It all began with a salesman and couch potato battling zombies in “Shaun of the Dead,” then it was a hot shot cop paired with a naïve, small-town officer trying to solve a string of suspicious murders in “Hot Fuzz,” and now the Cornetto Trilogy comes to a close with the final installment, a beer laden romp called “The World’s End.”
Simon Pegg leads as Gary King. Back in high school, Gary was in his prime. Everyone knew and loved him, and he was absolutely brimming with confidence when he and his buddies made their first attempt at The Golden Mile, a pub-crawl consisting of 12 pints at 12 pubs in their hometown, Newton Haven. They never made it to the final pub, The World’s End, so over 20 years later, Gary decides it’s time to get the gang back together again and give it another go. Trouble is, his married and career-driven friends – Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Andrew (Nick Frost) – aren’t as gung-ho to relive their glory days, and even less so when they realize Newton Haven has changed quite a bit since high school.
It’s easy to get caught up in Frost and Pegg’s endlessly amusing on-screen personas, but on set, the duo is all business. “The World’s End” marks a fairly significant budget and production scale increase for Frost, Pegg, and director/co-writer Edgar Wright, but the team still abides by the practice of always challenging themselves to produce the best possible product with the resources they have and it shows.
Just like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” “The World’s End” is brimming with sharp writing, outrageously amusing scenarios, and the ideal degree of heart, and will likely leave you wanting to round up your own friends and indulge in a drink or two – or more. ShockYa had the privilege to sit down with Pegg and Frost to discuss how’d they fare in The Golden Mile, making “movie beer,” the balance between practical and digital effects, and much more. Read it all in the interview below and be sure to catch “The World’s End” in theaters today!
Have you ever had a Cornetto eating contest?
Nick Frost: Not a contest, but I have eaten many, many …
Simon Pegg: Is there such a thing?
There should be.
Frost: Who could eat the fastest one. It’d be, who’s that bloke on Coney Island? Joey Peanuts or something. He’d eat the most.
Pegg: Me and my daughter go on Cornetto raids. If my wife’s not looking, we sneak into the back fridge.
Frost: They do non-ice cream versions of Cornettos now.
What does that consist of?
Frost: It’s just the cone filled with the chocolate.
Pegg: It’s like cookie dough or like, the residual of something.
Frost: Joey Chestnuts! Joey Chestnuts is the hot dog guy!
Now you have a reason to make another trilogy.
Frost: The Joey Chestnut trilogy? [Laughs]
How about the beer? Can you guys actually do The Golden Mile?
Pegg: No, I don’t drink anymore, so I wouldn’t anyway, but I would have been hard pushed to drink 12 pints I think in an evening.
Frost: I tried 16 on Saturday.
Frost: I was absolutely a**holed.
Frost: Yeah! I mean, it was over three hours. [Laughs] I don’t go out at all very much. I have a child and a wife and my job is to look after them and to support them and to provide for them. So we’ve been doing this tour for a month and I got home on Thursday, and Saturday my wife said, ‘Why don’t you go meet your mate and have a few beers and I’ll meet you later?’ Because we’re getting rid of the kid tonight. And so I did, and I went out and had a few beers.
Pegg: And you got back after 16 pints and was completely useless.
Frost: Yeah, I met my mate Danny and had like eight pints in an hour and a half, and then I went to meet my wife and we had another five there.
Pegg: Chris drank five pints?
Frost: Yeah, she packs it in well.
When you’re drinking in the movie, what’s actually in the glasses?
Pegg: We charged the props department with creating an infinitely drinkable beer substitute, which they came up with a mix of water, burnt sugar, and cream soda for the head so that we can basically imbibe a lot of this stuff and stay conscious and workable. Even if we’d been drinking juice, the sugar would have been too much so it had to be water, so they had to come up with a way of making water look like beer.
Frost: There was a guy on set, before we ever did a take, and he had a jug with foam in it and one of those aerators you can buy to make cappuccino at home, and he’d just [mimics aerators noise], ‘Are we ready? Okay!’ And then he’d just spoon it on top.
I read in the production notes that you and Edgar include specific personal “obsessions” in these movies. Can you break those down for me? Do you maybe mean zombies, cops, and pub-crawls?
Pegg: The genre troupes we’ve adopted have been more like things that we understand that we can use as sort of vessels for what we’re really trying to say. The obsessions or the preoccupations that I think bubble to the surface in these films are all about having your identity lost to a larger, sort of homogenizing force and the idea of the perpetual adolescence, and the pros and cons of that kind of man child fantasy that a lot of guys have, the idea of friendship, the idea of romantic love, be it between men and women or guys, friends. It’s been called a bromance by the buzzword makers of this world. It’s weird because I think that the notion of male friendship is oddly in its infancy in social terms. It’s like people are suddenly okay with guys being affectionate towards each other.
