Interview: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Edgar Wright at ‘The World’s End’

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CHICAGO – Good things come in “threes.” It’s the new film, “The World’s End,” the third of the infamous “Cornetto Trilogy” – after “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” – and there are the “three” that made it all happen. It’s the actors and co-creators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, along with director/writer Edgar Wright.

The “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” is a jokey reference to England’s Cornetto Ice Cream, with their three “flavours” (the British spelling) representing the three films that Frost, Pegg and Wright have teamed up on. “Shaun of the Dead,” the zombie comedy, gets red strawberry, “Hot Fuzz” is the original blue Cornetto flavour, naturally, and the new film – “The World’s End” – gets green mint chocolate chip to honor the alien-like sc-fi elements of the story.

Nick Frost, Simon Pegg
Serious Business: The Comic Stylings of Nick Frost (left) and Simon Pegg in ‘The World’s End’
Photo credit: Focus Features

To describe anything further about the film would ruin it’s true pleasure, and these three comic geniuses will have none of that. Edgar Wright is a revered cult director, who has also had his hand in the British TV show “Spaced” (featuring Pegg and Frost), “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” (co-wrote and directed) and “The Adventures of Tintin” (co-wrote). Apart from the Trilogy, Nick Frost has done character roles in “Kinky Boots” and “Attack the Block.” Simon Pegg is practically a superstar, having added the iconic role of Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the Star Trek reboot, besides his comic flavourings in the Trilogy – he co-wrote all three films with Edgar Wright.

HollywoodChicago.com got the rare privilege to interview the Tremendous Three together, and in the spirit of the Cornetto Trilogy, the chat was free-wheeling, and filled with pop culture references. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

HollywoodChicago.com: Simon, in the Cornetto Trilogy, you generally play characters that are seeking some sort of redemption. What kind of redemption do you think Gary is really looking for in ‘The World’s End’?

Simon Pegg: Personally he might be beyond redemption – what he is looking for is closure. I think his life hasn’t turned out like he wanted it to, so the one thing he can complete is the ‘Golden Mile’ of pub crawls. It’s at the expense of everything, his own personal safety, his friends and the planet. That very much is the behavior of an addict. He doesn’t value his own life enough to think he needs redemption.

Edgar Wright: He does want to mean something again. Even for only for one night he wants to mean something to his friends.

Pegg: And himself. He’s on a suicide mission, really. As far as Gary is concerned, there is no tomorrow. He doesn’t plan on coming back. He has no plans for the day after, it’s just about that night, that is why it is so incumbent upon him to complete it. He sees the interruption in the pub crawl as a way of carrying on, because at that point when they think it’s over, he realizes with some glee that it isn’t that the town has changed or he’s getting old, it’s that this f**king weird thing is happening and they have to complete the crawl to save themselves. In his own twisted logic, lying to himself and his friends, he convinces them to finish that pub crawl. It’s a measure of his elation.

Wright: We love the idea that the film is essentially about a man who runs away from an intervention, and runs into a cosmic intervention. [laughs]

HollywoodChicago.com: There is a humanism in the films that you do together, and friendship is a big part of it. How do you arrive at the humanism for your characters, and how do you get them beyond just being cardboard cut-outs or comic stereotypes?

Wright: We see with Gary in the film that there are definitely people in your life that you have to cut off or leave behind. But also with him there is a sense that that his old friends want to save him from rock bottom – even though it’s in an extremely unlikely way. I think too many comedies write characters that have no empathy. The Gary King character in a different movie would be the supporting character who is the butt of all jokes, or the party animal.

Pegg: It’s becomes Matthew McConaughey in ‘Dazed and Confused,’ who is like Fonzie in ‘Happy Days.’

Wright: Well, Paul LeMat in ‘American Graffiti’ is the Fonz. But the interesting thing about ‘Happy Days,’ is that the Fonz character, who should be darker and sad because he’s the guy who peaked at 18 years old, suddenly becomes the focus of that show. This eventually leads to a Saturday morning cartoon in which the Fonz goes time traveling with a cartoon dog.

Pegg: It’s obvious.

Wright: The important thing is to always have sympathy for the characters, even like Nicholas Angel [Pegg’s ‘Hot Fuzz’ character], he’s an extremely unlikely hero because he’s humorless stuffed shirt, yet we feel sympathy with him because when you put him in a situation in which he’s unfairly treated, you’re going to be on his side. In the U.K., there is nothing less cool than being a cop. So in formulating Nicholas Angel, we wanted the least likely hero – and that was a British cop.

Shaun [of the Dead] is a likable character because of Simon’s performance, but Shaun himself is a sad sack who works in an electronics store, and has never done anything with his life, and can’t seem to get out of that funk. So give that guy a chance to be a hero, even if it’s only fifteen minutes – even if he f**ks up, the point of the movie is, ‘well, at least he made the effort.’

