Published Aug 22, 2013As the ominous date of 2012 continues to fade in the rearview mirror, apocalyptic scenarios in storytelling have lost none of their potency and appeal. What this extreme metaphor for the fear of facing change has gained, though, at least in the case of the latest collaboration between the former Spaced crew, is a sense of belligerent acceptance. More than ever before, Scott Pilgrim director Edgar Wright manages to excel at delivering visceral genre thrills with a cheeky sense of humour while addressing the Peter Pan syndrome afflicting a great many men in our culture with rare candour and affectionate insight. With the conclusion of their unofficial "Blood and Ice Cream" trilogy hitting North American screens on Friday, director/co-writer Wright and co-star Nick Frost sat down with us to share some deep thoughts on growing up, feeling alienated in your hometown, the dangers of nostalgia and what comes after The World's End.
Was there a sense of wanting to hone your craft before approaching the science fiction genre or was this film even always intended to be sci-fi?
Edgar Wright: I think the sci-fi element came as an expression of how we felt about literally being alienated from our hometowns. There was a script I'd written in my early twenties about teenagers on a pub crawl that I'd never done anything with and when I started thinking about that again I thought "Oh, there's richer comic potential in it being about adults trying to recreate that night." So that, coupled with the idea of the dangers of nostalgia, coupled with the idea that going back to your hometown is a very odd sort of experience — in a very similar way to Simon's character, it almost seemed like the alien invasion angle is like a sort of coping mechanism, because it was easier to leap to that conclusion than accept the fact that "Oh we're getting old" or "The town has changed without us" or see that the town wasn't all it was cracked up to be. So, that was the idea; all of that together is a metaphor for questions of identity, progress and the idea about the sort of the aliens being perfect and the humans being flawed and fucked up, and which is better. I went deep, immediately.
Nick Frost: Yeah, fuckin' hell, you went balls deep (laughs).
I noticed a lot of concern with gentrification across all three of the films but it seems even more pronounced in this one. As you're getting older, is that something that's an increasing concern?
Wright: I think so. It's the same sort of problem that occurs in lots of different countries. Like I know over here the big sort of super stores kinda killed the little shops…
"Starbucking it" works here too.
Wright: Second Cupping it (laughs), Tim Hortons-ing it. But you know, I think that we try to see both sides of the argument. I think that's one thing with all the elements in this movie; we don't kind of show which side we rest on, because on the one side, that homogeny of chains unnerves me because, much like the movie, you feel like you're in the same bar every time. What's the point of doing a pub-crawl in bars that all look identical? There's no difference between anything. They have these fancy historical names that don't seem to have any connection to the bar itself anymore. So that's something we thought was a funny idea. On the flip side, I'm drinking Starbucks right now. I'm not going to get drip coffee from an old diner; I'm going for what I know and feel comfortable with.
Frost: (Chuckles) Sorry, I was just thinking about something about a drip diner and asking for a cappuccino.
Wright: There is that thing with the adults in the movie: the four of them settled into being a part of a system, whereas Gary wants to be the rebel forever and which is the right way to go. Do you want to be with them or do you want to be off the grid? I always think that about... not everybody's on Mac and stuff, but just the idea that so many of us are happy to let Apple completely run our lives (laughs). Calendars and record collections and such. That said, I'm kind of happy with that because I don't like the alternative of being completely off the grid.
Frost: What did I join, was it Netflix or something like that? And then I left them and then every six months or three months you get those emails saying, "Aw, we miss you." It's like, fuck, that is weird. It's so creepy.
Wright: Do you have Linked In over here? It's creepy. They're the aliens. They're already here.
Is it true that the whole Cornetto Ice Cream Trilogy thing came about during an interview for Hot Fuzz?
