Ahead of the release of Edgar Wright’s new time-hopping horror movie Last Night In Soho – which is out in cinemas this Friday (October 29) – Wright and his fellow co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns sat down with NME to talk pubs, London and legends.
NME: Of all the pubs in all of Soho, why set so much of the film’s action in The Toucan?
Krysty: “I worked at The Toucan for five years. That was my pub! I spent too much of my student loan and couldn’t afford to buy booze anymore, so I thought, ‘I’ll go to the place booze comes from’. I was a fantastic bartender. There’s a couple of Yelp reviews that still mention the red-headed bartender, which I’m very happy about. When it was quiet I used to bring my laptop out and write. I’m actually taking the owners of The Toucan to the premiere, they were very good to me.”
You make a cameo as a bartender in the film…
Krysty: “Just my hand makes a cameo because I’m not great on camera. It was very surreal. I’ve still got my uniform and I cycled in wearing my little apron. I would see my regulars walk by and they’d ask if I was back working there.”
Edgar: “I measure the vitality of the area by how many people deep it is outside The Toucan. I walked past the other day and it was about 10 people deep, and I said ‘Yes! Soho is back!’”
Edgar, pubs feature heavily in your films. What’s the allure of the British boozer?
Edgar: “I think I phased out going to pubs when I was 18, [but] they keep recurring in my movies. In the last 20 years I think I’ve spent more time in pubs on film sets than I have in reality.”
Diana Rigg, Terence Stamp, Rita Tushingham and Margaret Nolan are all in the film. Did you have a wish list of 1960s acting icons?
Edgar: “When you’re writing a script you think: ‘Who is the perfect person to play this part?’ I guess we manifested that by putting that out to the universe. We were very lucky to get Rita, Terence and Diana. I remember saying to my casting director: ‘If we were making this film in the 60s, Margaret Nolan would be in it because she is one of those character actresses who’s in the Venn diagram of like The Beatles, Bond, Carry On and Spike Milligan. She’s in all of them’. So getting her to do a brief cameo was fantastic.”
Terence used to live in nearby Marylebone in the 1960s with Michael Caine. I bet he had some good stories…
Edgar: “He does have a good Michael Caine story, but I think that’s Terence’s story to tell. When he came onto The Toucan set he announced to me and the crew, ‘I haven’t been in a pub for 40 years’ – and then picked up a coaster, flipped it and caught it. Then he said, ‘I haven’t done that in 40 years either’. I said, ‘You have to do that in the scene, and every time you do it on camera during a take I’ll give you £10’. I stuck to my word! Every time he did it I’d slip him another tenner.”
How much did he make out of that?
Edgar: “Maybe like £100? That’s a good per diem.”
Was Soho Diana Rigg’s old stomping ground too?
Edgar: “We were rehearsing one day next to the set of the Café de Paris – an amazing 1963 re-creation – and Diana said, ‘Oh, I went to the Café de Paris on my 18th birthday to see Shirley Bassey’s first London gig’. Then I had the very magical experience of walking through an empty soundstage with Diana Rigg on my arm. She said, ‘Tell your production designer he did an incredible job because it looks just like it did, this is amazing.’ And then there was this pause and she said, ‘I remember walking down those stairs with lots of rheumy-eyed men looking me up and down and feeling like a piece of meat’. When I was going home I thought, ‘I guess she just summed up the whole movie’. To be able to work with some of those people and have their perspective on the time was invaluable.”
Was it all sets, or did you use the real Soho too for the 1960s parts of the film?
Edgar: “Well, if you look at Instagram around July 2019 you can find a lot of people being very confused about why Frith Street, Bateman Street and Greek Street had turned into the ‘60s again…”
Are there any places where that old-school Soho still exists?
Edgar: “Bar Italia is an obvious example, but what’s funny is that there are already parts of 2019 Soho that are rapidly changing. You’re also talking to a person who’s never gotten over the [legendary music venue] Astoria being closed…”
Same. What was the greatest show you ever saw there?
There’s a character in the film called Jocasta who’s a right cow. Which one of you has a personal vendetta against someone called Jocasta?
Edgar: “Well! My mum always used to tell me and my brother Oscar that if we were girls we would have been called Chloe and Jocasta. I’ve got nothing against Jocasta, but when we needed to name a pretentious mean girl at the London College of Fashion I was like, ‘Jocasta!’”
Last Night In Soho is in UK cinemas on Friday (October 29).