Ahead of the Melbourne premiere, I was lucky enough to have a chat to Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright about their upcoming film: The World’s End. Along with fellow interviewers Tom Fortune from Filmtrout and Daniel Lammin from Switch, the guys talked to us about making of the film, the meaning behind it and more!
The interview was a lot of fun and you can check out the audio below or scroll down for the full transcript! The World’s End hits Australian cinemas on August 1.
Tom: How did it feel, you know, working together again as a trio after 6 years since Hot Fuzz?
Nick: It felt exactly that same. I’ve said before, it felt like we finished Hot Fuzz on Friday and we started again on Monday. I think that’s one of the advantages of being great friends. We know how we work and it just felt right… Edgar Wright.
Edgar: I think what was nice actually is that there is a six year gap since our first and we had the story idea 6 years ago, but I’m glad we didn’t write it then, because I think in that 6 years we’ve amassed a lot more material just in life. Especially because the characters are older and one of the sort of central themes of the movie is the idea of like the nostalgia itself as the villain of the piece. It’s dangerous to look back and dangerous to try and recapture your glory days. And so, I don’t think we would have written exactly the same script 6 years ago, so I’m glad we sort have had a little bit of thinking time and went of and did our separate projects and then came back. It’s nice also to do a film about friends reuniting when we hadn’t written together for a few years.
Daniel: There was that sense in the film of the idea of nostalgia of coming back for the last hurrah. Was that kind of similar in terms of finishing off the trilogy for the three of you?
Edgar: Well, it becomes sort of a dark theme in a way. I think there’s maybe there’s a bit of metaness in terms of that, in terms of ‘it’s the final one’ but it’s also, for Gary, him trying to recapture that kind of glory moment and stuff. But, we like that as a theme, that it was like sort of dangerous to look backwards. And I think the thing is, because, and right back to Spaced, we sort of dealt with this theme of the perpetual adolescence, which never seems to go away and the kind of, the age limit for being a man-child seems to just go up and up and up. Like 50 is now the new, like, sort of 30. So, it seemed like it was nice to do something which was like a full stop on that theme. And I also feel like a lot of the American man-child comedies are always a bit forced in terms of that they sort of glorify that aspect of they never ever scratch beneath the surface, so we wanted to do something that was a bit more honest and frank… in amongst robots having their heads smashed in.
Alex: I was going to say, there’s a lot of hand-to-hand combat in the film. Was it fun to film or was it not as fun as it looked? Because it looked really fun!
Edgar: It’s fun but intense, right?
Simon: It’s hard work, you know. Some of those fight scenes took over a week to shoot and you know, everyday. And the way that they were choreographed, it was in a very sort of specific… almost like a one shot, the appearance of one shot so they were very precise, but it was quite fun to be that physical for and get to work with the likes of Brad Allen.
Edgar: A Melbournian.
Simon: A Melbournian fight choreographer, Jackie Chan’s number one white guy. Brad Allen and you know, so we’d do heavy dialogue scenes, but I remember at one point in the shooting “I haven’t said anything in for two weeks” because we were like in the midst of running and smashing and fighting. But I relish that kind of stuff and we really wanted to do as much of it as we could by ourselves. And I think we did 99%, we only ever got doubled when it was something that… the insurance wouldn’t allow, like driving through glass or whatever. So out stunt team were really keen that we do that. They weren’t… they didn’t want to take it away from us so they made sure we did everything we could.
Nick: I think it’s sort of a bit of a jib too when you see it’s clearly a stunt man doing it and you cut back to see some reactions and cut back to the action. If you can track the actual actor all the way from the dialogue into the actual action it’s nice, it looks good.
Edgar: Yeah, you notice in the fight scenes that because like everybody could do it and I think sort of working with Brad Allen and Bill Hope, and because I’d come off Scott Pilgrim and done a lot of action, I felt a lot more confident in myself. But, what’s even different compared to that one is sort of having the confidence that these actors could pull it off and so the camera can remain on them and never cut away. So, I think when people are watching, especially in that first fight when the audiences are watching that, people are saying sort of “Ah, it’s never cutting, it’s never cutting” and it’s like it keeps going through these same fluid takes. And that was really important because then you realise that it’s also, it’s less about the baddies than it is about the fact that our heroes are like,this is as far as their glory days kind of go and getting that to be kind of like the epic brawlers of their past.
