"This film is built for drinking" - The World's End Interviews
BYO Cornettos, film fans!
That’s right, it’s time for the final installment of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy: the cinematic collection of genre-busting giggles that traverses Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and now concludes with a celebratory pint or 12 in The World’s End.
What is with the end of the world this year? Seriously. We’ve already survived the zompocalypse with Brad Pitt, fought over the last Milky Way with Seth Rogen, and now it’s time to chug copious pints with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
To be fair, The World’s End is the name of a pub, as well as the ultimate symbol of victory for Pegg’s Gary King, who rather forcefully reassembles his former high school posse – including Frost’s teetotaling ex-bestie – for a 20-year reunion-cum-epic pub-crawl. Come hell or high water…or [spoiler alert]…aliens, King Gary is going to make it to The World’s End.
We chatted with Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Frost as well as writer-director Edgar Wright to discuss the therapeutic aspects of screenwriting, getting bogged down in etymology, and the ambivalence one feels when Starbucks sets up shop in your home town.
I understand the film developed from your own traumatic experience on a failed pub crawl trauma, so does that mean making the film has been cathartic?
It is therapeutic! I think actually writing this film is much more therapeutic than going to see a psychiatrist. Me and Simon got to get a lot of stuff of our chest [sic], put it all into a movie, and now I feel like I sort of lighter. [Laughs]
Who can you send the [therapy] bill to then?
The makers of Cornetto!
What I love about the film is your wordplay. We get a discussion about the etymology of ‘robot’ and we get a debate about pronouns. Is that something that you enjoy putting into your screenplays?
I think it’s a funny thing to do when, within a sci-fi thriller, people are getting bogged down in different details. It’s the same thing in Shaun of the Dead, where we have a thing where they wouldn’t say ‘the Z word’ because, ‘who would say it out loud? You would never say that out loud!’ And even in World War Z recently, when somebody actually said the word ‘zombie’ it sounded very strange, just saying it aloud. And then in this movie, we have a thing where the robots don’t necessarily like that term because they see it as a negative term. So I think if you were aliens and someone started referring to you as something you weren’t happy with, you would say so. So we like this wordplay because it’s constant arguing over the details.
The film also struck me as both a love letter to small town England, but also elegiac about it. Are you trying to say something about losing the small town feel?
I think so, but I think it also resides in a bit of a gray area. I’ll say this though – because I do come from a small town – when I made Hot Fuzz, which was in my home town, when I go back to my quiet, rural home town and find a Starbucks in the middle of the high street, it seems weird to me. That said, the Starbucks coffee is probably better than the coffee in the coffee shop before.
Wash your mouth out! [Laughs]
No, no, but it’s true! Don’t tell me otherwise [laughs]. Then you feel conflicted, it’s like, “Well I miss the old Ma and Pa coffee shop, [whispering] but I do kind of like the new coffee.” So that’s what the movie’s about, the idea that the world is getting more efficient and it’s a better lifestyle, and a better quality of living, but at what cost? And in a way, it’s the people, it’s down to Simon’s character – who is a complete screw-up of a man – to become the one human rebel left, because everybody else works for corporations. And I feel like that, I feel very happy in my life, but then I sometimes start to wake up in the middle of the night and say, “Wait a second, when did Apple take over my entire life? I don’t know how I feel about this!”
Said with a glow of devices around you…
“What’s happening? How are they in charge of my record collection? I don’t like it.”
Ok so there is an idea of getting back to basics, and back to the pub where small town England began…
Yeah absolutely. But then there’s a strain in it - which I’m sure is the same over here - where the bars all start to look exactly the same, and it starts to become quite creepy in terms of the corporate branding or just the same sort of homogenised…aesthetics to it.
Yes the sheen of it…
The sheen, the way there’s the fake chalkboard writing and everything.
You have a word for it: you call it ‘Starbucking’.
So hang on, we’re now going full circle back to your hometown Starbucks…
There you go! It’s like the end of Planet of the Apes is finding a Starbucks and going, “What have you done?!”
Now you mentioned Simon Pegg, and for those of us who have followed you since Spaced, are there any surprises left between the two of you? And how do you collaborate?
I think why we like working together is because – like you said – it’s therapeutic. We can get a lot of things off our chest in a movie. So what’s been really nice making these movies is that they are quite personal in a way. We make a zombie film, a cop film, and a sci-fi film, but they’re essentially character comedies, and I think that’s why people relate to them is because they can recognise themselves within the characters.
So did you have a really bad high school reunion or something?
Not specifically! But I’ve gone to weddings and stuff, I’ve been back to my home town a lot, but there are things that are in the film that actually happened. Like there’s this thing with the bully not recognising the guy: that kind of happened to me and I found it very strange.
Another thing that came straight from reality was: there’s a bit where they’re driving in the car and they’re playing the Superdragons, and one of them says, “Oh I put this on a tape for you, didn’t I?” And he says, “Yeah, this is it. This is the tape.”
And he goes, “Where did you find it?”
“Well it was in the tape player.”
A very similar thing happened to me where I went to a friend’s wedding and on the way down – we were driving down – and he was listening to this AC/DC track, Get It Hot…
Australian band. Australia/Scottish… And I said, “Man I haven’t heard this in ages.” I said, “Didn’t I put this on a compilation once?” And he said, “Yeah, this is it. This is the tape.”
Now in that case my friend had brought the tape along as a joke, but in the film, it’s not a joke.
No, it’s not that blast from the past moment.
No, no, no.
Now you mentioned Cornettos: this is of course the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ Trilogy – which I understand came about because it was your hangover cure of choice, so, ten years on, are Cornettos still your hangover cure?
Ummm…I’ll say, yes! [Laughs] I was trying to think of a funnier answer than yes. But, yes!