All three of the movies in the Cornetto trilogy very much deal with Pegg and Frost’s relationship with one another. Their friendship.
But in three very different stages.
"Shaun of the Dead" is like an old relationship going south. Where it’s like, "I kind of need to get rid of my best friend." "Hot Fuzz" is like a first date, and this one is like post-divorce. "Aw, they broke up a long time ago, and there’s bad blood.” Or one remembers and the other one doesn't.
They're all very much love stories with different difficulties and complexities. How did that aspect of the trilogy come about? Obviously the three of you remained very close throughout making them.
I think it’s more obvious in "Shaun" and "World’s End." If you take away the cops element in "Hot Fuzz," it's about somebody who’s obsessed with work and somebody who's obsessed with fantasy, and then shows how the two can meet somewhere in the middle. In this one, it’s about personal demons and old friends trying to work through issues. I think a lot of people have somebody in their life like Gary -- someone that you were close to when you were younger that you had to cut off, or it could be a family member.
Aside from our own personal experiences, you think about bands sometimes because you always hear stories. When a band splits up, there’s always been a rift between two people who were formerly best friends and then something really bad happens. Then that was that. You'd think, "I wonder why they broke up." Then you’d hear stories and, like, the lead singer broke into the guitarists house and stole his TV and sold it for drugs. So that’s the end of that band. Or the story of Syd Barrett in Pink Floyd and him being the star of that and then having drug problems and them having to let him go. So then there's this heartbreaking story in the 70s that when Pink Floyd had then gone on and become very, very successful without him that, seven years later, he turns up at a recording session and they don't recognize him anymore. There's this story of Syd Barrett turning up at EMI, bald, and saying, "What do you want me to play?" The other band members were crying because they felt guilty they had to let him go.
So we think about things like that, but a lot of this one is from personal experience. Even a character like Gary, me and Simon had a lot of compassion for him because sometimes for characters you take your worst aspects and imagine what you could be like if you let some of your darker side take over.
I thought that was one of the more remarkable things about the movie. You see this guy at the beginning of the movie, and you don’t really like him. Audiences can have trouble with these kind of obnoxious protagonists, but you and Simon were able to pull this character out of it and get us rooting for him by the end.
We wanted him to be OK. His mission in the movie is an extremely wrong-headed one, and if anything, it's a cautionary tale. Nostalgia is a dangerous thing because you should not try to turn back the clock. There's nothing to be gained by going backwards. Once that starts to happen, and especially when booze becomes involved, you're on a sort of hellish spiral. So they sort of end up in the depths of the Earth, and how are our heroes going to get out of this? In a way, that’s the thing. Our hero's on a spiral and you want him to get out of it and get back up.
It's such a tougher challenge when you create a character who is unlikable because when they get to that point, some people would just want them to stay down there.
You see a lot of the man-child comedies, and even the funny ones have a glorification of that. If there’s a film about, "Hey! He's a big kid!" Then in the second act he has to learn to grow up, but also, "You know what? It's OK to be a big kid." I think in this one we created a situation where there’s no way back. There’s no way to return to the status quo, and we’re going to have an ending where we change the entire planet forever.
In your previous films, you really work to foreshadow what’s to come early on in each film. Now, though, you've got a devoted fan following will will be on the lookout for these tips. They're an incredibly passionate group. A friend of mine, Andrew Gernigin, drove more than four hours to get to a theater showing "Hot Fuzz" on its opening weekend. He knew how important it was for the film to make money in order for you to keep making films at all, and he goes to maybe two films a year. So you've got these type of fans who are that devoted to your films. Does this alter your approach to making them at all?
We like doing that. I think on this one there is a lot of stuff going on in the first half hour. A couple things are fairly obvious and others are super subtle. A lot of people who've seen it twice, are like, "Oh! I totally spotted things. Now I know where the characters are going to end up."
Well, it's always easier the second time.
In a way, I know people have caught onto that so in this one the setups are more subtle, which is a dangerous balancing act. You can enjoy it completely at surface level, but there are lots of other slight setups. Without giving anything away, in the first bit of voiceover, Martin Freeman's character tells you something that’s going to happen to him in the end. Somebody who worked on the movie, who had seen the movie about 10 times, was at a Q&A, and he said, "I can’t believe I didn't see that. They literally say what’s going to happen to him!" The people reading this obviously haven’t seen it yet, but all of the pubs have relevance to what’s going to happen in that scene. They're like tarot cards. The whole idea is the names. The most obvious being The World's End. On top of that, the prologue is basically a prophecy of what’s going to happen later, like beat for beat. I like this idea of a prophecy foretold. Everything that happens the first night is kind of going to happen 20 years later. I really like doing that stuff. Maybe in this one it's a bit more subtle in "Shaun" or "Hot Fuzz," but maybe that’s because fans are on to this and you want it to have deeper cuts. I would hope the people who enjoy the film see it more than once because you'll totally enjoy it on the first watch, but you'll get so other things out of it a second time. In fact, critics who have seen it have said, "Oh, I totally spotted that line the second time around." It’s a nice thing.
I can only go on when I would watch movies that then became my favorite movies. Like "Raising Arizona" is a movie that I saw and as soon as I finished watching it, I knew I loved it, and I thought, "I think there’s more to see in that movie. I need to watch it again." [The] horror movie "Don’t Look Now" is one of my favorite films. One of the reasons is that when you watch it the second time all of the omens are there for what's going to happen to these characters and it makes it even more terrifying, knowing the fates. "Raising Arizona" has so many omens in the first half hour that keep occurring throughout. So I was thinking about something we've done in all of the movies. There's that thing in "Shaun of the Dead" where Nick Frost explains the plot of the film ahead of time. So we sort of wanted to do that, but we wanted to spread it around so that there's lots of little key [clues]. It’s good. I like that. Hopefully it's the gift that keeps on giving.
Is there anything you can say about "Ant-Man" or any plans you have to reunite with these guys [Pegg and Frost] now that the Cornetto trilogy has been completed?
I'd love to, but there’s not much to say about "Ant-Man" because I basically haven’t started it yet. But I would love to do another film with Simon and Nick, so I hope your friend goes and sees the movie lots of times so we can make another one.
"The World's End" hits theaters Friday.