With The World's End rapidly approaching (to cinemas at least), Starburst caught up with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to discuss the movie, Pub-fu and trying not to laugh at Paddy Considine...
Starburst: Simon, you play Gary King in the film, a Sisters of Mercy fan. Can you tell me about your Goth phase?
Simon: I was very much a Goth from around 16-21. The big names for me at the time, Sisters of Mercy were obviously my favourite band, Bauhaus, The Cure, The March Violets, that kind of deal. A lot of hairspray, tight trousers, winkle pickers. That was the only thing about Gary I wouldn’t have worn, I wouldn’t have worn the docs. I would have worn very pointy, buckled boots and tighter jeans.
And Nick what was your phase?
Nick: I was a raver. And it stays. It’s never left me. Now my fashion is different obviously. But the music, I still listen to that a lot.
There’s a lot of nostalgia going on there.
Nick : Is it nostalgia if you’re still in to it?
No but that’s what was clever about it, that it questioned it.
Simon: Yeah. It was kind of nostalgic to go back and dress like that. I relished it. I never dyed my hair black when I was young for some reason I thought it might upset my mum. I don’t know why I didn’t do it. So to do it felt like I was putting something to bed that had been preying on my mind for twenty years.
Music choices must have been important then? Did you both have a lot of say in it?
Simon: Me and Edgar had a 200 song playlist that we were listening to during the writing process and certain songs rose above the others. Loaded was something that was integral to the story and the script and stuff like the Happy Mondays, Soup Dragons, The Stone Roses were things we were listening to. And stuff like Kylie – we wanted to bring the pop end in and St. Etienne, the more clubby stuff. The Beautiful South and The Sundays, we’re both big fans of The Sundays. All those tracks. We wanted the music to exist in a five year gap between 1987-1992. Specifically most of it between 88-91 so with the exception of Alabama Song by The Doors, it’s all in that period. It’s a mix tape, it’s Gary’s mix tape, that’s what it is.
Did you look at any specific films?
Simon: We watched It’s Always Fair Weather, the Gene Kelly musical, The Big Chill and Fandango but otherwise no. We decided not to do what we did with Hot Fuzz which was to watch a lot of films because we didn’t feel like we needed to learn any kind of language of cinema. We weren’t going to make any comments about science fiction or make any references to other films. Any references you may pick up on are unintentional or subconscious. There are no overt references in this film. Even films you could possibly apply it to being similar to like Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Stepford Wives…
Or Village of the Damned?
Simon: Well, we thought let’s try and come from a social science fiction angle and look at John Wyndham and The Midwich Cuckoos, Day of the Triffids etc. If there’s any influence there it’s probably a literary one but it’s certainly not a riff on anything. It’s a science fiction film but it’s not a comment on science fiction films.
Let’s talk about the action, what was it like to do the fight scenes and training?
Nick: It was fantastic! We got to work with Brad Allen who worked with Jackie Chan so you have the potential chance to impress someone who is impressed with Jackie Chain. We did about four weeks of rehearsal. We’d go in every day and we’d fight and hit bags and pads just to get us loose and limber. It was fantastic, I got to fight ten men at once!
Simon: Also we had an editor on set, Paul, he was there to edit the video assist, which is when you do a take it’s also go it on video so you can play it back and see what you shot as you can’t watch the film straight away as it has to be developed. Paul would edit the video assist together so we could see exactly how the fight was developing in case we needed a cut away or something. The fights in the film are very specifically filmed in one continuous shot apparently.
Nick: Also, the one thing I found while doing the “Pub Fu” with the stools is that if you’re having a fight normally with fists on camera you can cheat a lot, such as where you put the camera and how you sell the punch but with these things you couldn’t do it. There was too much gap and you’d pick it up so I kind of had to hit those men a lot for two days, eight or nine hours a day, and some are old grizzled Hungarian stuntmen but there were little ones too.
Simon: They’re all sado-masochists
Nick: I think they get paid by the nosebleed.
How about getting through all that liquid?
Simon: We told props very early on in the process we need a non-alcoholic fluid which we can drink a lot of that looks like lager but isn’t. So they concocted this brew of water and burnt sugar and cream soda which looks like lager and that which we drunk pints and gallons and gallons of but felt perfectly hydrated, our skin was good. But the shots were real!
