Simon Pegg Talks The World’s End , the Trilogy, and Alienation

The final entry in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy (also known as The Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy) enters theaters on August 23, 2013 with The World’s End, the tale of a pub crawl gone horribly, horribly wrong. The World’s End brings to a close the Cornetto Trilogy launched with 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and followed by 2007’s Hot Fuzz. All three films were written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, with Wright directing and Pegg starring alongside Nick Frost. And in our interview from Comic Con, Pegg talks about what The World’s End is really all about and whether the film also marks the end of the Pegg/Frost/Wright movies.

Simon Pegg Interview

There were a lot of long passages in the movie and you delivered them so quickly, especially the list of pubs. Was it easier to deliver those lines because you wrote it yourself?

Simon Pegg: “You’d think, but actually that was incredibly difficult because it was a one-shot deal. I had to get it right. Martin [Freeman] and Paddy [Considine] and Nick and Eddie [Marsan] were all standing behind me waiting and it was getting towards the end of the day. I did it about 15 times, because I’d just get one pub wrong and you’d just start it. I could do it probably now without any problems at all, but on the day, it was tough. [Laughing] Yes, writing a film is no guarantee that you’re going to remember all the lines.”

Between zombies and robots and everything else, what do you actually fear? What at the core of your soul are you afraid of apocalyptically?

Simon Pegg: “I think losing the people

around you. I mean specifically your family and your loved ones. The idea of being alone. I have a wonderful family and a great set of friends, and they really make me happy. I think the most apocalyptic thing that could happen to you is your happiness is taken away in some way. It would be that.

That’s the point, in a way, of Gary, is that he was happy once and he’s never been happy since. His apocalypse is his own life, really, because he doesn’t have those things that make him happy. The apocalypse can only be that, really. The removal of the things that make you happy.”

If the world ends, do you think it’s going to be a “Wrath of God,” man bringing about his own end?

Simon Pegg: “I think there’s been six extinctions and they’ve all been fairly natural, so it’ll be environmental. It might be caused by us; we’re not doing the planet any good by being here. I don’t think the world will end. The world will keep going until the sun explodes. I doubt very much God will have anything to do with it.”

Can you talk about your worst experience on a pub crawl? Or your most memorable one?

Simon Pegg: “My stag night in Belgium back in 2005. Nick was there. Martin was there. Edgar was there. Michael Smiley was there. There were a few members of The World’s End crew there. I remember very clearly, we went out, we felt like because we were boys together we should go into a strip club. We tried to find a strip club. We did, but we didn’t feel very comfortable inside. We thought, ‘Oh, we’re doing what we think we should do,’ so we went to a bar that was called The Cock. It struck us as hugely ironic that we went out looking for boobs and ended up with The Cock. That was my stag night. But I don’t drink anymore, so I don’t really have any kind of good alcohol stories.”

If you get pulled over in England and you don’t have a driver’s license, can you really give them your address and they’ll look it up like they did in a scene from the movie?

Simon Pegg: “Yes, but they’ll see your picture, though. That’s the thing.”

In the U.S. that would not happen.

Simon Pegg: “What are they going to do? Are they going to arrest you?”


Simon Pegg: “Because that’s what they all say, ‘License and registration,’ right? No, I think you can probably do that but I wouldn’t say for definite. I wouldn’t guarantee it. If you’re in the UK and you’re driving badly, don’t just assume you can get away with it. I get away with a lot because of Hot Fuzz. The cops really like Hot Fuzz. I’ve been pulled up a couple of times and they’ll go, ‘Oh, it’s you. On you go.’ Which is nice.”

Is there a bittersweet truth to friends moving apart and a distance forming between old friends that you can think of in your own life that was at play here?

Simon Pegg: “In some respects. The thing about my friendship with Nick and Edgar, for instance, is that we always move forward. The minute you have a friendship that only relies on reminiscing, that friendship’s dead, really. It’s just echoing old times until that gets boring. Of course, you meet people in your life that you grow apart from and you have nothing in common with other than the past, and all you have when you talk to them is the past. You have to accept that relationship as all there is. I had a college reunion a couple of years ago and it was absolutely brilliant. We all went round to one of our numbers’ houses and we spent the whole night just drinking and talking and looking at old pictures. It was wonderful. Then we went home and we didn’t do it again. It was good to do it that once, but you can’t fuel a friendship with just that. So yeah, those moments exist for everybody, I think. We’ve all got those friends who we want to be able to talk to but we have nothing to say to them.”

