Edgar Wright

Edgar Wright knows how to make a great comedy and I’ll site Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World as examples.  While he was recently in Australia, I had a chat with Edgar about his new film, The World’s End. You can download the full audio by clicking here.

Matt:  The first time I heard the names Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost was back in 2004 with Shaun Of The Dead.  It was very well received by critics and has developed a cult-like status since.  Did you always think that film was going to be the one that helped break you all into the industry?

Edgar:  We had no perceptions of how it would turn out.  We were actually just feeling lucky and fortunate to be able to make a film.  There was no grand plan with that movie beyond hoping that people liked it.

Matt:  Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and now The World’s End – I’ve heard you’ve dubbed these three films ‘the Cornetto Trilogy’.  Where exactly does that reference come from?

Edgar:  It’s a very silly linking device and in fact, it wasn’t intended to be trilogy initially.  In Shaun Of The Dead, Nick Frost’s character asks for a Cornetto first thing on a Sunday morning as a hangover cure.  We brought it back as a running gag in Hot Fuzz and then a journalist asked us if this was going to be a trilogy based on different flavours of Cornettos and we said yes, it’s going to be like Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy.  It was a joke that stuck.

Weirdly, once we’d done Hot Fuzz, we felt there was a way to make this a “thematic” trilogy.  We never wanted to do sequels to the other movies but we did want to continue the tone.  The three films are linked by similar themes and the idea of sharing contemporary Britain under siege from dark forces.  There are other recurring themes like the individual versus the collective and the idea of perpetual adolescence.

Matt:  Now you clearly have a great working relationship with Simon Pegg who co-wrote all three of these films alongside you.  Take us through the writing process.  Are you sitting in an office?  Are you sharing a few beers?  How do you come up with the ideas for these films?

Edgar:  We definitely don’t get drunk whilst writing.  If I did that, I’d have to have a mid-afternoon nap.  It’s usually powered by coffee and water.  We actually sit opposite each other and treat it like a proper office job working 9am to 6pm.  We hammer out the story and then start working on the script.  With this movie, we shared a lot of memories from our own youth which were incorporated into the story. 

Matt:  And while your films often cover a few genres, most come with a pretty strong dose of comedy.  Did you have favourite films or TV shows growing up that helped shape the sense of humour that you have today?

Edgar:  Oh yeah.  I used to love Woody Allen films and still do.  There’s also Monty Python and The Young Ones.

Matt:  I find comedies such a divisive genre because everyone does have a different sense of humour.  How do you know what you’ve got here is funny?  Are you bouncing jokes off friends?  Are you doing a lot of improvisation on the set?

Edgar:  We don’t really improvise during the movie because the films we make are plot heavy.  We write the script, we rehearse it with the actors and then we come up with a shooting script.  In terms of the comedy, we try to write what we think is funny.  It’s about making each other laugh really.

Matt:  You had the world premiere for the film recently in London.  I’m guessing you received a pretty good reaction but what’s it like sitting in the audience with a packed cinema for the first time?  Do you find people laughing at moments you didn’t expect and vice-versa?

Edgar:  Usually you’ve seen it a couple of times with people before the premiere.  At the London premiere, we were watching it on a very big screen with a really big crowd.  I remember thinking to myself “that got the best laugh it’s ever got”.  It’s really nice watching it with a big audience.

Matt:  This film does come with a darker layer in the sense that our protagonist, played by Simon Pegg, is battling an alcohol problem.  What made you do with that more serious sub-plot as opposed to just making a straight-out zany, crazy comedy?

Edgar:  We want to make comedies that stick with people and hopefully that’s one of the reasons why Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz have stuck with people because there are things to think about afterwards.  It’s taken us 6 years to make this one and if we’d have made something that was light and fluffy, it’d hardly be worth bothering.

While there’s a lot of action, mayhem, craziness and funny gags in The World’s End, it’s the connections with the characters that you’ll remember.  The response to the film so far is that it’s made people think about their youth and their old friends.  I think that stuff is important.

Matt:  I’ve been to Great Britain a few times and one thing I love are the names of all the pubs.  In this film you’ve got The Old Familiar, The Famous Cock, The Two Headed Dog.  I have to ask – where did you come up with these names?

Edgar:  They’re all real pub names!  We wrote the story and we fitted the pub names to the scenes.  All the pub names are like tarot cards – they all tell you something that is going to happen in the next scene.  Some of them are obvious but some of them are more subtle.  But they’re all real names – even The Famous Cock.

Matt:  There’s another film out in Australian cinemas at the moment called This Is The End – directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.  I’ve found it amusing that these two films are out at the same time with very similar titles.  Were you aware of that film while it was being made?

Edgar:  Yeah.  Simon and Seth have the same agent so absolutely, we were.  We also knew their film was about a biblical rapture/apocalypse.  As ours is more of a sci-fi invasion film, we knew it was a very different movie.  Also, our actors aren’t playing themselves so that’s different too. (laughs)  I’ve now seen This Is The End and it’s quite funny that ours couldn’t be more British and theirs couldn’t be more American.

Matt:  So where to from here?  Now that you’ve wrapped up this trilogy, will you keep collaborating with Simon Pegg on similar projects or do you want to branch off onto something a lot different?

Edgar:  I don’t know and we haven’t really talked about it yet.  We only finished this film about 3 weeks ago.  We’d like to work together again but what that is, we’re not sure yet.  As we’ve wrapped up most of the themes in this movie, if we do something in future, it could be wildly different.