“A bitter Frost has just descended on Boston” is the headline that director Edgar Wright gives a group of Boston critics late in July after a lengthy conversation about what it was like working behind-the-scenes on his latest film, The World’s End, when a throwaway comment from Nick Frost (“I fuckin’ hate Edgar!” says Frost after Simon Pegg jokingly calls him bitter when talking about being mates and still not seeing each other on set due to the busy workload) propels Wright to preemptively stress that the comment shouldn’t be taken out of context leading to our mock headline.
But it’s hard to believe that Wright, Frost, and Pegg could be anything but besties as they talk (Often finishing one another’s sentences) about working together on their latest which sees the end of what has been dubbed “The Cornetto Trilogy”. Wright elaborates more on the trilogy: “We didn’t want to do a sequel to Shaun Of The Dead but we wanted to do a sort of thematic sequel: this is the same team with the same sensibility…There are themes that go across all three. They’re all films about growing up: In Shaun…, Shaun has to grow up and be man. In Hot Fuzz Nicholas Angel has to kind of dumb down to be this badass cop and in this one, Gary retreats to the past. He doesn’t wanna grow up. He actually wants to be 18 again so they all have that theme of perpetual adolescence and taking responsibility and there’s the foe which is the idea of the individual versus the collective. I think what we wanted to do with this one was to wrap things up in a way and make the end very final indeed.”
Talk soon turns to the writing process and the different splinter groups that form when collaborating (Pegg/Frost, Pegg/Wright) and the realization that Pegg is the glue. According to him, at least. Pointing at Frost and Wright he continues: “You guys tried to sort of write something similar to this a while ago, didn’t you?” Frost: “I think we tried to rewrite Krull…we did NO work!” Pegg: “Those two together? Obviously terrible. I’m obviously the key member of the group here!”
Wright turns the conversation to writing for such a diverse cast: “In terms of the writing for other people, we definitely write with other people in mind to the point of we took a leaf out of Thom Lennon’s screenwriting book and we did that trick of writing the actor’s name in the final draft instead. So the first working draft of the script literally said Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan…so we wrote with those people in mind. Martin is in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in small roles and we really wanted him to have a bigger part this time because we figured after billion dollar-grossing The Hobbit that maybe he was up to the task (laughs). Eddie Marsan is someone that Nick had worked with and loved and we were big fans of him so we wanted him to be in the movie and also sometimes you write the part for somebody because you think it’s the part that they’d like because Eddie and Paddy have both done a long run of extremely intense, darker dramas and both of them happen to also be really funny. I think both of them when we’d written these parts liked lighter, funnier parts. Also, to see Paddy who’s extremely strong and can be pretty intense as a soppy puppy dog made us laugh. Someone actually said…Daniel Waters who wrote Heathers who’s a friend of mine emailed me and said: ‘Loved The World’s End! My favorite special effect was Eddie Marsan’s smile.’ We wrote with people in mind. Absolutely!”
Pegg chimes in about the switch of roles as The World’s End sees Frost take on the role of the straight man for much of the film and Pegg’s Gary, the delinquent: “It was fun. I kind of selfishly decided I wanted to be more comic in this movie because after playing Nicholas Angel who is like the most humorless character I’ve ever played I wanted to do a character who was the opposite and be very comically dynamic and very pro active. Where as before my characters were very reactive….Nick’s character at least for the first part of the movie is very reactive to Gary and it felt like a fun thing for us to do. It’s Andy looking at Gary and a lot of his dramatic moments and comedic moments come from his response to Gary so it was fun.”
Frost: “I think also we’re quite aware that we’d hate for people to get bored of it. Of us. We have a natural chemistry but we don’t think about it. We never work on it. It just is. So for people to get bored of that would be fairly, fairly upsetting. And also, we are actors so the chance to play anything other than yourself is what we do. That’s what our job is. If I have to play a straight man here or a ballet dance or a fugitive…that’s part of the joy of being an actor. You get to be a lot of different people, you know?”
Pegg closes the discussion with some thoughts about what makes each film unique: “These films are like an evolutionary process. They’re not interchangeable and couldn’t have been done in a different sequence….like we couldn’t have made The World’s End first. Not least because we didn’t have the life experience or the film experience. We wouldn’t have been given that amount of budget either. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End all occurred at specific points of our lives and at specific points of our personal growth. We learned a lot as we went and they’ll only ever be in the order they’re in. They reflect where we were at the time of each one. It’s interesting looking back and seeing each one as a little kind of time capsule of our lives at the time. Nick and I were probably a little more like Shaun and Ed when we made Shaun of the Dead….”
Pegg is quick to point out, however: “I was never, ever like Nicholas Angel. That was pure acting! Similarly with The World’s End we were all turning 40 and when we had the idea in 2006, I’m glad we didn’t try and write it then because it took us turning 40 to really get an idea of what we wanted the film to be about which was a mid-life crisis movie. It’s like a mid-life crisis/quest movie as much as it is a science fiction film.”
Wright finishes Pegg’s thought: “A mid-life galactic crisis.”
And that’s The World’s End in a nutshell.