British pals Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been working at the acting game together for a long while – first on the English TV series “Spaced,” later in two films for director Edgar Wright – “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” – then for Greg Mottola in “Paul.” There were also some projects on their own, but they’ve known for a number of years that they would get back together with Wright, to kind of finish up what they started in “Shaun” and Fuzz.” Their newest collaboration, “The World’s End,” is a comedy, with serious edges, about trying to recapture one’s youth, loss of identity, alcoholism and, oh, yeah, an alien invasion, all set during a get-together of friends attempting to recreate a pub crawl they went on but didn’t finish right after high school. I met up with Pegg, who plays the funny and tragic Gary, and Frost, who plays the straight-laced but pent-up Andy, in New York last week.
This is your third and supposedly final film with Edgar Wright. When did the word “trilogy” first come up?
Pegg: During the “Hot Fuzz” press tour, we realized we’d been able to make two films that were, in essence, thematically connected. They were not direct sequels, and obviously not the same characters or stories, but they were definitely variations on a theme. We figured that if we could possibly get to do it again, we could wrap it up as a nice sort of threesome. It wasn’t like we set out to make a trilogy. We would never be so arrogant as to assume we would be able make three films.
Frost: We thought, being British filmmakers, we were lucky to make one. We thought with “Shaun,” if we could sell this to Lufthansa and they would show it on a flight, we’d be lucky. Then we got a chance to make “Hot Fuzz,” and now it seemed the logical thing to do a third.
Simon, you’ve written scripts with Edgar before. Was this time any different?
Pegg: We’d done it twice together (“Shaun” and “Fuzz”), and we learned a lot from each experience. And third time’s the charm. In 2007 we had the basic idea of going back to your home town, finding it oddly different but strangely familiar, feeling alienated, and realizing it’s aliens. So we sat down and just wrote. We started very broad, literally on big bits of paper, on a flip chart. We’d outline what we’d got to do, and it got smaller and smaller, down into a script. Eventually Nick is the first person to see it. He reads the whole script, gives his notes on it, we go away and apply those, and eventually we get into a rehearsal period with the other actors, and then we’re shooting. So it felt to me like the smoothest one.
Page 2 of 2 - Nick, your character of Andy in this one is different than anything you’ve played before.
Frost: Well, we’re actors! The challenge to play any different person or different character is what you want to do as an actor. I’ve argued that Ed [in “Shaun”] and Danny [in “Fuzz”] are very different characters. Ed’s quite cynical and lazy, and Danny’s just a big lovely Labrador. So the chance to be kind of the moral voice of the audience, essentially, at some points in “The World’s End,” is a great challenge. And I also get to kick ass!
Both Gary and Andy have lots of layers to them. Could each of you please introduce each other’s character?
Nick: Gary is a 41-year-old man, stuck sadly in 1990. It never got better for him than that night. I often think about Gary in the space between then and when we meet him, and what he’d got up to. I think about him getting pissed on a kibbutz, being a sales rep at a resort in Portugal, maybe traveling to Australia and doing the same thing there. I think he did a lot of drinking and a lot of fornicating, and then he reaches a point where he was just sadly empty.
Pegg: Andy is this guy who had his heart broken by his best friend when he was very young, and has never been able to let go of the anger about that. He’s excelled in his job, he’s been married and has children, and has created a life for himself. But he’s a guy who has been let down by someone he loves, and hasn’t addressed that yet. So when we meet Andy, he’s seemingly Gary’s enemy. They’re not friends anymore. But what really underpins that enmity is a deep affection.
“The World’s End” opens on Aug. 23.