The World’s End hits British cinemas on 19th July, as Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost give us the final bite of the Cornetto trilogy.
Shaun of the Dead was a loving zombie homage, while Hot Fuzz was a hilarious tribute to all our favourite buddy cop movies from Point Break to Bad Boys II. While The World’s End is a science-fiction film, Wright tells us that they wanted to use the genre to drive the story.
“We didn’t want to do movie references and stuff,” he explains. “Because we did Spaced where we did that a lot, and Hot Fuzz is more of a meta film because they actually directly talk about the movies. But in this one it felt like the sci-fi theme was exactly what we wanted to say about the homogeny of chain pubs and how the British high street has changed and how your home town has been infected by London. And so all of those things about the central theme of you can never go home again perfectly fit in with thaat quiet invasion.
“In fact, the things that really inspired it, not specific films but really John Wyndham and Nigel Kneale, John Christopher, and obviously things like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Stepford Wives, but predominantly there’s a lot of British sci-fi authors that then through TV and film had a huge effect on pretty much everything we watched growing up. Whether it’s Doctor Who or Chocky, there’s a particular strain of British sci-fi that I felt was felt darker and would tackle global events through a very narrow focus in terms of this is one town, but it has consequences over the whole planet. And a lot of the Quatermass films are like that.”
So while The World’s End has its roots in British sci-fi, the team decided that they would not go back and study their predecessors.
“No, we watched It’s Always Fair Weather, which is a Gene Kelly musical,” Simon Pegg remembers. “We watched The Big Chill and Fandango. But otherwise we decided not to do what we did with Hot Fuzz, which was to watch a lot of films. Because we didn’t feel like we needed to learn any kind of language of cinema, we weren’t going to make any comments about science fiction or make any references to other films. Any references that you might pick up on are unintentional or subconscious. There are no overt references in this film.
“Even films that you could possibly apply to being similar to like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Stepford Wives, Village of the Damned. We thought, ‘Let’s come from a social science fiction angle and look at like John Wyndham’, who obviously wrote Midwich Cuckoos and Day of the Triffids, so if there’s any influences there it’s probably a literary one but it’s not a riff on anything. It is a science fiction film but it’s not a comment on science fiction films.”
Instead Wright and Pegg drew inspiration from their own lives. While Shaun of the Dead dealt with its hero approaching 30 and realising he needs to take responsibility in his life, The World’s End finds its band of friends staring 40 dead in the face.
“I think that, all the three films we touch on the idea of perpetual adolescence and the joys and the dangers of that,” Wright explains. “And we wanted to do a film which was much more about that.
“I think it’s that thing where we felt we have to be honest about the age of the actors and stuff. Simon and Nick are both husbands and fathers. And there’s a thing that I find in American manchild comedies, people pretend to be stoner flatmates forever and it’s like ‘That’s not true, you guys are married!’ So what we felt was a good thing to do was to take five people, four of whom are grown up, they’re divorcés, married, they’ve got proper jobs, and one guy is stuck in his teenage years and wants to drag them all back. So Simon thought of Gary as the ghost of sixth form past. He sort of appears like a wraith in the movie! But that was important to us. It’s one of the reasons why we never did the third Spaced was I think it would be extremely false to just pretend to be 26 forever.”
Just as the filmmakers didn’t want to be stuck in the same age bracket forever, The World’s End gives Pegg and Frost the opportunity to change up the partnership. Pegg plays Gary, who is trapped in perpetual adolescence, while Frost plays Andy, who is teetotal and has no time for Gary’s antics.
“I think some people think, and I think wrongly, that ‘Oh they always play the same characters,’ Wright tells us. “But I think that people get that impression just from them as friends in interviews, because I think, Shaun and Ed are different from Danny and Nicholas Angel, and then different again in this, and I think particularly in this one.
“Nick Frost can be very serious and very stern when he’s on the phone with the council and sometimes when I see him a bad mood think ‘I wanna see that Nick in a movie!’ because he can be extremely severe and terrifying when he’s in a bad mood.”
Frost’s character is reluctantly dragged along for the pub crawl while obviously holding on to some old resentment towards Gary. In fact, everyone seems to have some reason to be angry with Gary, and Wright explains that presenting this character who hasn’t moved on from his past was a big part of the appeal.
“Everybody knows somebody like that, that they went to school with and who hasn’t moved on, who was the coolest guy at school and through whatever circumstances, whether it’s drink or drugs, or failure in their career has just stayed at that point whilst everybody else has grown up and so we liked the idea that he’s going to attempt to bring them back down to his level.
“I think everybody’s had that experience, whether you’ve gone to a wedding or a school reunion or you’ve gone back to your hometown where it’s extremely bittersweet. And sometimes when you reconnect with friends and you have running jokes that you had when you were a teenager, but you can’t quite remember them anymore or it doesn’t mean anything anymore, it’s not funny anymore. So there are more of those elements of frank rawness of comedy that we wanted to get into because we’d been through it.”
While they may have been through it, everyone agrees that a pub crawl doesn’t seem like a very appealing proposition these days.
“I think the only way I’d do a pub crawl now is if it was in beautiful walled Spanish city,” Nick Frost tells us. “And I’d stop and have some sherry and chorizo, and then I’d move on and have some patatas bravas.”
“I’d do a café crawl now,” adds Pegg. “A cake in each one and a cup of tea.”