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Scott Pilgrim vs. The World's Production Designer on Building Edgar Wright's Frenetic Masterpiece

Thanos has nothing on the League of Evil Exes.

By Josh Weiss
Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim in Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)

Let's turn back the clock to August 2010. With just three titles under its belt, the mega-franchise we now know as the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still a ways off. The comic book movie rush that currently has major studios panning for superhero gold didn't exist.  

A formal rubric for the genre had yet to be finalized and it was within this nebulous lull that filmmaker Edgar Wright delivered Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (now streaming on Peacock!) into the collective lap of unsuspecting moviegoers.

RELATED: From Chris Evans to Brie Larson: Remembering the Wildest Stars in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Ingeniously mashing up elements of cinema, comic books, video games, and music into a deliciously frenzied stew of pure entertainment, the big screen adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's graphic novels would remain unmatched in its creative ambition until Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse swung onto the scene nearly a decade later.

"[Edgar] has a singular vision and great clarity about the direction he wants to take the script and film," the director's longtime production designer, Marcus Rowland, tells SYFY WIRE over email.

The frigid and colorful universe of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Set against the wintry backdrop of Toronto, the movie follows — who else? — Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a wannabe rock star/slacker who falls head over heels for a quirky newcomer by the name of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).

To officially become her latest boyfriend, however, Scott must first defeat a super-powered league comprised of Ramona's seven "Evil Exes." And if the pressure wasn't high enough, Scott's band, Sex Bob-omb, has a real shot at scoring a lucrative record deal if they can survive a local battle of the bands competition.

"We relied extensively on the graphic novel for inspiration," Rowland explains. "The books were always based around real locations in Toronto and the drawings were surprisingly faithful to these places. That’s not to say that we didn't expand visually from the books [but] it was just always the first point of reference."

Scott's vibrant Canadian odyssey to win the heart of the reserved Amazon delivery girl with the colorful hair brought the production to legendary Toronto spots such as Lee's Palace, whose exterior mural was captured before the city tore it down to make way for a burrito restaurant.

The interior of the club had since been renovated, prompting Rowland to recreate the original layout in loving detail on a nearby soundstage. "It is such an iconic music venue," he says. Rowland also enjoyed the construction of the sparsely-furnished apartment Scott shares with his roommate, the sassy Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin), "because it was such a character in the film and needed such careful detailing."

"I have really fond memories of our time filming Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," the production designer concludes. "We love Toronto and the Canadian crew, who are still close friends. One of the fun memories I have is of dressing real ice and snow down Queen Street West in the height of summer, confusing the locals."

Scott Pilgrim's long-awaited return to the screen

Despite underwhelming box office sales, the film garnered rave reviews, and has since gone on to achieve a powerful cult status for its audacious assault on the audio-visual experience. The word "masterpiece" gets thrown around a lot these days, but Scott Pilgrim certainly deserves the moniker for sheer chutzpah.

"Scott Pilgrim vs. the World throws in little details of unrealistic sounds, imagery, and on-screen captions. These wouldn't work in just any movie, including other comic adaptations," Meghan Hale wrote in a 10-year anniversary retrospective for Comic Years. "These additions are what makes Scott Pilgrim such a true comic book adaptation. Even if you'd never heard of the source material, you'd be able to feel the comic book influences."

Fan support of the property is so strong, in fact, that Netflix decided to continue the story in anime form with all of the original cast members agreeing to return. O’Malley and BenDavid Grabinski (known for Nickelodeon's recent Are You Afraid of the Dark? revival) co-created the series and will serve as executive producers alongside Wright.

"Everyone is putting their heart and soul into this thing and we’re having the most fun making it," O’Malley said when news of the anime first broke earlier this year. "It’s hilarious. It’s emotional. It’s visually stunning. The action scenes will blow your mind. And there might be a few surprises along the way."

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is now streaming on Peacock.