Interview: Edgar Wright (The World’s End)

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By Simon Miraudo
July 24, 2013

Director Edgar Wright reunites with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for The World’s End, the final instalment of their ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ trilogy. Following on from previous instalments Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, it concerns a quintet of developmentally arrested forty-somethings eager to attempt the Golden Mile: a fabled pub crawl that will see them down a pint at twelve separate bars in their home town. But, upon returning to their old stomping ground, they discover that things have changed. Just as Shaun turned the zombie genre on its head, and Hot Fuzz had some fun with small-town cult movies, The World’s End gives us Wright’s take on the sci-fi invasion genre.

Check out Simon Miraudo’s review of The World’s End.

I spoke to Edgar about him and Simon concocting this story at the Sydney Airport baggage carousel, the danger of nostalgia, whether or not he’d work with Simon and Nick again – beyond the ‘Cornetto’ trilogy – as well as his upcoming Marvel superhero movie Ant-Man.

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SM: I’m curious how you and Simon approach scriptwriting. Has it been a matter of wanting to make a ‘zombie’ movie, or an ‘end of the world’ movie and working backwards from there, or starting with the characters and thinking of a suitable scenario to place them in?

EW: Somewhere between the two really. I think the genres are almost like Trojan horses to do the character comedy within. So on paper they’re a zombie movie, cop movie, and sci-fi movie. Then, what it’s really about are the characters. I think the two are just intertwined. It’s not like we write half an hour of a pub crawl comedy and think, ‘What should we do next?’ We like the idea of the metaphor of the genre elements being really key to the story.

SM: The World’s End was first discussed, at least publicly, last decade. Can you tell me a little bit about why it took a little while? Was it simply a case of scheduling, or was it difficult to crack this final story?

EW: I think it was also that we wanted to not do three in a row, and take a little break. We had the idea for the story, I remember, flying to Sydney from New Zealand, and I remember first discussing it with Simon at the baggage carousel at Sydney Airport. That was in 2007. Very quickly we had the idea for the story, though the third act was different. Over the years we would keep talking about it, with the idea we would do it. In a way it worked out great, because when we physically reunited to actually write the script in 2011, we had a lot more material because the film is about friends reuniting, and we were reuniting to write it.

SM: I find it really interesting that the lens of nostalgia here isn’t exactly rose-tinted; that there’s a bit of a danger in wanting things to go back to the way they were for the characters in the movie. Is that a concern you share? Do you worry about being too nostalgic?

EW: Yeah, I think it can be a dangerous thing. The moral of the story is you can never go home again. When one character tries to forcibly go backwards by emotionally blackmailing all his friends to go on this drinking night, and then trying to regress them all with alcohol, things go from bad to cataclysmic. So, definitely there’s an idea that nostalgia is the villain of the piece.

SM: I understand the name of the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ trilogy was initially a throwaway joke that’s grown in infamy over the years. Had you always plotted around the time of Shaun of the Dead, or at least hoped, to complete a trio of films with Simon and Nick, or was it just a happy coincidence?

EW: Not at all. It was just a coincidence. When we made Shaun of the Dead, we were just extremely thankful to make a movie. We didn’t have any thoughts beyond that movie and what would come next. It wasn’t until after Hot Fuzz that, when a journalist asked, “Oh, you’ve had Cornettos in two of your movies. Are you going to make it like a trilogy?” I joked it would be like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours trilogy, and this is the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto’ trilogy. That was a joke that stuck. But then, more seriously, we did start to think, “Well, maybe there is a way of not only making a third one, but making it thematically tie up the other two movies.”

SM: Do you now feel hamstrung by the expectations of this being a trilogy?

EW: Not at all.

SM: For instance, would you be open to collaborating with them again?

EW: I would collaborate with them again, but I think this is the end of this kind of chapter.

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SM: It’s almost, to the day, ten years since you finished shooting Shaun of the Dead. (NB: This interview was conducted July 17, 2013.)

EW: It’s actually today.

SM: Is it today?

EW: Yeah.

SM: Well, congratulations on your anniversary. Obviously you worked with Simon and Nick on Spaced prior to that. Can you tell me how your working relationship has changed, since you’ve all become more experienced and worked on different projects? Or is your relationship like an old, comfortable glove that you fit back into?

EW: Well, I think on this one actually, me and Simon probably concentrated the most of the three movies, because when we were doing Shaun and Hot Fuzz there were always other distractions. But with this, because we really wanted to make the film for this year and we were aware that Simon had a movie to go off and be in, we really knuckled down and concentrated on the script, and did nothing else for two months.

SM: Now that the trilogy comes to a close, everyone’s looking to what you’re attempting next. Your name has been attached to Ant-Man for some time, and that seems to be moving forward. What are you most excited about with that project?

EW: I think on a visual level alone it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to start doing that later this year. I actually made the decision to put that on the backburner so I can make this, because this became very sort of personal and we wanted to round off the trilogy. Ant-Man comes next, but my feeling is the later you film it, the better the special effects will be.

SM: Your name has been attached to a couple of other movies over the years: Collider and The Night Stalker. Are they on the still on the tentative plate for you?

EW: Yeah, they’re both sort of in the writing process at the moment.

SM: Is it true you also penned a musical, inspired by The Umbrellas of Cherbourg?

EW: Uhh, sort of. Not inspired by The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. No. I’m not sure where that came from.

SM: Right.

EW: I’ve written a musical of sorts, extremely different from other musicals.

SM: Okay. Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask if you – as a film fan – if you’ve seen anything recently that you’ve enjoyed. You’ve been flying around a lot. Anything you’ve caught on a plane that you’ve liked?

EW: Oh my God. That’s a good question. I tend not to like movies on planes anymore; I like to see films as big as I possibly can.

SM: Sometimes I find on a plane they get ‘scaled up’ a bit, because you’re trapped there.

EW: Yeah, I tend to watch bad films on a plane. What I tend to do is watch films I would never dream of watching otherwise. The films I really want to see I watch in the cinema.

The World’s End arrives in Australian cinemas August 1, 2013.

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