Interview: Edgar Wright | THE WORLD'S END

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After speaking to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost Starburst had the distinct pleasure of acclaimed writer/director Edgar Wright's company. Here he spills his guts on everything from The World's End, the perils of filming outdoors in the UK and dismembering tiny plastic men...

Starburst: The World’s End feels like the most ambitious and bravest of the three. Did you always want to go out on such a literal bang with the trilogy?

Edgar: I think so. In all the three films we touch upon the idea of perpetual adolescence and the joys and the dangers of that and we wanted to do a film that was much more about that.

I liked the dynamic between Nick and Simon in the film, can you talk a little about how you wrote that relationship?

Shaun of the Dead is about a guy turning thirty and we felt like we had to be honest about the age of the actors. Simon and Nick are both husband’s and father’s and the thing I find in a lot of the American man-child comedies people pretend to be stoner flatmates forever and that’s not true, those guys are married, so I think what we thought was a good thing to do was to take five people, four of them who are grown up and then one guy stuck in his teenage years and wants to drag them all back. So me and 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 we never did the third Spaced. I think it would be extremely false to pretend to be 26 forever.

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 stern when he’s on the phone with the council and sometimes when I see him in a bad mood I think I want to see that Nick in a movie. He can be extremely severe and terrifying when he’s in a bad mood. But also the thing with the Gary character both me and Simon wanted to have this redemption for that that guy. I think everyone has someone like that in their lives. And there are elements of me and Simon in Gary so we do have sympathy for him.  We liked the idea that he’s going to attempt to bring them back down to his level. I think everybody has been through that experience, whether you’ve gone to a wedding or a school reunion, or gone back to your home town where it’s extremely bittersweet. 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 a lot of elements of that frank, raw nerve comedy that we wanted to get into because we’d been through it. But we also wanted to take someone who seemed so far from redemption and make him your galactic saviour.

The fight scenes are terrific, can you talk about them?

I think Simon saw Scott Pilgrim and saw all the twenty year olds, and thought “I want to do that” and I was like Ok! Let’s do it. What we wanted to make them feel like were quite intense brawls. The thing I’m really proud of is that the actors are really doing it. If you watch closely the camera never cuts away. That first fight the camera is on them the whole time and that’s because Brad Allen, who is the stunt co-ordinator, who worked with Jackie Chan’s team, came up with these fights. I wanted to do some action scenes that I hope feel different; there are no knives and no guns. It feels like a bar brawl which has become surreal and out of control.

It feels like more of a straightforward story than a reference fest, is that what you wanted to do?

We didn’t want to do movie references because I think we did that a lot in Spaced. Hot Fuzz is more of a meta film because they actually directly talk about the movies. 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. All of those things, the central theme of you can never go home again, perfectly fit in with the quiet invasion. The things that really inspired it, not specific films, but things like John Wyndham and obviously things like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Stepford Wives and John Christopher as well. There’s a lot of British sci-fi authors that through TV and film had a huge kind of effect on pretty much everything we watched growing up. Things like Doctor Who and Chocky. There’s a particular strain of British sci-fi that I felt was darker and would tackle global events through a very narrow focus. This is a small town but it has consequences over the whole planet. And a lot of the Quatermass films, I liked that aspect of it.

With the action, sci-fi and comedy in between what was the most challenging aspect for you?

Just shooting outside in Britain! Just the British weather, it’s always the British weather! It’s why you don’t get many films shot on location in the UK because it’s fucking freezing.  To do the big fighting scenes and special effects on location is really tough. There’s not a lot of green screen in the movie. We really are at all of those places. It was all really good but it makes for an intense shoot.

What were you looking for in your locations? Were you the first to shoot in Letchworth?

I think some other smaller things have been in Letchworth. Maybe it’s the first film shot in Welwyn Garden City. There used to be a studio in Welwyn Garden City. But the reason we went to Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City was because they both were the original garden cities and they both had architecture from the ’10s and ’20s and to me that gave it that British sci-fi vibe. Walking around there I was thinking “I’m getting a distinct John Wyndham vibe from this place” and that was great. And they’re relatively intact as well. The irony is that both Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City are both Quaker towns, they were designed to be dry, and they didn’t have enough bars so we had to fabricate some of the bars ourselves. I think people were a bit bemused.

Have you ever been on epic bar crawls in the past?

I have. I’m the idiot! When I was nineteen I tried to do it in my home town which is in Somerset, the same town where we shot Hot Fuzz. It had fifteen pubs and I tried to do it with my friends and I got through six of them and it got wild. It was like a very silly idea with a stupid outcome. It gnawed at me and I even wrote a film about it when I was 21. I wrote a film called Crawl, which was about teenagers on a pub crawl, and I never did anything with it. After Hot Fuzz I started thinking about it and maybe that’s just the first three minutes of the movie, maybe the movie is about the older guys trying to go back.

Music felt very integral to the rhythm of the film, Nick was a raver, Simon was a Goth, what were you?

I would like to think of myself as an indie kid but I don’t know if I was ever that cool. But I think around about the time when I was sixteen was when I started buying the NME. So up until that point it had been exclusively what was on the radio on top 40. I would listen to the top 40 and every now and then an indie song would break into it and it would seem quite dangerous in a way. I remember specifically Bruno Brooks saying “in at number 36 it’s Primal Scream with Loaded” and you go “what is this?” Obviously it stuck with me. What we tried to do with that soundtrack is that there were some of these hedonistic party anthems that have never gone away. Primal Scream’s Loaded was all over Glastonbury this weekend, you hear I’m Free by the Soup Dragons in shops and Step On has never gone away and we thought it would be great if Gary’s character would hear these things in the ether and think the party’s still happening. He’s taken the lyrics from I’m Free and used it as his design for life basically. With the Stone Roses reunions, you suddenly realise oh my god that’s twenty years ago? And that’s reflected in the age of the audience.

What do you hope people will take from the film?

I think if you have a Gary King in your life the movie is saying you should see if he’s ok.  Call him! In the film there’s a rift between Simon and Nick's characters. When you’ve fallen out with somebody, when you get back together sometimes it’s up to you to forgive them. It’s a very powerful thing. I had someone I had a major falling out with and it was kind of his fault but I felt like I should be the bigger man and think forget it. When you reconnect after years, it’s an extremely good feeling, so I would hope that the movie would be therapeutic and show you how to punch an alien invader’s head off.

Do you have a favourite scene in the film?

I like watching the fight scenes because I’m always very proud of what the actors manage to achieve. I think their choreography is great. What was nice about this film unlike Shaun where they’re zombies is that we actually designed the baddies, the blanks. Me and my brother basically designed them together and it was based on the idea of when we had action figures as kids we would take the heads off and the arms off and take a look at the sockets - the idea of dismembered action figures. Even the idea of it being blue inside was... It wasn’t going to be blood. I felt like there had been some committee meeting where it had been decided that all alien blood is green so I thought we’d go blue. So the reason it’s blue is because I wanted to make the actors feel like they were little kids. When I was at school I used to end every day with fountain pen ink all over my hands and by the time I’d walked home I’d wiped it all over my face. My image of school is that I’ve got inky hands and inky face. After the first fight I wanted to make the whole cast look like that so they would look like little kids again. I really like watching all those sequences. I like watching the last fifteen minutes as we only finished that a couple of weeks ago and I am very pleased with what we managed to production design wise. I like watching the end. It chokes me up as well.

What can you tell us about Ant-Man?

The honest answer is I can’t even wrap my head around it. It’s basically next but in the meantime thank you!

THE WORLD'S END is released in UK cinemas on 19th July.

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