The World's End is one of the most entertaining movies of the summer. No surprise there, of course. It's the latest genre film from Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the very funny, very clever trio behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. It's a brilliant little movie with big ideas. It's about five friends reluctantly reunited by Pegg's character, who is deliriously clinging to the past, attempting to re-create a pub crawl from their youth. Their hometown village has changed, though. It's been invaded by... well, you should watch the movie to find out.
We recently sat down with Wright, Pegg and Frost to talk about how The World's End came to be, how they use the sci-fi and horror genres to tell more emotional stories, and why it doesn't matter if you've seen any of their other films--though they admit it'd be pretty crazy if this just happened to be the first movie someone has ever seen.
Movies.com: The World's End feels in part inspired by the stories of Douglas Adams, which were all this sort of bemused, comedic look at the cosmos and mankind's place in it. Was the the case?
Edgar Wright: It was one of the things we talked about. Without giving away too much about the movie, in Shaun of the Dead it's not Shaun's fault that this zombie apocalypse is happening and it's not his job to stop or cure the zombie virus. It's not going to happen. It's just his job to get through the day. But in this movie, we liked the idea that Gary King is somebody who is a legend in his own lunchtime but may actually be the catalyst for all of the trouble. So he goes from being a social nuisance to a galactic nuisance.
We love Douglas Adams, who is a very influential figure. So there's that, but also Monty Python as well. One of the reasons it's called the Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy is because they've all got a slightly different sense of humor. This one is slightly different from Hot Fuzz, which is slightly different from Shaun.
Movies.com: How much do you guys have to calculate those differences ahead of time? You're a big believer in rehearsals. Do you get to that stage and back away from ideas you like but don't want to use because they're similar to something you've already done?
Wright: That comes in the writing process. The rehearsal process is more about actors starting to live in their parts. We don't really change the story, but if Nick Frost comes up with funny lines, which he does, then we ram it into the script and he gets no credit for it, until we're doing the commentary and remember "Oh, Nick Frost came up with this line."
Nick Frost: I don't mind. It's not about money or fame. I know that they know, and that's important.
Wright: In terms of how we work out the differences, that comes early on. You want each film to be their own thing. So after Hot Fuzz, we knew that was as far as we wanted to go with meta film references, so they aren't in this one. Nearly everything, even the genre element, comes out of the story. With Shaun, we wanted to make a zombie film, so we figured out how to do it from our perspective. But with this, it was the emotional story that came first and the sci-fi element fit with how we felt about going back to our hometown. It was very instantaneous since we've experienced that feeling of being from a small town, going to London, then coming back and feeling like a quiet invasion has taken place. I even said to one of my friends once that every time I go home it feels like Body Snatchers, because it's changed without me.
Simon Pegg: Also, with defining the threat we came up with an enemy that was a synthesis of the zombies and the [Neighborhood Watch Alliance], but on a sort of galactic level. They were a kind of homogenizing force. It was an interesting thing to take what we learned from Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead and refine them and take them forward, which we could only do because it was part of a series. We were able to bind the two films together with this one, so they can exist as a threesome--though you don't have to have seen either of them to enjoy The World's End. You don't even have to have seen any films to enjoy The World's End.
Wright: If it was the first film you'd ever seen, it will probably blow your mind.
Pegg: If you haven't seen Fitzcaraldo or How to Train Your Dragon, it's going to be fine.
Frost: This could be someone's first ever film. That'd be amazing!
Wright: If this is somebody's first film, they're not going to be reading Movies.com.
Pegg: They might be trying to find other movies!
Wright: You're right! That'd actually be the first place they go. That is exactly it! You are exactly right!
Frost: "I'm hearing a lot about these movie things."
Wright: "Where should I go?" And they go to Movies.com, and the first thing they read is your review of The World's End and they go, "Okay, this will be my first movie!" That'd be amazing.
Movies.com: Since you three are such big movie geeks, and your movies have become gateway drugs to genres, did you intend The World's End to be a gateway to other movies?
Pegg: Yes. We put heroin in the movie.
Wright: When Shaun came out, I remember a lot of people specifically saying it was the first zombie film they'd ever seen. But with this, I feel like there's a lot of movies in the sort of sci-fi paranoia, social science vein that stretch back to the '50s and there's classics all the way from then until now. If you reach back, the American ones being Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Invaders from Mars, The Stepford Wives, but there's lots of British films and TV shows that have inspired us. They were so much of our upbringing, whether they're Quatermass or Village of the Damned, and then TV shows like Doctor Who and The Prisoner and The Avengers. So many of these things had this kind of small-town paranoia, and when you grow up in a small town, you sort of gravitate toward that. So, I hope it would be a gateway to those things for some people.
That said, we didn't do what we did on Hot Fuzz, which was watch a bunch of sci-fi movies ahead of time. They were all already in our head. Any serious horror or sci-fi film has the genre element as an amplification of your concerns. It's almost like we're projecting onto this problem. When we go back home, we feel alienated, so we created an alien problem to deal with it. It's easier for Gary to believe that there is an alien invasion going on than accept being old. He'd rather leap to the next thing than accept that he's gotten old.
Pegg: It's interesting because with our other films we've always had a contingency in case it is the first film they've ever seen. Like with Shaun of the Dead, we wanted to make sure people knew we were setting the film in the Romero universe by making the very title a reference to it. And some people hadn't seen the original Dawn of the Dead when they'd seen Shaun of the Dead, and I would hope they went back and saw it. Similarly with Hot Fuzz, we made reference to specific films, and did hear from people who hadn't seen Point Break or Bad Boys and watched it because of Hot Fuzz. With Paul as well, we didn't want people to think we thought we were being original in a way. It was a love letter to a set of films and we wore it on our sleeves to say, "And here's all this other stuff you should see." With this film, we didn't feel that so much. We wanted the references to be more literal, which does go back to Douglas Adams, but also John Wyndham and John Christopher and the various social science fiction writers. It's less of a film about films. It's about friendship and growing up.
Wright: But it's still totally worth reading about on Movies.com.
Movies.com: As a big fan of Attack the Block, it has to be asked: Do you guys have any plans for making another movie with Joe Cornish?
Pegg: Oh, f**k that! [Pretends to storm out of the room.]
Wright: I would hope to be involved in his next film. He's writing at the moment. Funny enough, when we did the Hot Fuzz tour, Joe was documenting it. He did the Fuzzball Rally. He's a big-time director now, so he's not going to do that again.
He was bummed that he couldn't come with us this time. But he is writing at the moment. He's doing an adaptation of Snow Crash, but he's also writing some original screenplays as well. For his original ones, I would hope to be involved in some capacity.