This Friday sees the US release of The World’s End, the final installment of Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto” trilogy. It’s the third comedy following 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and 2007’s Hot Fuzz, to star Simon Pegg (also co-writer of all three) and Nick Frost. While the films are standalone stories across wildly different genres, they’ve been consistently hilarious variations on common themes. Hence, more comparable to Cornetto flavors—a British ice cream that found its way into all three movies—than narrative installments. The trio of Pegg, Wright and Frost sat down in New York to discuss the completion of the trilogy with this apocalyptic pub crawl.
The movie centers on Gary King (Pegg) who is dead-set on reuniting his old schoolmates, now grown men, in an attempt at completing an epic pub crawl they left unfinished as youths in 1990. He faces the most opposition from his onetime best friend, Andy, played by Frost.
How would you each describe the other’s characters?
Nick Frost: I would say Gary King is a forty-one year old man stuck sadly in…1990, it never got better for him than that night. I like to think about Gary in the space between then and when we meet him. What he got up to. And what I think is getting pissed on a kibbutz a lot, being like a rep in Portugal in like a resort, maybe traveling to Australia, doing the same thing there. You know, I think he did a lot of drinking and a lot of fornicating and then he reaches a point where he, he was just sadly empty. And I think where we meet him…that gear that he wears in the film, I don’t think he wears it all the time. He’s like a general who’s going to commit suicide on telly and he puts all his gear on. He puts his gloves on and his medals. That’s his last hoorah and I think he has a suspicion that he knows he’s not coming back.
Simon Pegg: As an addendum to that I think there’s a lot of parallels between World’s End and Scent of a Woman. Gary is like Colonel Frank Slade.
Andy is you know this guy who was, who had his heart broken by his best friend when he was very young and has never been able to let go of that anger about that. And he’s moved away from it. He’s excelled in his job, he’s married and had children, he’s created a life for himself. He’s a success in many ways, maybe not emotionally to a degree. We find out things later on. But he’s a guy who has been let down by someone he loves and hasn’t addressed that yet. So when we meet Andy he kind of seemingly Gary’s enemy, they’re not friends anymore but really what underpins that enmity is a deep affection which we eventually learn the truth about.
Lauren Damon: In both Shaun and Hot Fuzz Simon was the more straight-laced character at the start of the film, was that reversal of roles fun?
Pegg: It was yeah.
Frost: Yeah I mean those other roles, the central character is not always the craziest or the funniest even though Simon is incredibly funny, but this time it was. And it was always going to be Simon and I never look at it and think ‘oh why am I this again?’ It never feels like that. Its for the good of the film, but this was you know—Simon’s gonna laugh when I say this because I said it lots of but—[Pegg joins in in unison] We are actors!
The chance to play any different person or different character is what you want to do as an actor. And I’d kind of argue that Danny and Ed are very different characters. Ed is quite cynical and lazy and Danny is just a big, lovely labrador, you know? And so the chance to be a kind of hard knot and to be the kind of moral voice of the audience essentially at certain points in this film is a great challenge. And also I get to kick arse.
LD: And rip your shirt off.
Frost: That was the only thing I put my foot down. Edgar wanted me to rip my whole shirt off so essentially I would be topless for the second half of the film and I had to say no.
Pegg: Which was a relief because it was winter.
Frost: Well I’ve got quite a lot of tattoos so the coverage of tattoos would have been an issue. And also, it don’t look s’good!
Pegg: I beg to differ!
Frost: But it got cold it got up to minus ten at night when we were shooting.
All three men elaborated on the amazing stunt work in the film, choreographed by frequent Jackie Chan collaborator, Bradley James Allan:
Pegg: The important thing for us was that we, in all the fight sequences in the movie, we retained the characters. Often in films when you cut to action sequences, stunt performers have to take over and as such, the characters that the actors have created vanish slightly in favor of the action. What we really wanted to do was make sure that the characters were maintained throughout the action and that meant us doing it…And we always wanted it to be the case where it’s like we’re—particularly for Nick’s character—all this simmering rage that he has, all this resentment towards Gary, all this kind of dissatisfaction that he has with his own life it just bursts out of him like—we used to call him the Pink Hulk because he had a pink shirt on underneath—and Andy turns into the pink Hulk. And each of them have a different—like Gary fights one handed because he’s trying to protect his pint. Andy, you know, fights like a berserker. Paddy [Considine], because he’s a boxing fan, uses all these great big haymakers like a brawler. Martin [Freeman]’s always wriggling out of stuff—
Frost: Like a hobbit!
Pegg: Which he picked up from somewhere, I don’t know. So yeah, it was all very much there in the script.
Frost: Eddie [Marsan]’s the coward.
Pegg: Eddie hides under tables. Which is funny because Eddie’s pretty handy. Eddie’s got some good punches.
Frost: Yeah he is, he trains a lot to be a fighter.
Pegg: He’s a little East End boxer.
