It began as a throwaway joke during the promotional tour for Hot Fuzz, the second film directed by Edgar Wright, produced by Nira Park, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and written by Wright and Pegg. Cornetto ice cream was a prop in both Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, and (according to Wright), “someone pointed out the Cornetto connection, and asked if we were going to make a trilogy. And I said yes, it’s going to be like Kieslowski’s Three Colors, but three flavors. So it was a silly joke in an interview that got recycled and repeated.” And thus we have the third film of the “Cornetto trilogy,” The World’s End, which finds estranged friends Pegg and Frost (along with three of their mates) going on a pub crawl in their hometown in the midst of — well, that much is a bit of a spoiler. I talked to Pegg and Frost about those spoilers, the genesis of the story, and their place within the canon of great comedy teams during the film’s recent press junket; the pair were doing interviews in a room at the swanky Waldorf-Astoria, stretched out on expensive couches, clad in T-shirts and sneakers, the very portrait of chummy relaxation.
FLAVORWIRE: It’s such a pleasure to meet you guys.
FROST: (Grinning) Well, that might change in the next few minutes.
I loved the movie — obviously for the broad comedy and sci-fi elements, but also for the sensitive way it handles the nature of adult friendships. I wonder how much that aspect of the film was inspired by your own experiences as you’ve gotten older and become more successful?
PEGG: Yeah, there’s definitely a degree of that there, particularly for myself and Edgar, as writers of the movie. Edgar’s experienced a strange sense of… I don’t know, ennui I guess, when he went back to Wales to make Hot Fuzz, the town where he grew up. And I commented that it was kind of like Body Snatchers because everything was all very familiar, but it all felt very different, and that became kind of the genesis of the whole movie, in a way. For me, I’d had a few experiences meeting up with old friends and that, the odd kind of — I’d had quite positive experiences of having an evening fueled entirely by nostalgia, but that being all we had, but fortunately, we never tried to make anything else. We had a lovely reunion and then didn’t see each other again. But yeah, there’s been a whole series of events which have contributed to this movie; our passing 40 and our own sort of senses of self and where we’re from.
FROST: We grew up together; we’ve been friends for 20 years, so there are people that we, ten years ago, were massively close to that you thought, “This will never not be like this.” Now we haven’t seen them for ten years. I would argue that it’s not about becoming successful; it’s about growing up and having a family and a partner and a kid and responsibility. And I think, unlike Simon and Edgar, if I haven’t seen someone for ten years, there’s probably a reason I haven’t seen them for ten years. You know, if it was going to happen, it would’ve happened, ya know? I think I’m very lucky that I have my group of mates, and it’s probably a horribly closed-off mindset I have, but I think I’m done. I’m happy. That’s not to say that people I meet at work — I think, “God, you’re fantastic,” but it just drifts away.
That’s probably a great gauge of how quick time goes when you get older, too. There’s a festival near where I live and Primal Scream were playing. I was standing, waiting for my wife to come out from the bathroom when this guy, a paramedic, came up, a little paramedic, smiling. [He acts it out.] Doing that to me. “Eh?” I was like, “What the fuck?” It was, like, his ID card and I was looking at it and I realized, fucking hell, Stuart Nichols! I hadn’t seen him since I was 15! And I’m in that zone, we’re in that zone now where it’s like, there’s a quarter of a century I didn’t see you. And it was lovely for five minutes, and then I thought, “See you later. That was enough for me.”
PEGG: It blows my mind to think that there’s the same distance between [their characters] Gary Prime and Andy Prime and the original Gary and Andy as there is between me and Nick now, me and Nick when we met. We’re 20 years between our first meeting and so we were those guys back then.
FROST: I remember being a ten-year-old boy and being out with my dad buying rugby boots for me and we bumped into some bloke — I can’t remember what his name was now — and he went, and my dad said, “I haven’t seen him for 35 years!” And as a kid, I remember thinking, “You fucking old cunt.” But now, I can tell you a story about not seeing Stuart Nichols for 25 years!
PEGG: Now you’re an old cunt!
FROST: Now I’m an old cunt, yeah!
One of the things that sort of binds the film to Hot Fuzz is that they’re both set in these lovely little villages that cannot be trusted. Simon, I understand the town you’re from is fairly small, so I wondered if that common theme draws from your experience of coming from places like these.
PEGG: I think for both me and Edgar, yeah. Even with Shaun of the Dead, it was a small part of London. It wasn’t the London that you see in a lot of movies that has red buses — well, we did have a red bus, but it was a single-decker. It wasn’t like postcard London; it was little London, and similarly Wells, in Somerset, where we shot Hot Fuzz, was where Edgar grew up, and the garden cities that we shot The World’s End in are similar to the market town I grew up in as well, this kind of “little England” that we don’t often see cinematically. And yeah, I guess that feeds in very much to what we do because we’ve come from those places, and returning to those places now is always a very strange experience because you do feel at once home and away.
It’s a strange thing: you realize home is a time; it’s not a place. You can’t go home because you can’t go back in time, so even if you go back to where you were born, it isn’t home anymore. Home, if you’re completely happy and okay with the world, home is where you are right now. And so, yeah, that’s always been an interesting thing for us, and we wanted specifically for this film to be set in what’s called a garden city, which are these sort of designed towns that cropped up sort of the turn of the century —
FROST: 1906, I think.
PEGG: Yeah. They were built as dormitories of London, places where people could commute from, and when you look at them from above, they’re like weird little crop circles. We liked that idea, that an alien invasion could take place in one of these towns because it’s almost like a shit’s landed and imprinted a town, a circuit board, prints a circuit board.