Interview: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, 'The World's End'
I had the chance to participate in my first roundtable interview in late July when writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/actor Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost stopped in Austin on their "Last Call Tour." They met with press on a Saturday afternoon and did a Q&A at the Alamo Drafthouse's new Lakeline location that night (pictured above), all to celebrate their latest film together, The World's End.
In The World's End, a group of men in their forties are reunited by Gary (Pegg), a man who aims to be cool and is determined to take on "The Golden Mile" -- a pub run -- with his former schoolmates. The planned excursion will finish in the wee hours at the final pub, The World's End... if the group can make it that far.
To combat any nervousness I had, I re-watched some episodes of Spaced on Netflix before heading up to the Four Seasons Hotel. When I walked into the room where Pegg and Frost were sitting (Wright was running late), it felt somewhat similar to running into old friends. After seeing his bleak look in The World's End, I had worried Pegg was aging prematurely, but he looked perfectly fine that day in a polo shirt and glasses. Frost also wore specs with his dark, pearl-buttoned shirt.
Wright hurried in and apologized, and each member of the media got to ask one question. Here's mine (and warning, the answers may be slightly spoiler-y):
Slackerwood: Queen's "Don’t Stop Me" in Shaun of the Dead and The Sundays' "Here's Where the Story Ends" in The World's End both give a deeper meaning to the scenes in which they are played. What is your process for selecting songs for pivotal scenes? Did you have them in mind as you were writing?
Edgar Wright: Yeah, we wrote with -- we wrote with those songs playing. We had a much longer playlist, and then, very quickly, songs become like story points... even very very early on, you know exactly which song you want in the movie, like "Alabama Song" by The Doors.
"Whiskey Bar" -- just the lyrics of that song -- "Oh, show us the way to the next whiskey bar, don't ask why/If we don't find the way to the next whiskey bar, I tell you we must die." You know, like, straightaway, that's gotta be in that movie. Or some version of that (song) is -- and if we can afford The Doors, by God, we'll have it, then. (Laughter.) It's either The Doors or David Bowie. Okay, it's The Doors. Let's go with the Doors. Can't have Bowie, too expensive.
So, yeah, we wrote those things in, but like, you're absolutely right in that. Actually, if you even look at the soundtrack album, it's funny... just the song names alone are almost like DVD chapters, because they absolutely tell you what's going on.
You know, we used "Fool's Gold" by The Stone Roses, when Gary is thinking about drinking somebody else's beer. Rock bottom number one is you're gonna drink a stranger's beer that's not your own. That's fool's gold right there, you know.
So we like this idea of having songs that are very prescriptive. You know, even the songs that Gary has on his mix tape, all these hedonistic party songs like "I'm Free (to Do What I Want Any Old Time)." He listened to that when he was 18 and he still listens to that at 40, because he wants to believe in it.
Nick Frost: A credo.
Simon Pegg: He quotes directly from three of those songs. You know, he’s -- to the point that when he's suggesting that Andy tear the head off one of the blanks, he says, "Twist the melon, man," which is a line from "Step On" by Happy Mondays, which is one of the songs that's used.
So you know -- that's his hymn sheet.
Frost: Kind of justifies the way he is, too. Even the song he loves is helping him now in this time of apocalypse.
Wright: What's great about those songs is they immediately kind of give you that nostalgic hit. They immediately send you back to that time. But then they also have double meanings. Like the Suede song, "So Young," is about heroin. So it kind of works on two levels. It's kind of like saying about, because we're young, and you've got the image of 40-year-old men walking around like they're teenagers. But it's a song about chasing the dragon. We sort of hinted that Gary's got a drugs past as well.
So, that said, it's very easy -- within a couple of days of listening to those songs, you immediately pinpoint: I want to hear that song in the movie.
Other things I learned during the interview via questions by other media:
- Wright said, "It was actually the reunion films" like The Big Chill and It's Always Fair Weather that they made sure to re-watch before starting on The World's End.
- Simon Pegg broke his hand during training for the fight scenes: "It was very important that we all did the fights ourselves, and we maintained our characters in the fights... We wanted to make sure that even in the midst of that chaos, we stayed in character."
- Playing Gary, a man who prefers to dwell in the world of '90s nostalgia instead of dealing with current problems, was "my favorite experience, in terms of acting, out of all three films," Pegg admitted.
[Photo credit: Wright, Pegg and Frost at Alamo Lakeline by Jack Plunkett, courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse]