Nick Frost and Edgar Wright speak to The Adelaide Review about the The World’s End film, maturing and upcoming projects.
The UK comedy dream team of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost have called cut on their mighty Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy with The World’s End. Frost and Wright speak to The Adelaide Review about the film, maturing and upcoming projects.
The World’s End marks the first time the trio have worked together since the brilliant action comedy Hot Fuzz, the second film of their unofficial Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy six years ago. After Hot Fuzz, all three went to North America for their next projects. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg wrote and starred in the alien comedy Paul while Edgar Wright directed the cult comic book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. While both films were hardly pedestrian, Paul was missing Wright’s attention to detail and many fanboy fantasies were fulfilled when it was announced that he would be directing Pegg and Frost again for The World’s End. While there are plenty of laughs, the final film of the unofficial trilogy contains darker human themes than Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. It shows the effects of continuing to live like a 21-year-old looking for the next party. Pegg stars as Gary King, an unemployed loser, whose life peaked at 18. He convinces his old school chums back to their hometown to complete a pub crawl to end all pub crawls – 12 pubs in one night – which finishes at the drinking hole, The World’s End. Like the trio’s previous films (Shaun… and Hot Fuzz), The World’s End is a genre film (this time sci-fi) where the comedy derives from the characters. It also explores themes such as friendship, maturity and the world moving on without you. Co-written by Wright and Pegg (just like the previous films), The World’s End is loosely based on an old script Wright wrote as a 21-year-old about teens drinking, which he revisited many years later and changed the premise to adults trying to recreate that night. He told Pegg about it and they came up with the story. The World’s End is a darker comedy than the previous Blood And Ice Cream films. Pegg’s character Gary isn’t exactly likeable as he desperately holds onto the past while his four friends (played by Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Frost) have moved onto successful careers and don’t really care for Gary. “It’s been six years since Hot Fuzz and we wanted to do something where we were at least honest about the fact that we’re a little older and deal with some themes we wouldn’t have dealt with six years ago,” Wright explains. “We can’t pretend to be 26 forever and sometimes when I watch some American comedies, where actors pretend to be man-children forever and act like they’re stoned on the couch, where in reality they’ve got wives and kids,” he laughs. “I felt like with this movie we wanted to do something where it’s a film about five friends, four of them grown ups, and one of them who absolutely wants to be a teenager again. Essentially it’s a film about him [Gary] trying to sort of travel through time with the magic potion that is alcohol.” “If The World’s End is anything, it shows you that you have to grow up,” says Frost. “Also, we didn’t make a film together, the three of us, for six years, so it’s about friends reuniting as well.” The maturity theme isn’t new to the Pegg/Wright/Frost canon. What’s fascinating about the work of these three is the feeling of growing up with them. Their working relationship began in 1999 with cult TV show Spaced, which was created by Pegg and fellow actor/writer/comedian Jessica Hynes and directed by Wright. Frost, Pegg’s best mate, also starred as Pegg’s sidekick, Mike. Known as a show for geeks by geeks, Spaced was much more than a geek comedy. It reflected that magical time for 20-somethings before marriage, the career and the mortgage. That era of house sharing, drinking, getting stoned, raving and PlayStation. Spaced was also so goddamn real even though it was littered with more pop culture references per episode than The Simpsons. When watching Spaced you knew the people behind it had lived what they were showing on screen. Not only that it was breathtakingly funny. Aside from The Office, it was the greatest UK TV comedy of the last 15 years. The first of the unofficial Blood and Ice Cream trilogy, Shaun of the Dead, arrived five years after season one of Spaced and showed the characters dealing with maturity… while fighting zombies. Pegg’s character Shaun, who is approaching 30, can’t let go of his arrested development ways to form a proper relationship with his girlfriend. He shares a crappy retail job with a bunch of teenagers and spends all his evenings at the pub with his drug dealing deadbeat housemate Ed (a hilarious Frost) whose first line is the oft repeated, ‘Can I get… any of you c****… a drink?’