“I want to be able to make another film so I want it to do well but I want people to see ‘The World’s End’ lots and lots of times and still be getting stuff on a seventh or eighth watch.”
According to the actor, who has been on a summer-long tour of panels, Q&As, screenings and interviews to hype the film, which opens today, there are “tiny little things” that make the movie “meticulously structured” and hold up over repeat viewings.
“We live in an age where we can just stick films in over and over but we didn’t use to,” Pegg said in a recent interview. “We used to watch a film in the movies, then maybe it’d be on TV and then we could tape it and watch it; now we can own it and literally watch it again straight afterwards, pause it, zoom in on it, screen grab it.”
“If you’re going to give the audience something worth paying for, they need to bear up to that level of scrutiny.”
Pegg is pretty informed about what he’s talking about. Along with director/co-writer Edgar Wright and costar Nick Frost, Pegg has co-written and starred in “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and the show that preceded them, “Spaced” – all projects that only get better with repeat viewings. Of course, these are in addition to Pegg’s involvement with J.J. Abrams’ rebooted “Star Trek” franchise, the “Mission: Impossible” movies and his role as professional nerd.
But with “The World’s End,” Pegg, Wright and Frost offer the final installment of their Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy that include “Shaun” and “Fuzz.”
The movie revolves around five friends who return to their hometown for a pub crawl only to discover that their childhood environs have been overtaken by alien invaders. While “The World’s End” features the comedy fans of Pegg & Co. have come to appreciate, there are also bittersweet tones to it about never really being able to go home.
“It was always about going home, that bizarre sense of ennui you feel in the surroundings you grow up in where it’s immediately familiar but at the same time very, very different,” said Pegg. “If you feel alienated it is because you’ve changed, not necessarily because the place has changed – even though a Starbucks might have popped up or a pub is different now – so we thought the funny thing to do would be to take the notion of alienation to its literal extreme and have them be aliens.”
Pegg said the idea for “The World’s End” emerged following the press tour of “Hot Fuzz,” but that it percolated a long time as he and Frost went to work on “Paul,” and Wright focused on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” But he commented that they needed the six years to between films to be older than 40 and “truly get the nitty gritty of this movie.”
The “nitty gritty” Pegg spoke of also involves the notion that some friendships just live past their expiration point and only becomes about the past. That is a challenge faced between Pegg’s character Gary, along with Frost’s straight man Andrew, Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine). While the others have moved on, Gary only has the past and the “Golden Mile” pub crawl.
“The thing about my friendship with Nick and Edgar, for instance, is that we always move forward,” he said. “The minute you have a friendship that only relies on reminiscing, that friendship is dead, really; it is just echoing out old times until that gets boring.”
Pegg said all three films of the Cornetto Trilogy have big ideas and deal with themes such as the individual vs. collective, friendship and growing up. He said he’s joked that that the films are, progressively, about evolution, devolution and revolution because Shaun had to evolve to be a man, Nicholas Angel from “Fuzz” had to devolve to be a hero and Gary and his friends have to revolt against the network to win the day.
But even when talking about the themes behind his movies, Pegg doesn't take himself too seriously.
As he chatted about pub crawls like the ones the characters embark on in the movie, Pegg said he doesn’t drink anymore but shared a story from his own stag night in 2005, which took place in Belgium with Frost, Wright, Freeman, “Spaced” actor Michael Smiley and others.
“We went out and felt like, because we were boys together, we should go to a strip club so we tried to find a strip club, and we did but didn’t feel very comfortable inside,” he recalled. “We thought, ‘we’re doing the thing we think we should do’ so we went to a bar that was called The Cock and it struck as hugely ironic that we went out looking for boobs and ended up with The Cock.”
As such, despite the big ideas at play in “The World’s End,” remember that this is a comedy. With aliens. And robots. And, at the San Diego Comic-Con screening last month, none other than Bill Paxton declared it “f---ing awesome.”
And Pegg said, this time, he gets to be steal the role of the funny guy from Frost.
“Selfishly I wanted to be the overtly comic one in this, and, because Nick had been the overtly comic one in the other two, we wanted to give him the chance for at least part of the film to be the straight guy,” said Pegg. “I wanted to make Gary as maddening and irritating and difficult to like as possible because I knew, ultimately, there was an excuse for it.”
“Also, it’s just a lot of fun to be such a dick.”
Pegg said the humor of “The World’s End” should please the nerd set that has followed him to other projects, but that the movie isn’t exclusively for them.
“The thing is about our people -- the people that seek out this kind of stuff -- they have an attention to detail which is a non-mainstream thing … You have to think of the cleverest, most cineaste nerdy person when you’re writing because there will be someone who gets that and it means the f---ing world to them.”
He added he’d rather make a small group of people very happy “than a large group of people lightly entertained” but that he thinks the film will still be enjoyable for the viewer who isn’t applying that level of “studious observation.”
Just don’t expect one pop-culture reference after another in “The World’s End.” Pegg said the characters from “Spaced” may have thought in terms of references, and there were certainly some in “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun,” but there aren’t really any in this one.
“This film isn’t about ‘spot that, it’s from that’,” he said. “We got sick of people saying, ‘Oh what’s that from’ when it was our fucking idea! They just assumed we were being referential.”
And if you do go see “The World’s End” multiple times over the next few days, don’t do it because you think the end of the Cornetto Trilogy also means the end of Simon Pegg’s collaboration with Nick Frost and Edgar Wright.
“The reason this is called a trilogy is because it’s three films that exist in a sort of relative state; there’s connective tissue between the three … but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to work together again.”
"We will do it again, and again and again."