/Film Interview: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost Talk Themes and Foreshadowing in ‘The World’s End’
Posted on Friday, August 23rd, 2013 by Germain Lussier
When Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost made Shaun of the Dead, they never could have foreseen this. To them, Shaun was merely a clever, fun manifestation of their love for zombie movies, and a way to make something outside of television. The group didn’t think anyone would even really see it. Instead, everyone saw it. The trio made a thematic sequel called Hot Fuzz, and now they’re completing one of the most unique and awesome trilogies ever with The World’s End.
The World’s End completes The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy by taking ideas from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and giving them a mature, sci-fi spin. Pegg (who also co-wrote the script with Wright) stars as Gary King, a washed up cool guy who tricks his four former best friends (Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan) into heading to their hometown. There, they’ll attempt a feat of drinking called The Golden Mile: twelve pubs, twelve pints, one night. Along the way, the friends begin to realize something isn’t right with their hometown. What they’ll learn could change the world forever.
The World’s End is now playing so we sat down with the director and two stars to talk about the creation of the film. Before you see the movie, read part one of the interview below. Then come back Monday, after you’ve seen the film, for part two which delves deep into the world of spoilers.
/Film: All right, so Shaun of the Dead references horror, Hot Fuzz references cop movies and The World’s End references sci-fi movies, but it’s never as specifically film centric as the other two. Was there ever a point where it was going to be a little more specifically movie oriented as opposed to just influenced?
Simon Pegg: I would argue with your initial wording there. I would say Shaun of the Dead is a horror film, Hot Fuzz is an action film, and The World’s End is a science fiction film. We comment more on other movies in Shaun of the Dead because it’s specifically in Romero’s universe and the title is a riff on the film. Hot Fuzz is kind of about film in that it’s like how Hollywood action isn’t like real police work, whereas with World’s End we weren’t really making any comment about science fiction movies, but we were using science fiction as our vessel.
Edgar Wright: Yeah, I think in a way this one is actually the… The sci-fi element is like the manifestation of a fear. It’s like a lot of those sci-fi films that we grew up on, about the villains and how they represent the fears of the heroes. It was something that came up organically in a way. I think in a similar way to how it is in the movie, there’s a moment where Gary King starts to realize that something otherworldly is afoot and when he’s telling the others about it, he is smiling because he is happier to blame all of his problems and all of his disappointments with the world on the idea that there might be an alien invasion than he is to accept the more horrific fact that he is getting older or that his home town isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. And in a strange way, I think that coping mechanism is something that I feel sometimes.
One of the things with where the film came from is I would have that experience of going back to my home town like maybe once a year during the holidays and feeling sort of alienated. It wasn’t so much that I had never left, it’s more like I had never been there at all and made zero impact on my home town and school bullies didn’t recognize me anymore. So I felt like “Oh if I had like no impact on this town, has everybody been replaced?” I remember saying to my friends – this was in the mid nineties – “Every time I go back home it feels like Body Snatchers” and so that was a thought loaded in my head that we could eventually make a film that’s in that social science fiction genre that’s about a quiet invasion. I think a lot of those movies that that. The great sci-fi films, it’s about your worst fears manifesting themselves in something otherworldly and this in a sense, what the robots represent is almost like the terror of having to grow up and become part of a system.
That sort of leads into my next question. My one other question…
Nick Frost: That just answered all your questions. (Laughs)
It almost feels like, from the outside, like you guys almost didn’t want to do this movie. Like it was never planned. Hot Fuzz just sort of was just your next movie and you threw the Cornetto in there. My question is do you think this movie would have happened if it wasn’t for the interview where the trilogy got created?
Pegg: I think it would have happened. We had already made a thematic sequel to Shaun of the Dead with Hot Fuzz. We had already done that and the cornetto became a very convenient way of putting them together in a sound byte rather than trying to say “That film is about the disenfranchisement of this or that” or “the loss of identity” or “the struggle for the individual against the collective.” I mean we didn’t seek to do that, but we realized there were certain preoccupations that we had which were manifesting themselves in our output and I think we would have done a third film. But maybe the cornetto thing made us focus a little more on the notion of it being a piece, three films that are defined by a very specific criteria and to try and wrap this up as the last one.
Wright: I think also it’s been a long stewing obsession in a way. I think a lot of the things in the film are things that have obsessed us for years and in a way when we were first discussing the story I remember thinking like “Should we do another one that’s pub centric?” Then I started to think that the idea is so strong… I think it’s that thing where you can’t do anything else once you start to see the movie in your head. Once you start to visualize it and you know exactly what that movie’s going to be, and even better than six years ago when we first started talking about it I could… like even if we didn’t have every single story beat, I could see it and I knew what it could look like.
Pegg: The basic script of it was exciting and funny. You know “five guys go back to their home town and it all feels very weird and they don’t know why and then realize it’s because of alien robots.” That was kind of it. (Laughs) I remember explaining that to [Damon] Lindelof and him kind of listening to the first part and then when I said the thing about robots it was like, ‘Oh, It’s a Ken Loach movie.’
Wright: What I would take issue with is when people say that the first third of the film is not about that, because I think it’s all about that.
Pegg: We’ve defended the slow burn of this even more than on Shaun of the Dead.
Wright: Yeah, we didn’t want to do the same thing that we did in Shaun of having lots of weird background details. The setups for the switch in the movie where they are all there, but they are maybe a bit more subtle than their dialogue. Here’s the thing….
Frost: More people want you to get to the chase, so to speak, in terms of the slow burn and wouldn’t understand that we’ve got to take that time to develop characters. On Paul, people wanted us to get to Paul on page two.
Pegg: The moment of transformation, when the film takes on the qualities… would be diminished if you don’t spend the time building up the reality before hand. All of that stuff isn’t just setup. The arrival of the blanks in the film is, for Gary, an opportunity to keep going. Science fiction these days I think in some respects has lost its way, because it’s become all about the fiction and not about the metaphor.
Wright: For people who haven’t seen it, I don’t want to give anything away, but just before things start to get weird Gary literally says… the film essentially has an element where it’s about man running away from help and triggering two interventions, one on a social level and one on an intergalactic level, like a cosmic intervention, but just before things start to get weird, Gary lashes out at the other characters and says “You’re all jealous, because I’m free and you are all slaves.” Slave means robot and then we get to meet some immediately after that. I feel like it’s been interesting meeting people like you who have seen the movie more… We like having movies where there’s a lot of foreshadowing and so I think the seeds, like it’s not quite a random a twist as it might first appear.
Check back Monday for part two of the interview where we delve into that crazy ending and more.
The World’s End in now in theaters.