Frost: But only to a certain level. Do you know what I mean? Now guys hug a bit, but it’s just like a little bump on the shoulder. It can’t be a proper lovely hug, you know?
Pegg: They have to maintain masculinity.
Frost: It’s like something Centurions would have done.
Unless it’s Ted. It’s cool to hug it out with a teddy bear.
Pegg: [Laughs] You could write about that film being a way of disarming a male companion by making him literally cuddly. I’m sure there’s a dissertation in there about masculinity and the teddy bear. If I was a film student I’d be on that right now!
Can you tell me about working on this set compared to “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz?” Based on what I see on screen, this feels like a bigger production. Did it feel that way to you while you were making it?
Pegg: Yes and no. Both the previous films we made for a specific budget and we had to work within that budget, and just because the budget of this one grew – and not by more than half, but it did grow – we were still fighting our resources and our time, and it still felt the same as when we made “Shaun of the Dead” in that we were walking uphill. And we kind of set those parameters for ourselves anyway because we’re more creative when we’re challenged. So it didn’t feel all that different to “Shaun of the Dead.” We just felt older and wiser.
Frost: There are more vehicles around. That’s how you know you have more money, when there are more vehicles around. There are more trucks. There’s more equipment. But the eye of it all, is exactly the same.
Pegg: My trailer on “Hot Fuzz” was bigger than the one I had on “The World’s End,” so it’s not like we’ve graduated to sort of hellatial trailers.
Frost: We took pay cuts to make this film. We are producers and we will do anything to get the film made, so if that’s what it takes, then that’s what it takes.
This film looks like a blast to make and I imagine you are all very close friends and have a good time together, so was there ever a time you had to get serious to nail a certain scene?
Pegg: We always have that.
Frost: All the time! We’re like that all the time. I think people just assume we piss around, mash up a Mars bar, and stick it down someone’s loo. Edgar, Simon and I all share a very, very defined, strong work ethic. When we’re on set, we’re there to make a film. With the ambition that we had on that shoot and the fact that we only got 12 weeks to make it, you can’t afford to piss around. That said, do we have a laugh between set ups? Of course we do! But when it comes to working, we’re there to work. Simon and I, our jobs aside from acting, we’re also responsible for the crew essentially. Edgar has a film to make and we – I’m trying to think of the American football terminology to use – we’re blockers, you know? We kind of make sure everything’s fine and he just comes along and does his sh*t.
Pegg: We were looking at the bloopers the other day and there’s about 10 minutes of bloopers from the film. It’s very funny and it’s us cracking up, but we realized that that was probably the only 10 minutes of it because if we get the giggles on set, it’s shut down immediately. We all turn our back on each other. It’s a glorious, joyous giggling that you get when that happens and occasionally, between the five of us, we’d all go. The scene when Nick has to drink five shots, that was very, very difficult to do and we had to really, really grow up and be serious because we weren’t getting it. Because Nick was always going, [mimics Nick drinking shots and the noise he makes] “Umph!” He must have ended up drinking about 20 gallons of water!
Frost: 50 or 60 shots.
Are there are cool examples of movie magic here? Something that looks absolutely ridiculous while you’re doing it on set, but in the final film, it’s legit and believable?
Pegg: Interestingly we were at pains to have a proper combination of physical and digital effects. Like, there’s a lot of animatronics in this movie and there’s a lot of stuff that our digital team at Double Negative did. There are things that were animatronic that are so good, we were worried that people would think they were digital. Like, the head of Greg’s character when it gets knocked off and it’s blinking and looking around on the floor, it looks digital because it’s so f*cking real. It was a brilliant piece of animatronic technology. When one of the twins had the arm legs on, they look kind of crazy, and they looked a bit bad, [laughs] but when you see them on screen they’re cool because they’re spinning and stuff and the digital boys get them doing cool stuff.
Frost: We used amputees as well. Tim [Baggaley] was the grim zombie in “Shaun of the Dead.” He’s back in this. You can make a prosthetic limb, which is then torn off! And people will assume that that’s CGI, but it isn’t. It’s physical.
Pegg: There was a stunt performer for Nadia who had one arm, and there’s a scene when she’s on top of Eddie and Rosamund [Pike] smashes her arm off, which is real, and then she smashes her head off, which is digital, and it just works so seamlessly well together. Our physical and digital boys were so in-tune that they came up with a really smart kind of aesthetic for the movie.
The World’s End opens nationwide on Friday, August 22, 2013.