Frost: He does “Ray Donovan” so he spends a lot of time in the boxing ring
Edgar Wright: What we tried to do is not actually use like…If you have a scene in an action film and you have like there’s a waiter who looks particularly tall and muscly, you know that he’s going to go through a window at some point. So like you can kind of pick out, that’s a stunt man, that’s a stunt man, that’s a stunt woman. What we tried to do with this was have people you wouldn’t—when you see those five kids, you don’t expect it. They’re kids. And the lead guy is fifteen years old. So you don’t expect him to be in a fight. And then they do all of their own stunts… And that was something I said to Brad Allan, our choreographer. I did a scene in Hot Fuzz, I ended up cutting out of the movie because it didn’t really work, it was a scene where Simon arrested some kids and so I said ‘I really wanna do this fight scene, but do you think we could get teenage stunt men?’ He goes ‘Absolutely, we got circus schools, tumblers, gymnasts, martial artists…’ and so the kids in that sequence are from the ages of fifteen to twenty. And they’re amazing.
LD: Going way back to Lee Ingleby’s crew in “Spaced” [Wright’s 1999-2001 sitcom starring Pegg and Frost], through the hoodies in Hot Fuzz, do you just have a distrust of youths gathering anywhere together?
Wright: think a central theme is no matter how young you think you are, there’s always someone younger. That fear of being usurped by the people like are sort of like ‘Oh my god, that fifteen year old is gonna kick my ass!’ The emasculation of being beaten up by somebody younger than you, I think it’s that kind of fear. I think once actually Nick in London got mugged by a bunch of teenagers which is like an extremely distressing thing because hey, you know, you might be twenty-eight but these fifteen year olds…they’re are gonna kick your ass! And it’s just a horrible horrible thing. I think it’s just a part of the nightmare of emasculation of being beaten up by teenagers, people fifteen years younger than you.
At what point in working with Edgar did the word trilogy come up?
Simon Pegg: I think probably on the Hot Fuzz press tour when we realized we had been able to make two films and those films were in essence connected. You know, sort of tonal sequels in a way, in that they were not directly sequels—not the same character stories obviously—but they were definitely variations on a theme. And we figured if we could possibly be able to do it again, we could wrap it up as a sort of nice Hegelian whole. As a threesome as it were. And do it again. So we refined the ideas we had started on. It wasn’t like we set out to make the trilogy. We would never be so arrogant as to assume we would be able to make three films.
Nick Frost: I think one was enough.
Frost: I think we thought, being British filmmakers we were lucky to make one, you know. [laughter] It’s true!
Pegg: We didn’t think it would come out there, let alone here.
Frost: We thought, if we could sell it to Lufthansa and they show it on the flight, we’ll be lucky. And you know, we get a chance to make Hot Fuzz and then that seemed the logical thing to do really.
Wright added: …The fact that Hot Fuzz was shot in my hometown so I’d had that experience of being back in my hometown very vividly. So it was very much preying on my mind and that’s where it starts to factor into this of the idea of the homecoming…But then we decided we would go off our separate ways and do separate projects and in a way I think we wouldn’t have written the same script six years ago. Because the nice thing is actually, not to get older, but to actually deal with that in movie. Shaun of the Dead, which we shot ten years ago is a film about he’s a twenty-nine year old about to turn thirty. And then in this film, they’re forty…I feel like when I watch a lot of the American “man child” comedies, sometimes I always think it’s kind of forced because there are people who–there’s that thing of being a big kid forever is always glorified– but never really scratches below the surface. In reality a lot of those actors are married and have kids and so I think it’s a good thing to do these movies and actually acknowledge that the characters are older. So I think in that way, me and Simon, it was great going away—it’s not like we didn’t see each other in six years, we’re like best friends– but it was the first time we’d written together in like five years.
Was it different coming back to write together after so long?
Wright: No if anything, I think it was easier in a way. I think out of the three, Hot Fuzz was the most difficult one to write. Because I think we realized that Agatha Christie is a genius and that murder mystery is really hard! We would have kind of the constant headache of trying to figure out the mystery plot…But the nice thing about this is we had the story, we had the plot and then like it was just like a huge outpouring of personal experience. Of like everything from our upbringing. Once you’ve got the story, I think the first thing that we did when we started talking about it was just start talking about personal experience. All of that stuff goes straight into the movie. So it is like, Shaun of the Dead too, but this one is definitely the most personal because so many themes of it are just straight from our experience. Everything from the sister [Sam, played by Rosamund Pike] is based on a real person…the bully is based on a really person. The experience of—I went back to my home town and a number of times after I’d left to live in London and I remember vividly one of the things that sparked the whole thing was going back to my hometown, going to a pub, and seeing your school bully, who didn’t recognize me. And I wasn’t sure whether he didn’t know who I was anymore or didn’t care. But the fact that he didn’t acknowledge me at all made me so mad. I didn’t want him to acknowledge me! And I certainly didn’t want to get into anything. But I was so mad because I was thinking ‘does he not recognize me, this guy?’ So things had just stuck. That’s something that happened like fifteen years ago, but it stuck with me. And so that’s what’s great about doing these films is that things you’ve been thinking about for a long time then just come flooding in. Then it just becomes like a whole like ‘this is the plot of the movie.’
Is this the end of the trio?
Wright: I think this, we thought would be nice to be a piece. It’s not like a trilogy in terms of they’re three of the same movie, it’s more like a triptych of three separate films that can be viewed separately or together. You know, separately they can be Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce, but together they’re Destiny’s Child.
LD: Who’s Beyonce?!
Wright: I don’t know! I don’t want to pick any favorites!
It might be a few years until we do another one. But this is not the end of us working together. Because we love working together so we’d like to do other stuff. But it might be something radically different next time.
The World’s End releases in the US on August 23rd, you can read our review of it here.