Universal Pictures’ The World’s End made quite a splash at Comic-Con this year. Yesterday morning I attended a breakfast event with Simon Pegg (Edgar Wright and Nick Frost were also in attendance – but that’s for another article). I was lucky enough that my table only had two other journos at it, so we all got more than enough chances to ask questions that actually interested us. Aside from Pegg’s thoughtful musings on The World’s End, I also got an incredibly candid response from him when we discussed the zombie genre in general.
In theaters August 23, “20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King, a 40-year old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their home town and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub, The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s. Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worries.” The new film from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz director Edgar Wright’s also stars Nick Frost, Rosamund Pike, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan.
How’s Comic-Con been for you?
It’s been fabulous but it’s been work. We don’t get to experience it like convention goers anymore, we don’t get to go to panels. I managed to get out on the floor dressed as Boba Fett yesterday for a bit, but I can’t really interact with anyone. Unfortunately we have to forego that a bit because of our position. This is very much the nexus of our following so it’s very difficult to get around with any amount of speed. The people are wonderful, but if you want to get anywhere – it’s difficult. But that’s a first world problem, not a complaint.
When the synopsis for this film came out, I initially thought of Stephen King. Something about it seemed very “It” to me. Obviously this is more sci-fi and more British, but was that an initial inspiration?
It was a definitely a literary influence rather than a filmic one, but it was more authors like John Wyndham and John Christopher and that kind of social science fiction. Bradbury, Huxley, that kind of thing. Post-war social science fiction about paranoia and control. But the whole thing came about from Edgar and I going back to our home town during Hot Fuzz and that strange sense of ennui you get when everything is immediately very familiar, yet very alien.
Yesterday you mentioned you could see an alternate reality where you could see yourself turning out like your character. Do you think this movie could scare people off from living in the past?
I don’t know. If anyone sees themselves in Gary King maybe it will give them a wake-up call of some kind. It’s a cautionary tale. There are serious things at work here, the film is funny but it’s also about how selfish addictive people are and how much of an illness is and how it’s dangerous to rely too much on nostalgia, that it might indicate that there’s something wrong with your present. The idea of the relative merits of extended adolescence. So if you recognize yourself in Gary, then I’d be f*cking worried!
Do you think the fact that your movies with Edgar don’t pander to their audience is one of the reasons they still actually connect with their audience? It’s not just a hall of mirrors where you’re just referencing old times like the characters in the film?
I think because we are fans and have an understanding of cinema and have an understanding of being fans, we try and focus inwards all the time and make films for ourselves. Not in a selfish way, but trying to use ourselves as the gauge, what we would stand for and what we would like. These three films we made them for ourselves and just trusted that instinct to apply to other people. Our absolute core audience are the people who get it all. I would much rather change 10 people’s lives than lightly please a million people.
When Shaun Of The Dead came out, there hadn’t been a zombie film recently, which now seems inconceivable. Are there any other moribund horror sub-genres you’d like to see revived?
I’d like to see the Zombie film revived [laughs]! Because I ain’t seen one for many, many years. At the very point that Shaun Of The Dead came out, Zack Snyder’s Dawn Of The Dead came out. And I wish that film hadn’t been called Dawn Of The Dead. It’s a good film, it’s its own thing. The guy from “Modern Family” is in it [Ty Burrell] and he has a great line when someone asks “are they dead?” And he replies, “Deadish.” They should have called that film Deadish and it would have been its own thing. But naming it after the greatest zombie film ever made, in my opinion, it stole something and re-designed it in a way that completely went against what made Romero’s zombie films great. The idea that the zombies were ineffectual was brilliant and genius. And they were also sympathetic, you were able to spend screen time with them and see who they were and it was brilliant. Suddenly they’re running around, screaming like raptors and it takes away everything that was subtle about it.
Zack Snyder made a very effective movie, it’s very exciting. But if had just been given a new designation, “neo zombies” or “super zombies.” World War Z was just “ants” for me.