Nick: Also, it’s a lot of fun but you also have to concentrate, you know. There’s that scene in the pub later on, I kind of fight a long string of men all at the same time, you have to be careful! Because they are human beings and they’re stunt men… And, you know, just because I’m an actor doesn’t mean that I’m not a big lump who can actually fucking throw a punch at someone! And you have to be aware of that and you can’t just go in and think “well, I’m that actor so I’m going to hit who the fuck I like and it doesn’t matter. There are consequences and you have to be skilled in terms of you concentrate… you have to be careful.
Simon: How come you knocked three of them out then? [laughs]
Nick: Well, it’s that thing that, it’s that… You might be four inches off your mark and they might be four inches nearer to you and also it’s that thing that also sometimes it just is… you just let… you feel a bit… you know, you let one go [laughs]. Yeah, it was the kind of gnarled Hungarian stuntman [laughs]. You think if you actually were going to have a fight with these people, he’d be the first once you’d want to knock out because then the others wouldn’t think twice about attacking you [laughs]. So it was quite good when he stood up, holding his sore like “Owwwww” Yeah, got him. [Edgar laughing]
Nick: They’re boxing gloves essentially, those big stools, you know. I think when you shoot a fight when you’re just fighting bare handed, you can hide it, you know, you can hide the camera behind you and you can sell it. But those stools, you can’t. They’re so big that you’d have to create such a gap that… you’d never sell it. So the first two takes, two runs, we did, you could see that I wasn’t really doing it. My heart wasn’t really… I didn’t want to hurt these people, but they were like “No! You hit us, it’s fine! You can hit us!” Alright… right then.
Edgar: It should come as no surprise that the stools became known as the hulk hands.
Nick: Hulk hands, yeah [laughs]. My transformation into pink Hulk. The incredible pulk.
Tom: Loved ******* bit…
Edgar: shhhh… retract that!
Tom: Loved retracted’s bit.
Edgar: Why don’t you say, “Loved Mr.Shepherd.”
Tom: Ok… [laughs]. How’d that come about? Was it written for him specifically?
Edgar : Um, we wanted to get somebody really… we wanted to get somebody very charming to play Mr. Shepherd, so, because, you wanted to not necessarily be aware of his allegiance. So it was like a fun thing,we wanted to have somebody very sort of commanding in that part because it’s at a point in the film where our heroes are very drunk and they sort of need, like, a soothing calming presence to sort of come in and talk them down basically. So, you know, it’s… I like that sequence because it’s like, it’s sort of like this feels like the characters are reacting like the actors are to the other actor. They get slightly star-struck by him, and become more like little kids.
Nick: The voice… the tone of his voice.
Edgar: Like hot chocolate.
Nick: It’s like smooth Italian caramel [laughter]. I have nothing to say in that scene so I start to sit there andjust shut my eyes and listen to him. It was amazing.
Daniel: One of the startling things for me was the fact that for you, Nick and Simon, your roles seemed to be reversed. Simon in Shaun of the Dead you were kind of the rock of the relationship, and that you were the one that kind of kept pushing him in directions that he didn’t want to go. But in this particular case, it was the opposite. Did that change the dynamic in terms of the way you guys worked?
Nick: I don’t think it did at all, did it? It just felt…
Simon: No, it was just a kind of way of mixing it up and we would hate for people to just, you know, be able to predict what was going to happen and think “Ok, this is going to be this again” and to deliver that. We wanted to, to make it different and in each of these films we’ve played wildly different characters. Both of us have and, the only way to continue that difference was to do what we did with this, which was to radically alter the dynamic and it was great! It really works for…, Gary is like the simultaneously the villain and the hero of the film, and so he has to be a force of disturbance and kind of naughtiness, which butts up against Nick’s character.
Nick: But you know, he’s, as a character he’s also subconsciously incredibly powerful. You know, and manipulative. I always think that I love the fact that within kind of four hours of remeeting this character my… you know, I’ve fallen off the wagon…[laughs]. It’s like, he has such a draw.
