Simon Pegg interview: The World's End, Paul, Statham
Simon Pegg looks back on The World's End, in an interview with a spoiler or two within it...
The World's End brought to an end Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's Cornetto Trilogy, which started with Shaun Of The Dead and continued with Hot Fuzz. Now, as The World's End arrives on DVD and Blu-ray, Simon Pegg sat down with us to chat about the film...
There was a passage in your book, Nerd Do Well, and it's one we've talked about before. And it's where you discuss how you were blown away by how John Williams uses music cues, and how he let the audience fill in some of the gaps. Looking at your own screenwriting, that's been a fundemental core, hasn't it?
What strikes me with these three Cornetto films, and The World's End in particular, is that it's at an arguably forensic level. You're willing to leave some many unexplained details. But when are they coming in? Are they in the script from day one, are they being added on the set?
They're always in there from the beginning. It's what Edgar [Wright] and I refer to in the writing room as a second watch detail, or a third watch detail.
The way that film is watched these days, it's not like it used to be before video and before TV, when a film would have had to make its maximum impact on the first viewing, because you might not see it again. It might not come around theatrically again, or you wouldn't be able to watch it at home. These days we watch film differently. We are able to scrutinise, to freeze frame, and own films. So you owe it to an evolved film viewer to give them the potential to see the film many times, and to see more things each time.
And also to sew a very deep seam of detail that is there to be deciphered and discovered. It's a very gratifying thing to do. As I said in the book when John Williams references the E.T. moment and the Yoda theme, nobody told me it was the Yoda theme. I just heard it and I got it, and I felt so elated that I understood it. I've held onto that feeling.
So yeah: it's always in there from the very beginning. There's very little that happens on the day. We've come to the set with scenes and lines to be shot. There are things that happen in rehearsals that feed into the scripts, but we are at pains to arrive on set with a finished script that we then shoot.
I did some searching online, deliberately to seek out reactions to people who sought out the film for a second time. There's quite a broad reaction to it first time out. I think the whole culture of the way film is now is that everyone has to have an opinion instantly.
But what's interesting is that the reaction to The World's End is that they're saying actually, this isn't a comedy. There's a lot more going on here. Coming to your writing, is your process to layer the comedy on top once you've put the narrative and themes in place first?
It depends. It kind of evolves fairly organically. Edgar and I never approach anything as if this is a comedy, or this is a particular thing. It grows each day we're in the writing room. We're always trying to say something with the films. None of the films are straight comedies. The zombie film, the cop film and the science fiction film are all Trojan horses that we use to say other things, about relationships, life, growing up, conformity, identity. So those things are always there from the off.
With The World's End, it was important to us both that we were talking about serious issues. Issues of mid-life crisis and addiction. At the heart of it is an alcoholic who's on a suicide mission.
I saw this as much a film about loneliness.
Yeah, absolutely. And the loneliness of someone who is driven by a desire that is beyond him. The serious point of The World's End is that alcoholics put themselves before everything. Even the end of the world. Gary, because he's unhappy and he's a drunk, puts everyone's life at risk. He puts the entire world's life at risk in order to score his next pint.
But it's a bit deeper than that, isn't it? Because you deal with the alcoholism, but also the bit before that. What drives him there in the first place?
Yeah, yeah. The point of it with Gary is that he's unhappy. He's wound up in the situation he's in because he's medicated himself, because he's depressed. The fact that he's not drinking at the end shows that even though he's not necessarily grown up, he is happy. What we are all searching for isn't necessarily some idea of what's mature or what's grown-up, it's personal happiness, you know? That's what our goal must all be. It's not about settling down. It's doing whatever makes you happy. What makes Gary happy is going out with his friends.
The other thing you've always said is that you've referred to writers as "the classic tortured artists", and that finding a collaborator who respects writers is one of the trickiest things to do. Yet it strikes me that writing the films is where you get the most satisfaction. And you've had four hits out of four with material you've written. But going forward, is that what you want to do?
I think so, but I think in a way you have to write for yourself. Or you have to write in a situation where you're going to have production control. Because the writing process, as I've learned over the years, does not begin and end in the writers' room. It ends in the edit, basically. It ends the day you lock the picture, because once you have the visual language of the film in front of you, which is the footage that you've shot, then you have a whole new lexicon to play with. And stuff that you're written down you're like 'maybe we don't need that there' and 'we could move that and tidy that up'. So it's a process that begins with the idea, and ends with the edit suite. And you have to be there the whole way to have it be your voice.
You've hinted in the past that Paul was very slightly diluted by the fact that you had to spend that much money to get what you wanted on the screen. You just had to pull it a little bit back. When you get to part three of a trilogy though whether you get to wrestle part of that control back?
The World's End wasn't as expensive as Paul either, which was great. The character of Paul himself was very expensive to create, and I'm glad we spent the money. But with The World's End, the initial budget we laid out was gigantic, but we pulled back and pulled back and were able to say what we wanted to say.
It's hard to go to a film company and say we want to make a film about a suicidal alcoholic! But that's what we did. Obviously we got notes like 'does Gary really have to have badges'... well, yes. So it was easier. The less people have to lose, the more freedom you have. When it becomes a huge thing, and there's lots of money, that's when films start to be killed by committee. But with The World's End, we had such a great team around us. Universal, Working Title, our own team, Nira Park etc, they have faith in us and they let us do what we want to do.
Finally, favourite Jason Statham movie?
Crank, of course!
Simon Pegg, thank you very much.
The World's End is available on DVD and Blu-ray now.
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