Eddie Marsan is a bit of a newcomer to your gang and it’s brilliant to see him playing a comic role. He got a good reaction last night. What was it like having him in the gang?
Nick: It was fantastic. We had the best time on Snow White so at an early point in this I said “you should look at Eddie, he’s fantastic”.
Simon: Eddie is a master at playing bad guys. I mean he really is. He refers to himself as “rent a c-word Eddie Marsan” We loved the idea of him playing a simple, pathetic, lovable character and very early on after discussions Edgar and I were thinking Eddie was going to be Peter. Eddie was the only choice we ever had for Peter. He plays the role so beautifully. There’s a bit in the film when he’s listening to one of the characters droning on about something and he falls asleep because he’s so drunk. It’s pure Stan Laurel – he sort of wakes up and thinks ‘where am I?’ He’s brilliant.
Was it nice having the ensemble cast with you for all the filming?
Nick: Yeah, we laughed a lot you know, and just hung out. A lot of the time we just sit there and watch Paddy. Because Paddy left to his own devices will just dance around and say things inappropriately, and you just sit and you watch him.
Simon: Paddy’s got a terrible habit of talking right up until the point of action… so when action is called you’re left there just trying to digest what Paddy just said, trying not to laugh. And Martin Freeman is a dark horse. He likes to crack you up, he likes to make you laugh but he pretends he’s not doing it.
Nick: It also felt very supportive. We all have our moments in the film when we are angry or upset. It is proper acting; it’s not just goofing around and comedy. You do that thing after cut, where you’re thinking don’t cry and Eddie would come up and and then Martin would come up. That happened all the time and that makes you feel so comfortable.
Simon: Apart from the ball cupping…
Nick: The ball cupping is weird, I don’t know why Edgar started that... It’s a nice thing. To have a cast like we had, it felt special.
And Rosamund held her own as well.
Simon: Rosamund Pike, oh my god, what a star!
Nick: We were very protective over her
Simon: We used to give her penguin cuddles. When it was cold outside Rosamund would stand in the middle of all five of us and she’d turn round in circles and we’d sing a song!
Nick: hums the tune to The Magic Roundabout. We’d turn round and she’d turn round like a counter clock thing. That’s how they keep warm in the South Pole.
You mentioned It’s Always Fair Weather, and that’s one of the films that spring to mind whilst watching it. It’s very jolly, with song and dance numbers, but underneath it’s satirical and tense.
Simon: Yeah, those sequences are our dance numbers and they are very choreographed. Brad invented this Pub Fu thing and it’s not like a real pub fight as it’s more stylised. But it felt like in some respects that’s what the film was like. There’s a musical number in The Mermaid, he stops for a dance, and that film very much was an influence. Just that seething tension that exists…
Can you talk a little about the underlying issues in the film? You celebrate British culture but you also talk about the homogenization of it.
Simon: We just had this idea of this force that is trying to shape Earth into something it’s not in order to conform to a galactic idea of what the norm is. We saw parallels there with the high street pubs being taken over by chains and with coffee shops being taken over by Starbucks. This idea that it may make it better in some respects, it may make it more standardized and more comfortable even and make the prices similar but at the same time it’s taking away a certain individuality and whether that’s right to subdue that. In a way that’s a theme we’ve always had, whether it was the zombies or the NWA, but now on a galactic level it’s the network. We just had this idea about whether it’s right to force something to become better or that something should really become better by itself. And that’s the big argument in the end. If it’s forced it’s control, it’s not education or nurture, it’s aggressive.
Can you talk about any past, epic pub crawls you might have been on?
Nick: We’re not pub crawl kind of people to be honest, I think we’ve had one with Edgar years ago that lasted about three pints and we had to take him home. We had a pub crawl at your stag.
Simon: That was the last one we did
Nick: I think the sort of pub crawl I’d do now would be in a beautiful walled Spanish city and we’d stop and have some sherry and chorizo and move on.
Simon: I’d do a café crawl now. A nice bit of cake in each one and a cup of tea.
THE WORLD'S END is released in UK cinemas on 19th July.
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