Was the particular scenario for this film the plan the whole way through the third film or did you guys have other scenarios and you brainstormed it?

Simon Pegg: “No, this was the only one. We came up with the idea a long time ago on the Hot Fuzz press tour. It percolated for a long time. I don’t think we could have written it when we did come up with it because we were six years younger, and I think we needed to be past 40 to truly get the nitty gritty of this movie and have been through certain things in order to get there.

It was always about going home, the bizarre sense of ennui you feel in the surroundings you grew up in where it’s immediately familiar but at the same time, very, very different. You feel alienated and it’s because you’ve changed, not necessarily because the place has changed – even though a Starbuck’s might have popped up or this pub’s different now, or whatever. That was always really interesting to us. We thought the funny thing to do would be to take the notion of alienation to its literal extreme and have them be aliens. That was always the plan. It just took us a while to get to it because we had Paul and Scott Pilgrim to make.”

Could you talk about the process of writing with this film?

Simon Pegg: “I would say you have no idea how complex The World’s End script is until you’ve seen the film maybe five times, just because it’s so, so meticulously structured. We start with an idea of timing. We wanted to make a film 105 minutes, which it is without the credits. Then we decided what we needed to happen in the first five minutes, the first 10 minutes, so on and so on, throughout the whole film. We decided the story right up until what happened at the very end. Then we start to break it down into chronology so when we start from the beginning chronologically, we can start to foreshadow what we know is going to happen later on. Then we can call back to what we know has happened before. It’s a question of you start from a distance and you get more and more and more specific until it’s commas, until it’s single words that you’re repeating or you’re setting up, or you’re foreshadowing.

Also, come to set with that script intact. Don’t leave any room for improvisation. Do all that in rehearsal. When you get all the cast together and you start rehearsing it. If a funny line comes out, ‘Oh, we’ll love that.’ The only things we’ve improvised on set, the only line that was off the cuff on set was at the beginning when I say, ‘F**k off,’ when the people tell me about how much the house costs. It was a different line, a similar sentiment, but the moment demanded that particular abusive word. Yeah. Just be very specific all the way.”

Is this, indeed, the world’s end for you guys? Does this trilogy really wrap it up for you guys? Or when you were filming it, were you like, “You know what? We really should do this again.”

Simon Pegg: “Oh, no. We will do it again. Again and again. The reason this is called a trilogy is because it’s three films that exist in a relative state that there’s connective tissue between the three. Not just the jokes about the fence and the ice cream, but there’s also big ideas like individual versus collective, about friendship, about growing up. I kind of jokingly said in an interview that it was about evolution, devolution and revolution are three films in this. Shaun has to evolve to be a man, Nicholas Angel has to devolve to be a hero, and Gary and his friends have to revolt against the network in order to win the day. By that very dialectic it has to be a trilogy, but it doesn’t mean we’re not going to work together again. It’s just that that one’s finished.”

Did you call dibs on Gary King or was the casting flexible?

Simon Pegg: [Laughing] “No, I wrote it for myself. I wanted to be the funny one this time. That was my plan.”

Now that Star Trek: Into Darkness has come out, last year you did an interview and you said he was Khan or he wasn’t Khan….

Simon Pegg: “I said he wasn’t.”

Were you doing a misdirect?

Simon Pegg: [Laughing] “Yeah, of course I was.”

You were lying?

Simon Pegg: “Yeah, because I didn’t owe that person the truth. All that person was trying to do was spoil my film. The least I owe him is the truth. It’s not a guessing game. It’s not, if you get it right, I don’t go, ‘Oh, well done. You win. Here’s our film spoiled for everybody,’ just because some guy wants advertising on his website. We protect our film at all costs, because the audience reaction to it is extremely important to us. Some people might want to anesthetize themselves against the twists and turns by knowing what’s going to happen, but I’m not interested in helping those people do that. I got so sick of people asking me and sort of going, ‘Come on, come on,’ like I was going to say f**king yes, I just said, No.’ ‘I can’t say,’ starts to sound like an admission so I just thought, ‘F**k you. I’m going to lie.'”