Edgar: He’s an evil hypnotist!
Nick: I’m an evil hypnotist!
Simon: It’s the thing of like… Eddie has that speech about talking about the past like it all meant nothing. Like the bully, he supposedly doesn’t recognise. He’s upset and he’s right, it didn’t all mean nothing. It meant everything and very quickly they drop back into their old roles, you know, and it’s why they continue with the crawl, because in a pinch they follow Gary. Even though they’ve tried their very best to outgrow him, to the point of wilfully alienating him and sort of… trying to take him out of their past. He’s back and suddenly they’re all following him and falling in their old roles. The protector and the acolyte and the fan and it’s… it’s an interesting dynamic.
Edgar: Yeah, we wanted the sort of alcohol to sort of just like, function as a time machine. It regresses the characters. They start acting more like little kids. And even the blue gloop that kind of leaks from the baddies and stuff is a way of making the actors look like little kids. Cause I always used to come home from school with fountain pen ink all over my hands, and get it all over my face… and so, immediately… as soon as they start getting lubricated as they’ve had their first fight they look like kind of, you know, fourteen-year olds. Like, running around. So there’s kind of like regression within the movie.
Daniel: It’s the last thing you expect to come out of them… when the head comes off.
Edgar: Yeah! [laughs] “What!” Who made this sort of… why is there this mandated kind of idea that all alien blood needs to be green? Where did that come from? when did we miss that meeting? [laughter]
Nick: You did get that memo…you were cc’d on it.
Edgar: I do, but I think the thing is that, like, if you’re only relying on your trailer moments, you’re in trouble. And I think the thing is that when we, like… we work with the trailer people, and you have to give them enough stuff to get people to go and see it cause if you genuinely cut together a trailer that’s just guys on a pub crawl you will have a thirtieth of your audience. But, there’s a lot more to it and in a way, like, what is really important are the emotional arcs and beats and those kind of pay offs—none of which are in the trailer. And there’s lots of surprises there in the movie that are not in the trailer. So as long as you kind of show enough spectacle that people will go like “Oh, it’s like fighting and pratfalls and like, it looks funny and there’s special effects” but you don’t really give away any of the emotional payoffs or any of the twists or some of the actors and stuff. But, you know, I think it’s weird, it sort of seems to come up in every interview talking about spoilers and stuff and I just think it sort of seems like stating the obvious is that, you know like, you want people to see it as cold as they possibly can. But also like trailers being spoiler-y is nothing new. Like, the trailers in the 60s and 70s are even worse. Look at the trailer for Psycho. Look at the trailer for… you know, Psycho tells you what’s going to happen. Tells you there’s going to be like a murder in a shower.
Nick: Nooooo.. I haven’t seen it… [laughs]
Edgar: The trailer for Carrie pretty much shows you the ending of that movie. So it’s like, this is nothing new. It’s just a necessary evil. But… but we feel confident in that the trailers don’t ruin the movie cause there’s like lots other to discover and anything… one of the things we tried to do, especially with Shaun and this one, is that the movie, the sci-fi comedy aspect is almost like a Trojan horse to get this other like character comedy in there, you know.
Tom: Yep. Yep. Where did the ‘knocking over of a fence’ joke come from?
Edgar: I think it was just…
Simon: It was a physical gag that we had in Shaun of the Dead that we kind of, when we came to make Hot Fuzz we realised that we were able to make sort of a thematic sequel to Shaun of the Dead, albeit not a kind of, you know, full one. And we wanted to make some slightly more obvious connective tissue on the, you know, put that on display for the audience. So, it wasn’t just the Cornetto, it was…it was that as well. And it quickly became apparent to us that we had the opportunity at least to make a joke work over three disparate films. When we actually made The World’s End we were puzzled over how we were going to do it for a…we almost didn’t do it. We thought, like, we kind of completed it in Hot Fuzz because it has two parts in Hot Fuzz and it’s like a three-part joke.
