Interview: The World’s End Roundtable

TWE-featureIf you are in tune with the world of film, then you are probably as excited as I am about this week’s release of The World’s End, the final installment in Edgar Wright’s Three Cornetto Trilogy. Like its two predecessors, there is more than meets the eye in this genre film mashup, including the exploration of complex emotions that plague us all. This roundtable touched on many topics, from story and design inspirations, and Frost’s foray into the world of dance, to an alternate universe that includes Mike Watt realizing this army dreams and a Hot Fuzz spin-off film. Enjoy.

This film deals heavily with nostalgia. Is there a time that you look back on and wish you were back in that moment?

Edgar Wright: Well, Nick’s going to have a less sentimental answer than me–

Nick Frost: Yeah

EW: But I guess, I do think about the past a lot. I do have frequent attacks of nostalgia, and I wonder why, because I consider myself pretty happy in my life and stuff. I think back to school alot and I think back to those times and the opening of the movie, the first three minutes is like a time capsule to me. I think there’s bad things about looking backwards. It’s silly to want to kind of try and turn back the clock and do things differently because even if you can have a time machine and do better at school or go on a date again, it would have the wrong ramifications through history. The good kind of nostalgia is just listening to music that takes you straight back, like I can listen to that Suede song on the film’s soundtrack and remember a car journey where my friend had an audio cassette and we just sang along to that song over and over again. So I’m nostalgic about those school days.

NF: No. (everyone laughs) I don’t know, if it’s sort of lucky or unlucky, but I’ve always kind of lived in the now, I’m happiest in the now. Also as a person I kind of go with my impulses so I don’t have that thing where I think, “Oh I should have told her that I loved her,” cause I probably did tell her that I loved her. Or I wish I’d hit that bully, because I probably did hit that bully. You know, if anything it’s probably the opposite, I shouldn’t have done that. I lived in Israel when I was 18 for two years and I just got into adventures, and if there’s ever a point and I’m sitting around thinking, “I wish I was picking fruit and trying to have sex with Swedish girls.” Thats the time I think about. But most of the time, right now, this is my focus.

Where did the idea for the story and the alien robots come from?

EW: In Shaun of the Dead we wanted to put ourselves into like a Romero film, it was very much like a what would we do in that situation. Only with like hungover Brits with no guns. In this movie the sci-fi paranoia element is really an amplification of an emotion. When I go back to my home town and feel disconnected from it, I feel alienated from it. And much like Gary King in the film, it’s more comfortable for me to accept that aliens have taken over my town then it is to accept getting old, the passing of time, or the fact that maybe the town was not quite as great as I thought it was anyway. And I think we like the idea of replicants and androids because you know there was a lot of sci-fi that I grew up with that had that kind of vibe to it like in Dr Who or body snatchers, or even like Bladerunner, because they give a chance for a change of identity–oh Stepford Wives is another obvious one as well–so sci-fi perfectly fits with all of these themes that we wanted to get across. I’d say like the sci-fi element in the film, much like the sci-fi and horror films that we grew up with is a metaphor for the emotions in the script.

Nick, I thought your performance was very nuanced, can you tell us what it was like to morph from an awesomely nuanced dude, to a tornado of fists, feet and barstools?

NF: Well I loved it, it was amazing. I love the action in this movie, and I love the chance to also unleash my inner Sammo Hung. I think there’s a kind of preconception that big men can’t get shit done in terms of their physical size so I wanted to kind of blow that myth out of the water essentially. There was a time in the original drafts of the script where Edgar actually had me tearing my shirt off, the whole thing coming off, and me being topless for the rest of the film. And I was thinking maybe we shouldn’t do that–

EW: And then when it got into night shoots, it was like -10 below, and I was like keep the shirt on–

NF: Oh yeah, keep it on. We trained a lot, we trained for four weeks initially with Brad Allen who is just an amazing stunt director and fight choreographer. He kind of put us through our paces to see what we could do and what if anything, in my case nothing, we couldn’t do. He and Edgar they just designed these amazing fights and you’d come in in the morning and  he’d open his laptop and say, alright let’s have a look at this, and they would have put the whole fight together in the rehearsal room with pieces of cardboard and stools. And then Brad would say, what do you think, what do you think now–

EW: That you needed to put your performance into it–

NF: Yeah, because we wanted to keep the character in the fighting. It’s no good creating a character and then you just become a slugger as soon as you start the action side of it. It wouldn’t work so we wanted to maintain the character throughout those fights too. And it was fantastic. I was very lucky, I did a dance film before this so I trained for seven and a half months to be a dancer before I shot any of the dance film so I’m not sure how it would have  been if I had done it the other way around. I think the fact that I could move now and dance, and I think it made those big long takes quite balletic and violently beautiful. Simon and I spent a lot of time, and this is going to sound like we’re weird, we spent a lot of time in our mid to late twenties wrestling in our bedrooms (laughter) which is like ten years later than it should have been essentially. Yeah, we wrestled a lot at home and he broke my thumb a long time ago and I did an atomic power bomb on him.  Which did two things, it smashed my bed literally to smithereens and as I stood up my thumb was hanging off. So we were good on the wrestling, that was the thing we didn’t need to be taught.

EW: He broke your thumb, he broke your bed and when he got married he broke your heart.

NF: My fucking heart.

