Edgar Wright needs no introduction at San Diego Comic-Con – writing and directing the infectiously entertaining zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead, the hilarious action movie send-up Hot Fuzz, and the groundbreaking manga adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World ensures that he will never have to buy another drink in the Gaslamp Quarter.
And it’s appropriate to talk about libations considering that his latest film, The World’s End, concerns a group of five male friends reuniting to complete an epic pub crawl that concludes at the titular establishment. As they imbibe, however, they realize that none of them are quite the same people they were twenty years earlier…and neither are the locals, who begin to exhibit some very threatening behavior.
We grabbed a seat at the SDCC roundtable for The World’s End featuring Wright, co-writer and star Simon Pegg,and star Nick Frost to discuss the movie and its place in a loose trilogy along with Shaun and Fuzz. Here are twelve significant impressions we gleaned from the conversation. (Why twelve? It’s the number of pubs in the movie!)
12 Things We Learned at The World’s End Press Conference:
1. The pub crawl in The World’s End is inspired by real life.
The movie’s “Golden Mile” is based upon a similar neighborhood in Wright’s hometown, where he and his friends attempted a tour of 15 pubs at the age of 19 (remember, the drinking age in Europe is lower than it is in the States).
2. Edgar Wright is a lightweight!
Still, Wright has never finished the entire booze cruise, once stumbling to his then-girlfriend’s house and surprising her bewildered mother, and flaming out again several years later – an experience that convinced him that trying to revisit the past was folly.
3. The stars would rather stay put.
Nick Frost said that he preferred sitting in a single bar to the ambulatory adventures of a pub crawl: “You’re either drinking or doing cardio,” he said. Simon Pegg has been a teetotaler for several years.
4. Nobody had beer in their pint glasses.
A special cream-soda like mixture of water and sugary syrup was used to create the many, many pints consumed in the film. There was also a “foam wrangler” on set who topped off glasses with an authentic-looking head between takes. Frost remarked that it tasted good, and eventually he began to feel a buzz via the placebo effect – although that also could have something to do with the shots of Sambuca, which he claimed were real.
5. The World’s End is all about the maturation of its creators.
Early accounts have noted that The World’s End has a slightly darker, more somber tone than the previous films in the loose “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy. The five friends feel as alienated from each other as they do from their former stomping grounds, said Pegg. The movie drives this point home by literally interpreting that feeling through its otherworldly antagonists.
6. Wright is creeped out by androids, body manipulation.
The movie’s villains owe a debt to Wright’s childhood phobia of lifelike robot replicants from films like Westworld and The Stepford Wives, in addition to the unease he felt about the easily-detached head or limbs of his action figures.
7. Wright is still crossing genre wires.
Wright has described The World’s End as a “social science fiction movie,” and one that builds upon what he’s learned from Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and especially Scott Pilgrim about making action films. In fact, he brought along two principal crew members from Scott Pilgrim – cinematographer Bill Pope and stunt choreographer Brad Allan – whose technical chops he admired and wanted to utilize again.
8. The end of the world is more personal than you think.
The trio was determined to make the apocalypse resonate on a individual level. The potential loss of loved ones, for instance, is the worst part of a traumatic experience. Pegg echoed this viewpoint when discussing his character, Gary King, and how the most apocalyptic event in Gary’s life was having his happiness slowly taken away, to the point where he must muster his old mates for an ill-advised re-creation of their younger days.
9. There is a way to make all this funny…
Despite the scary apocalyptic elements and the serious themes, the film’s comedy came naturally to the trio, who have been working together since their time on the late-90s British sitcom Spaced. Wright acknowledged that alcohol was a device that gave permission for these middle-aged men to have an adventure while still being “a cautionary tale about looking back.”
10. …and the funny is in the details.
Pegg confirmed that a lot of effort is put into in plotting each and every beat of the script – comedy is timing, after all – and that he and Wright typically leave no room for improvisation on the set. Tweaks of certain lines or reactions do make it through from rehearsals, however.
11. Friendship is not an island in a stream.
Though it’s tempting to read the “Three Flavours” films as an autobiographical construction of the three filmmakers’ personal and career arcs, they all emphasized that their relationship has evolved smoothly over the years. Wright’s purpose in telling this story, it seems, is to show how difficult it is to fuel a friendship with nostalgia alone, and that people constantly have to find new ways of moving themselves – and each other – forward in life.
12. We haven’t heard the last of this partnership.
The jokey references to the “trilogy” are largely a media construction, said Wright, though his U.K.-developed films have so far occupied the same “relative space.” He’d like to make a horror film, but not a comedic one – so we shouldn’t expect a feature-length version of Don’t anytime soon.
Pegg also reiterated his promise to keep making movies with Wright and Frost. But you can bank on future projects continuing to change the structure and dynamic of what the audience expects from this group. As Wright astutely observed: “People think they want the same thing again…but they really don’t.”
“The World’s End” is now playing in the U.K. and reaches American shores on August 23.