Edgar: Yeah, initially we ran this thing in The World’s End where we didn’t see the fence jump and then actually it’s credit to one of our stunt guys who kind of came up with the gag. He said “what if the whole fence went down?” I think also, I don’t know about you, but I was obsessed by like garden chases in films and I think that’s because when I was a kid, my root to school was always going through alleys that looked onto lots of peoples’ back-gardens. I was always curious about…like… I never actually tried jumping the fence myself and not being a Peeping Tom [laughs]. I think I wanted to vault fences, and I’d seen it in Ferris Bueller and thought it looked like fun and had never done it.
Simon: And The Swimmer.
Edgar: And The Swimmer. Good backgarden films: Point Break, The Swimmer, Raising Arizona, Ferris Bueller, and Police Academy I. [laughs]
Daniel: Apart from playing with genre and the recurring visual gags, what do you think links these three films together as a trilogy? One of the things I found re-watching them is how moving they are. There are points when you find yourself actually… I couldn’t watch Shaun of The Dead for about 5 or 6 years after the first time I saw it because I found it so upsetting and so affecting. Is there something that kind of links them together in terms of a theme or and idea?
Edgar: I think there are a number of things, isn’t there?
Simon: Yeah, there’s the kind of, you know the notion of friendship. There’s the struggle of one person or one group of people against the larger sort of marauding force, be it the zombies or the NWA or the network. We’re always very keen to hang our comedy on a sort of a rigid, real structure, you know, of genuine drama and emotion. Cause the thing is with comedy, if you make a film that’s just jokes the minute one of those jokes fails the whole film dies. So, we want to sometimes be able to freewheel into drama, you know, and stop the comedy and let it be something else for a little bit before we start peddling again with the gags.
Nick: That’s what life is, you know. I always think of it as putting the fun back into funerals, you know it’s… funerals have often been the funniest things I’ve ever been to. And they’re at the same time very funny and terribly tragic, and they work because of each other not in spite of, you know.
Edgar: It’s a… also the other overriding thing which kind of becomes the central theme of this one is, and this goes back to Spaced as well, is the idea of the dangers of perpetual adolescence and, like, you know, in Shaun that was a film about a man having to grow up and be less like one of his flatmates and more like the other one [laughs]. And then, you now, in Hot Fuzz it’s kind of like the fantasy verses reality, is the angel is the realist and sort of Danny is the kind of like the sort of naïve fantasist, and how they will eventually become a ying to the other’s yang. But then in this one, it’s like the nostalgia, and, the idea of sort of that arrested development is the, you know, the cautionary tale and that sort of Gary is going to get like, um… you know, um, should be careful what he wishes for when he looks back. So we wanted to, because we’ve dealt with that a number of times, we wanted to make this a very final statement on it, in a way. And so, I think also in terms of them being affecting, I think we tried to be like, particularly in Shaun and World’s End I think, sort of be quite frank with the character comedy and sometimes some of the sort of, the comedy of recognition is quite painful. And I think in a way that’s sort of …if we’d have made something that was kind of really light and fluffy and ephemeral it might have been funny. But like Simon says, it doesn’t exist beyond the jokes and you would forget it by the time you’d left the cinema. Which is kind of about like 80% of comedies, you know, that you’re kind of like “well that was fun” but you cannot remember a single thing about it….by the time you’ve got to the parking lot. So with this, and also because there was a lot of those man-child comedies that have been sort of so prevalent in the last 20 years, you never ever like scratch that sort of like…
Daniel: And that characters never have to go anywhere, they just sort of stay the same.
Edgar: Yeah, it’s just kind of just glorifying that and it never really like sort of examines what happens when you pull the plasters off, you know.
Simon: I think all three films are about finding the right level of maturity to live your life. Like, Shaun has to grow up in order to be a good person. Nicholas Angel has to sort of grown down a little bit. He has to devolve a little bit to become a good person. And The World’s End is about finding your own way to grow up, not conforming to someone else’s idea of what it is to grow up. You become an adult in your own way and you, maybe you don’t sort of conform to some perceived notion of what that is but you take a stand and you are yourself and you find your way into adulthood, and you do it truthfully. There’s no wrong way either, you know. It takes Gary… it takes him destroying the earth, essentially [laughs] to become a man and it’s what you have to do. And however that is, there’s no right or wrong answer to that.