If there’s a central theme to Edgar Wright’s new horror-thriller Last Night in Soho, it’s most certainly “the past is not all that it’s cracked up to be.”
The twisty story follows Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer from the English countryside who travels to college in London — a city she’s always been enraptured by, especially for its famously nostalgic “Swinging Sixties” couture. When Eloise rents an apartment owned by Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg), night visions transport her back to 1960s London through the eyes of an upstart nightclub singer (Anya Taylor-Joy). Without spoiling too much, we’ll just say all is not well for the young woman — or the women around her in general.
“I think the dangers of romanticizing the past is to suggest that everything was great and nothing was bad,” Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver), who cowrote the film with Kristy Wilson-Cairns (1917), tells us in a recent virtual press day for the film (watch above). “The phrase ‘the good ole days’ is a fallacy. It’s impossible. There was no perfect decade and people bandy around different times as like a golden age… The [’60s] was obviously an incredible decade in terms of how much changed in culture and everything in society. But as much as there were glamorous cool things, there was a darker side, too.”
Between her Emmy-nominated work as chess prodigy Beth Harmon in The Queen’s Gambit (set in 1950s and ’60s America) and Soho, Taylor-Joy has spent a lot time exploring the past in recent years.
“I’m a huge history buff. So there was definitely a long period of time where I thought I wasn’t born in the right era,” Taylor-Joy says. “And then you have to remind yourself that we’ve technically never had it as good as we have it now, just in terms of medical science and in terms of the conversations that we’re having. So yeah I think it’s nice to look back and pick out the good things, but it’s also nice to look back to see where we’ve come from and make sure that we don’t go back there again.”
Last Night in Soho also marks the final film performance of Rigg, who became a worldwide star in 1960s London for her work on the television series The Avengers and for so memorably playing Teresa di Vicenzo, the woman who married George Lazenby’s James Bond, in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In more recent years Rigg drew raves for playing the cunning Olenna Tyrell in HBO’s Game of Thrones. She died at age 82 in September 2020, just weeks after wrapping up work on Soho, which is dedicated to her.
“I’m just really proud that I got to know and work with her at all,” Wright said of Rigg, who, according to a profile in the New York Post, had to deal with awful male fans in the ‘60s and likely related to Soho’s storyline. “In fact, [we] even did some work with her in her final weeks, which was really not a sad memory, [it was] a happy memory because she was fierce and funny right to the end. And the last time I saw her in person a couple of weeks before she died, she was making me laugh so much. And so my last memory is a happy one. And so I’ll forever be grateful for that.”
Last Night in Soho is now playing.
Watch the trailer:
— Video produced by Olivia Schneider and edited by Jimmie Rhee