. Like Spaced, Shaun… featured many pop culture send-ups while honouring George A Romero’s zombie films. Then there is the anomaly Hot Fuzz. An action comedy where Pegg’s overambitious cop, Nicholas Angel, is sent to a supposed sleepy town but instead of relaxing he takes on the town’s leaders like Clint Eastwood in a Sergio Leone film set in rural England. Hot Fuzz saw the trio move away from house-sharing slackers in their homage to action films. The quick cut action (also used in Spaced and Shaun…) is perfectly executed by Wright who pays tribute to Tony Scott and Michael Bay (while sending up) by using their quick cut style action for mundane activities. Which brings us to The World’s End. Their latest film shows that you have to move on or you will end up like Gary King. The trio has matured behind the cameras as well. Even though the movie contains a lot of drinking (it’s about a pub crawl after all) the three behind the film don’t really drink and have grown up, especially Frost, who as a person isn’t like his loveable pot dealing, binge-drinking slacker character Ed in Shaun of the Dead. He’s married with a child and has basically quit drinking. His World’s End character Andy Knightley is a grumpy (for a reason) but successful lawyer. Frost thinks Andy is the closest character to him out of all the projects he, Pegg and Wright have completed. “When we made Shaun Of The Dead, Ed was probably the closest character to who I was at that point. In terms of Danny Butterman for Hot Fuzz, he really was fiction, you know, I’ve never been like Danny [a cuddly man-child]. There is a childlike innocence to me at certain points and I think as an actor, even if it’s only one percent of yourself in that role, you need to bring some of yourself to that for it to be true.” Essentially it’s as if Pegg and Frost have switched characters for this film, as Frost is the straight man, the heart of the film. Wright says in the 15 years he has known Frost he has moved from acting like his character in Shaun… to a loving husband and father. “I like this idea that the character is somebody who has put all of that behind him,” Wright says. “He doesn’t drink any more, he’s not the rugby boy brawler anymore, but then that spirit gets uncorked. It was a way of showing he’s changed that he’s actually responsible whereas Gary (Simon’s character) is like the villain of the piece, he’s a man obsessed about driving his knights to their certain doom.” This film also shows an evolution for Wright the director. Gone are the Tony Scott quick cuts and pop culture references. “We want to keep people on their toes and do slightly different things,” Wright explains, “in a way that is completely different to Hot Fuzz where the action is done with millions of cuts and the action here is done in long continuous takes. That came around because six years later I’ve learnt stuff about action scenes and the actors feel a lot more confident doing that kind of fighting. It’s like, ‘Let’s try and go as long as we can without a cut because it’s going to be more exciting. Up next for Wright is the comic book adaptation of Marvel’s Ant-Man. At the time of the interview it was widely reported that the script was just completed. “It’s been finished for years,” Wright explains. “It’s quite strange that that went around as a news story. I find that with every interview I’m asked to give an update and I’ve given the same update since Scott Pilgrim. So I find that amusing when it goes around the houses like some kind of Chinese whisper, like some kind of exclusive where it’s actually the same information as I gave three years ago.” Was this information just rehashed because of the press rounds for The World’s End? “It’s because every interview ends with someone asking about Ant-Man, as soon as I say one thing they write, ‘Exclusive: Edgar Wright says script is finished’. It was finished in 2010. I am going to give you the exclusive that their exclusive is not exclusive.” Frost also has a personal project coming up, Cuban Fury, which is based on an idea he had and stars Chris O’Dowd, Rashida Jones and Ian McShane alongside Frost. “I wrote this email to Nira my producer quite drunkenly one night, before I had a baby I might point out, pitching this film, ‘Why don’t we do this dance movie where this guy is a great dancer and he falls in love with this beautiful woman and she falls in love with him because he’s a great dancer?’ I did that thing where I woke up a bit groggy the next morning, thinking, ‘Did I just fucking send that email?’ I checked my sent box and sure enough there it was. I got an email back 40 minutes later saying, ‘Hey let’s get a meeting this is a fantastic idea’. It was out of my hands. I trained seven hours a day every day for seven months before we shot any film to learn how to be a dancer, which was fantastic. “I’ve always secretly liked to dance but I don’t like dancing in front of people. I kinda fucked my wedding up because I couldn’t commit to the first dance. I didn’t want people looking at me dancing. And I wanted to get it out of me. I was sick of feeling like that. It’s a beautiful thing to dance. It’s a lovely thing to see a big man have a good dance. You get that a lot when you are a bigger man and you’re cutting loose, people will look at you and think, ‘He’s quite good for a bigger guy, isn’t he?’ We have seen Frost dance before in a rave sequence for Spaced, but Cuban dancing is a tad trickier than raving. “I was big raver but it’s a very simple dance though. It’s the simplest of all dances, the rave. But it’s a joy nonetheless. To go from that to the technicalities of learning salsa, Cuban salsa, it isn’t just a dance; it’s a way of life for some people. You have to be careful to not shit on that ideal. Yes, we are making a comedy but we also want it to be beautiful.” The World’s End is now showing in cinemas