Well before they started making movies together, British writer-director Edgar Wright and actor Simon Pegg used to meet up to go to the cinema. Beforehand, they would grab a cold one at the World's End, a nearby pub. That bar became the inspiration for their latest project, the outlandish comedy The World's End. A story about five friends who meet up with the sole intent of getting plastered as they visit 12 different pubs in one night, it provides a good mix of silly humor and serious drama.
"It always struck me as a weird thing to say, 'I'll see you at the World's End,'" says Wright. "When we came up with the story, we knew that's what it had to be. Once we worked out the plot and knew it was 12 bars, or 12 steps, we took real pub names and attributed them to different scenes. The names are like tarot cards and tell you something about what's happening in the scene. I find pub names quite fascinating. Some of the names have history to them but most of them just put a fancy name on a shitty bar. I find that funny."
Wright and Pegg, who also teamed up for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, again work with actor David Frost. In The World's End, Pegg plays Gary King, a former punk/Goth who still wears his old Sisters of Mercy T-shirt, and Frost plays Andy Knightley, his more responsible mate. The two have terrific chemistry and comic timing.
"In all the movies we've done, there is a character who is a perpetual adolescent," explains Wright. "This movie is about the dangers of not growing up.
"Gary is somebody we know. My brother knows somebody like that. There are elements of Simon [Pegg] and me in him. We have compassion for him even though he continually does bad things. He genuinely wants his friends back together and when he realizes he can't have that, he becomes more self-destructive."
While the rapid-fire dialogue might seem ad-libbed, Wrights says it's not.
"One of the things people always ask us is how much is improvised," he says. "It's zero percent. It's a screenplay that me and Simon wrote. Because this film is an ensemble it's like a play. We had at least two weeks of rehearsal. By the time we got to set, everybody knew what they were doing. On top of that, we would do a thing in some takes where I would have them do it at Marx Brothers speed."
It wasn't difficult to get Frost and Pegg to be in sync. The two have been friends for 20 years and once were even roommates.
"They're great actors and get better as well," says Wright. "There's an honesty there. To get performances like that from actors who don't know each other, you could get there but it could take a long time. These guys are all good friends. I feel like these guys have known each other forever when I watch the film. With Simon and Nick, there's chemistry you can't manufacture because they've known each other for 20 years."
And even though some of the jokes are decidedly British (and one scene is devoted to the inside joke with the Cornetto ice cream bar), the humor isn't so remote that American audiences won't find it funny.
"When Shaun of the Dead came out in this country, we were pleasantly surprised people got on board," says Wright. "As a result of that, we haven't changed anything. If you try to make things more transatlantic, audiences on both side of the pond will smell a rat. I'm proud that with the three films we have kept it very British."