Edgar Wright, Martin Freeman
Edgar Wright (left) Directs Cast Member Martin Freeman in ‘The World’s End’
Photo credit: Focus Features

HollywoodChicago.com: Nick, I recently saw the film ‘Kinky Boots…

Nick Frost: Sure, so you were the only one…

Wright: What do you mean? It’s now a major Broadway musical. [laughs]

HollywoodChicago.com: You play a working man character very well, away from your usual comic persona. In ‘The World’s End,’ you’re also doing more of a character performance. In opposition to being a comic actor, what do you like about creating characters when something different is called for?

Frost: That’s what my job is…bottom line, that’s what I’m asked to do. I never trained as an actor and never trained to be ‘funny,’ that’s just who I am. So if I have a chance to play against that type, is a treat and a challenge. I like to think of myself as a gray matter – touch wood – that can inhabit a lot of people. People don’t think I’ve been in half the things I have been in. Which is a double edged sword – I do wince occasionally about not being noticed.

HollywoodChicago.com: What keeps your friendships fresh after all these years, and what keeps your day-to-day life grounded?

Frost: To comment about your earlier statement about friendship, we stick together as a three, because with all friendships you make a decision – is it worth it or not in the long term? That thought may happen when you’re 16 years old, maybe 36, maybe you never have to answer that question. I’m from a generation that for me, friends were more important than my family, because I never really had great family, but I always had great friends. That’s why Simon and Edgar are so important to me. They are my family, along with other friends I consider family.

As far as lifestyles, I’ve known Simon for over 20 years, I’ve known Edgar for 17 years – and apart from the fact that we all live in giant mansions [laughs], are lives are the same and our friends are the same. We’re surrounded by good mates that we’ve known for years and years. Everything changes around us, but we’ve essentially stayed the same.

Wright: For the record, we don’t live in Downton Abbey.

Pegg: As far as celebrity, we don’t willfully engage in it. If you live in Hollywood, where there are a lot of celebrities and a lot of celebrity things happen, it’s almost like a different world. I live in Hertfordshire, I don’t have to worry about going to the shop to get a paper, because nobody gives a shit. You make that decision when you’re an actor that has done some popular, successful things. Do I want to go to that launch for the Hugo Boss new suit? Do I want to go to a TV launch? If you start embracing that, that’s when you start to have a problem.

Frost: When I look at Hollywood, with the endless award ceremonies, the self congratulation and the narcissism, it feels like a closed shop in a way. It sustains itself with its own self importance.

Wright: Isn’t there an ‘Awards Awards’?

Frost: Now it’s more important what you do before the awards, before you walk into the f**king awards.

Pegg: Who are you wearing? Do they have Medical Awards? ‘Best Cure for Cancer’?

Wright: We are fairly fortunate with these movies, they always say to write what you know, and we don’t know about fighting rebels, but we know everything else in this film. On the surface level, the three films are true Trojan Horses – there is a zombie movie, an action movie and a sci-fi movie – and there are the genre elements that people see in the trailer, ‘that looks cool, they’re fighting rebels,’ but all the emotional marks and payoffs should be the real twist. And that is the stuff that comes from personal experience.

The best comedies come from painful experiences, sometimes when we’re writing these films they turn out to be therapeutic. There are elements in these movies that we never talk about in real life.

Frost: I call it putting the ‘fun’ back in funeral.

Nick Frost, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
The Holy Three of the Cornetto Trilogy: Nick Frost, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg of ‘The World’s End’
Photo credit: Patrick McDonald for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com: How does it make you feel when the cyber-world anticipates a ‘Edgar Wright Project’? Is this a fun notion or extra pressure to deliver what you do? And can we anticipate a Terminator-like creature to rise from the data input from these anticipations?

Wright: That is the most terrifying notion I’ve ever heard.

Pegg: EdgarBot.

Wright: Now I know I will be attacked by a SpamBot in my dreams. What you have to remember about internet data is that it is a small percentage of both people and overall users online.

Pegg: It’s a small but very loud minority.

Wright: For every one person that says, ‘I can’t wait for Ant-Man,’ there are 99 people who say, ‘who’s Ant-Man?’ That’s the general public. Twitter, the internet, is only a tiny percentage of the audience. By the end of the day, ‘The World’s End’ has to work as a film in its own right, for persons who have never seen ‘Shaun of the Dead’ or ‘Hot Fuzz.’

We’ve met folks who have watched only this one and enjoyed it. And that’s great, and that’s exactly how it should be, because they all have to stand alone. Whether you know me, or these two, or know what else they’ve been in, it’s got to work in its own right. Some people have been asking about the lack of references to the other films in ‘The World’s End.’ Well, you can’t go around high-fiving each other and doing a victory lap. [laughs]

HollywoodChicago.com: Can we argue that you take these comedies very seriously?

Pegg: They are very serious films, because they deal with things that are very serious to us. The concerns in the movies are far more serious than the trappings. The trappings are very funny because I feel that comedy can be a force for change as long as it doesn’t restore everything at the end. Comedy is reactionary if it doesn’t follow through on its threats.

Frost: They’re not asking ‘who is Ant-Man?’ they’re asking ‘who are you casting as Ant-Man?’

’The World’s End’ opens everywhere on August 23rd. Featuring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Rosamund Pike. Written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Directed by Edgar Wright. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2013 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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