With the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy coming to a close with The World’s End, which opens this Friday. I got a few moments to chat with the director Edgar Wright and actor Nick Frost for a bit while they were in town a few weeks ago.
This World’s End deals heavily with nostalgia, I wonder if either of you had a time you looked back on and wish you could go back to?
Edgar Wright: I do think about the past a lot. I have frequent bouts of nostalgia and I wonder why. Because I consider myself very happy, but I think back to school a lot and pretty much the opening of the film, the first three minutes in 1990 is like a time capsule to me. There are also bad things about looking backwards, it’s kind of silly to try and turn back the clock to do things differently.
Nick Frost: No.
ER: In Shaun of the Dead, we wanted to put ourselves in a Romero film. What we do in that situation if we were like hungover Brits with no guns?
In this movie the sci-fi paranoia element is really an amplification of emotion. When I go back to my hometown I feel disconnected from it, I feel alienated from it, much like Gary King. Its almost more comfortable to for me to accept that aliens have taken over my town, then it is getting old, the passing of time or maybe the idea that the town is not quite as great as I remember it anyway.
I also like the idea of replicants and androids, because there is a lot of sci-fi I grew up with that has that kind of vibe to it whether its like the Autons in Dr. Who, or The Body Snatchers, The Stepford Wives or Blade Runner. Because they give a chance for a change of identity and it fits perfectly with all the themes we were trying to get across.
The sci-fi is very much a metaphor for the emotions in the script.
So Nick, I have to ask what was it like to finally get in there for some of those great fight scenes? Did you have to train at all for those?
NF: I loved it. It was amazing. I loved the action in this and the chance to unleash my inner Sammo Hung. I think there is a kind of preconception that big men can’t get shit done in terms of the physical side of stuff. I wanted to blow that myth out of the water essentially.
There was a part in the script originally that had me tearing my whole shirt off and me being topless for the rest of the film. I think that is the only thing I said “maybe we shouldn’t do that.”
ER: Then with the night shoots being -10.
NF: I am glad, thank you so much for sticking your heels in the sand.
We trained for four weeks initially with Brad Allen who is an amazing stunt director and fight choreographer. He really put us through our paces to see what we could and couldn’t do.
I did a dance film before this and trained for seven and a half months to be a dancer. I am not sure how it would have been if I did it the other way around. I think the fact that I could move now and dance, I think it made those big long takes balletic and violently beautiful.
After watching the film you can tell you definitely did your research on pubs, and the film takes place in 12 different ones. Where did the design concepts come from?
ER: When we wrote the script and we had the 12 pubs and The World’s End was always going to be the last one, and they are all named after real bars. So when we wrote the story, we named the bars after things that happens in the scene. So they are all real pub names even The Famous Cock is a real bar in the UK, it’s around the corner from my house. As I discovered when we had to clear all the names, it’s the only one in the country.
NF: There are lots of cocks, but only one Famous Cock.
ER: …and its Simon Pegg. (Laughs)
In terms of the design, another thing we wanted to tackle, and is no different to the idea of Walmart taking over in the states, is chains taking over pubs and they are all starting to look identical. I wanted the quest to sort of feel like it was starting to get quite nightmarish in terms of you going through these chambers, going through these pubs is almost like going through these different levels and they are getting more and more identical.
What were your personal favorites from the film?
ER: Number 5 The Good Companions, the one where we did the doors bit. When you take away our dressing it’s a really nice place.
NF: For me in the film, Number 10 The Kings Head.
ER: In real life #10 is called The Arena Tavern, but they are changing their name to the pub in the film. They are even keeping the sign, which is a painting of Simon Pegg that is the only one that is changing its name.
NF: He looks like Dartanian in that painting. (Laughs)
Edgar, I am a huge fan of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, looking back on that experience as a filmmaker, does it bother you it didn’t do as well as it possibly could, but eventually found its audience and is now a well respected cult film?
ER: The thing is if you are proud of a movie, and I am proud of that movie you got to have faith that it is going to find its place eventually. To be honest that is exactly what happened with Spaced, it wasn’t a big hit on TV but found an audience on DVD and cable.
I know the cast feels the same way because when we did the DVD press tour later in the year, we all went out and did even more press for it. If they didn’t believe in the film I doubt they would have showed up.
I think that film is a bit more complex. Mainstream audiences like to know exactly what they are getting and if a film is a little bit more complicated, it’s a harder job to market it.
I don’t feel bad about it, because people are still watching that film, and in the cinema as well. Where you have films that make $300 million dollars leave the theater and people never think about them ever again.
NF: You know what its about and I hate this word because I heard it so many times during the Olympics is a legacy, if I was a studio head I bet my answer would be different. Do you want a film that makes a shitload of money or one that people care about forever?
ER: It’s better to be a sleeper than something that burns out quickly.
Looking a bit to the future now I have to ask about Ant-Man, you and Joe Cornish have been working on Ant Man for a while and with the recent Avengers Comic Con announcement I have to ask, was Ultron ever part of your Ant-Man story?
ER: I cannot really get into that… but I will say no.
Finally With The World’s End closing the summer film season and I know you’re a big film guy Edgar, what are you and Nick’s favorite films this season?
ER: When did Spring Breakers come out? (Laughs) Spring Breakers was a film I watched and all I could think about was I love this movie.
NF: I have a great out in that a tiny baby, so I haven’t seen more than 10 minutes of any film in the last 2 years. But the good thing about Comic-con is you can’t actually leave the hotel, so it gives you time to catch up on films. I watched Oblivion and I actually really liked it.