, an 18-year-old, was nominated.
“This was a project that I was quite interested in. McKenzie claimed on a Zoom call from lockdown in New Zealand, “It wasn’t presented to me.” “I was in a similar place in my life at the time… She’s a young girl with huge dreams and enormous ambitions, a little hesitant and unsure of herself, but anxious to prove herself by getting to the big city and then being overwhelmed by all that came with it.”
The similarities didn’t end there. Not only would she and her character be arriving in London at the age of 18, but her grandmother would be played by Rita Tushingham, who directed “A Taste of Honey” at the age of eighteen in 1961.
“I adored Ellie’s bond with her granny. I’ve spent my entire life with my grandmother. McKenzie said that she is currently 94 years old. “In some ways, I made this film to pay tribute to her work.”
Actress Kate Harcourt, McKenzie’s grandmother, was awarded a dame in New Zealand for her services to the theater. The past and present were always in conversation, just as in the movie.
Terence Stamp, another famous figure of the era, had a hefty role written for him by Wright. It’s a reference not just to the performers he grew up idolizing, but also to the fact that many of those legendary icons are still alive and well today. Rigg, Stamp, and Tushingham aren’t simply there for “tokenry” in “Soho,” he claims. They’re important roles that they all wanted to perform. The anecdotes of working with Federico Fellini and William Wyler, as well as the lunch with Tushingham and Richard Lester, were just icing on the cake.
He largely loved the chance to simultaneously pay homage to and expose a period that has become something of a fake novelty in recent years.
“It’s something I’ve felt in nightmares but never seen in a movie: what if you could go back in time and live vicariously through someone else but just be a witness?” “You’re there and you witness it, but you can’t do anything about it,” he explained. “If producing a film is like sitting on a therapist’s couch, it’s like you can’t alter what happened in the past; you can only cope with it in the present.” That’s essentially what the film is saying. You can’t go back in time and change things no matter what you do. You must deal with it right now.”
Rigg was bedridden the last time he saw her loop some lines. They finished their task, drank Campari and soda, and then sat and spoke for an hour.
When news of Rigg’s death reached Wright while he was working with his editor, it was nearly precisely one year before the film’s lavish Venice premiere.
“We inserted the dedication at the top of the movie that day,” he explained.