The-Worlds-End-featureYou took a break between Hot Fuzz and The World’s End to make Scott Pilgrim, was there anything you learned during the break that gave you a fresh perspective when you returned to World’s End

EW: We actually came up with the story on the Hot Fuzz press tour six years ago, so we had the story worked out. But I think that gap in actually writing meant we could get older and have more to say on the subject. So I don’t think we would have written exactly the same screenplay or as good a screenplay as this six years ago. You know, Simon is over 40, I’m 39, so in that case hopefully it feels a little more mature even with the head-smashing and various other things. Coming back to this was really nice because it was something that we always had this idea for and we thought it was a really strong idea, but you just build up a lot of personal experience. As geeks we have to make a zombie film, a cop film, and a sci-fi film, but really on the comedy side of it is really personal stuff. And sometimes people say, well, this one’s quite dark, but I wouldn’t use the word dark, I would say that it’s honest, you know what I mean. I feel like a lot of American comedies that are about the man-child or the idea of being a big kid forever never ever scratch below the surface that much. I think that if you setup some of these issues you got to tackle them head on. We definitely wanted to make good on our promise to the fans, but you’ve got to make the films that you want to do and not the films that you think you ought to do. So as such, I think the comedy in this is a little bit more prickly and complicated than the other two which I think is a good thing because we’re older.

Where did you come up with the design concept for the 12 pubs featured in the film, and what to you makes the perfect pub?

EW: Basically we wrote the script and we had the 12 pubs, and they’re all named after real bars, even The Famous Cock, is a real bar in the UK. It’s right around the corner from my house as I discovered when we had to clear all of the names, and it’s the only one in the country. I thought it was quite a common name, but no, it’s the only one so I had to clear it with them.

NF: There’s lots of cocks, but I think there’s only one famous one.

EW: And it’s Simon Pegg. (laughter) So in terms of the design, one of the things we wanted to tackle which is happening a lot and no different to the idea of like Walmart taking over in the states, is this thing where chains are taking over pubs and then they all start to look identical. It’s a really sad thing especially because some of these pubs in older buildings get this makeover, and all of the signage looks the same, all of the menus look the same. There are bars even in the neighborhood I live in in London, there’s probably like ten I could walk to in two minutes and so many of them look exactly the same that I start to feel like I’m in an MC Escher painting. That was kind of the thing I wanted in the film is this nightmarish feeling that you’re going through these pubs like you are going through different levels, each getting more and more identical. I would say the perfect pub would be like an old fashioned one, there’s one pub in the movie that we actually had to give a makeover to to make it look like the others, but it was actually a nice pub and it’s still a nice pub. When you take away all of our dressing it’s a nice old pub.

NF: For me it’s number ten, The King’s Head.

EW: Yeah that was nice too. Pub number ten in the film is actually in reality called the Arena Tavern but they are changing their name to the pub from the film, which is The King’s Head. They are going to keep the sign. Which is actually a picture of a painting of Simon Pegg.

NF: I think for me, you know I have a problem now going to pubs being relatively successful. You can’t go into them without people talking about you essentially and it’s fairly annoying. They can talk about you when you’re on TV and you can’t hear them, but when they’re this far away (gestures close by) all you can hear is “That’s him, it’s Hot Fuzz!” It’s annoying.

EW: They call you by the film name?

NF: Oh yeah, “it’s Hot Fuzzies!” I live in a place in London, there are a couple of pubs near me that are old and beautiful pubs and I know the landlords so there’s a little corner on the side of the bar that they keep for me and I come and I sit there quietly and drink a few pints. Friday is the only time I drink at home. My wife lets me–well she doesn’t let me– (laughter) friday afternoons around 4 I’ll go and have a few pints. So my drinking time at home is between 4 and 7 on a friday afternoon so I can get in before the rush.

I’m a fan of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, looking back does it bother you that it didn’t do as well as it possibly could but eventually did find it’s audience in the end?

EW: If you are proud of a film, and I am proud of Scott Pilgrim, you got to have faith that it will get out there eventually. That’s exactly what happened with Spaced. Spaced was not a big ratings hit in the UK but it found an audience on DVD and cable repeats. And I know the cast feels the same way because we did a DVD press tour later that year and like if nobody was proud of the movie you would have never seen the cast, they would have all ran for the hills. I think films are a little bit more complex. Mainstream audiences like to know exactly what they are getting and if a film is a little more complicated it’s just a harder job to market it. It’s as simple as that. I don’t feel bad about it because people are still watching that movie and still watching it in cinemas at midnight screenings whereas movies that made $300 million leave the theaters and then people never think about them again.

NF: That’s the thing we always talked about, and I hate this word because it was used so much during the Olympics, but it’s about legacy you know. Do you want a shit load of money or do you want a film that people care about and will potentially be seen forever?

EW: By being something very specific you may end up, over time, resonating more. So beyond the laughs and the action there’s something that makes you think about it more.

the-worlds-end-simon-pegg-nick-frost-martin-freemanIf you could go back to any of your previous works to see where your character or the universe is now, what would it be?

NF: I think mine might be Mike Watt from Spaced. To see if he did get to Afghanistan and if he survived. He wanted to be in the army so much. Mike is based on a friend of mine who we used to rag on a lot because he talked about being in the army, but he was never in the army, he was in like the National Guard and we took the piss out of him a lot. And then like four years ago, I saw him when I was still doing Facebook and he had become like a personal close protective guard to the Prime Minister. So through all his bullshit he eventually got there. And that amazed me. So I wonder if Mike might take that same root.

EW: I always wanted to do like a low-budget spin-off movie featuring the Andys from Hot Fuzz. Like a buddy film with Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall. I always thought it would be hilarious. And I even have a title for it, Maximum ‘Tasche.


Edgar Wright was predictably mum on Ant-Man details, but Nick Frost mentioned his excitement over filming the next installment in the Snow White and the Huntsman franchise, which may or may not feature a guest appearance from Ultron. Also, Nick’s favorite sandwich? Ham and cheese.

The World’s End opens Friday in Philly area theaters.

Author: Jill Malcolm

Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.

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