Wright: Cornetto Ice Cream featured in Shaun of the Dead very briefly as a hangover cure for Ed, then in Hot Fuzz we had Cornetto in it again. At that point a journalist, sort of very adroitly, pointed out that "You've had Cornetto in both your films, does that mean you're going to do a trilogy" and I said "Yes, it's going to be like Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colours trilogy; this is the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. And that was like a joke that stuck and it became the unofficial title for the trilogy. They're all stand-alone movies. It's a very unofficial trilogy, they're not sequels to each other but they are thematically linked. Beyond the cast and the ice cream and the fence-jumping there are other themes that link the films and they are the idea of perpetual adolescence and the dangers of that; the idea of an individual versus a collective and I think they're all films about growing up, or having to grow up.
Frost: Friendships as well. Friendships between men and how it must evolve. Certainly different stages of friendship as well.
Wright: Shaun is about a good friendship going south, an old friendship going south; Hot Fuzz is like a first date movie between two men; and this one is like a post-divorce movie.
Nick, how did you feel about playing the responsible one for a change?
Frost: This is going to sound like a really boring answer but it doesn't bother me; it's about what is needed; where I am needed in the film and the making thereof. As an actor, I'm happy to play a stoned goofball or an over-excitable police officer or this guy. I'm always so lucky that the script I get and the characters they write for me, I've said this a couple of times today, is like having a suit made for me. It's kind of just perfect and it feels right. Also I think that comes from the fact that we've known each other for years, so they all know what my strengths and weaknesses are. I'd like to think, arguably, that Ed and Danny Butterman are very different characters and I'm very proud that this is a third very different character. It's important to us that people don't get bored. I think people get bored when comedy double acts play themselves all the time. After that what've you got? There's nothing after that. If the characters are sufficiently different people won't, touch wood (he settles for knuckling the glass table top), get bored of it. That means if we don't make something for five or six years and then we bring something out and people get excited about it then we'll make that rather than just pump out film after film and think, well, "People like this so they'll love that."
Is there a future collaboration between you rumbling around at all?
Wright: [At] a very nascent stage. I think we liked the idea of making this a trilogy so that it was like the end of a chapter in a way. I haven't even watched the three films in a row yet, but a lot of people have since we've been doing these trilogy screenings around the states. It's interesting to see people watch them in a row and say that it works as a (complete) piece. How did it work as a threesome?
The growing up process is very pronounced.
Wright: We'd love to do something together again. I think maybe it'd be something kind of radically different. They're all slightly different flavours. People think they want the same thing again but they really don't. But they always say, "Are you going to do a Shaun two?" No! These three films stand alone and they've all got very final endings that have the promise of more adventure to live on in your imaginations and nowhere else. Because I think there are so many movies that are really great movies that have sequels, some of which are very good, but they'd be even stronger if they'd just ended at number one. I enjoy Back to the Future two and three, but I still think it'd be better if they'd finished with one. Same with John Carpenter's Halloween. Or, like, The Matrix; go out on the ending of the first one. The promise of the adventures in your head may be better than the future instalments. There's such a pressure to franchise things these days and even if you're trying to get new movies off the ground, same with TV, in the UK pitching comedy shows, they say "Can you imagine eight seasons of this show?" it's like, "Whoa, that seems a little getting ahead of… we like to make one film at a time."
Nick, how did it feel to be a badass action star?
I've seen every spectacle film of the year and the bar fights here are the best of the year.
Wright: Make sure you say that in the article!
Frost: Thanks! We got to work with Brad Allen. Brad taught us some amazing stuff. We all wanted to do as much of it as we could. To have Brad Allen say I was his favourite action here was a real…I think I can dine out on that for a long time.
Is Gary King based on anyone you know specifically?
Frost: (Coughs) Edgar!
Or is it just a little bit of that guy inside everyone that doesn't want to grow up?
Wright: I think it's a bit of both. I think there are parts of Gary King in both me and Simon, and then it's also based on people we know in terms of, I think everyone has that friend or even a family member that they've had to kind of shut out of their lives because they won't face up to their own problems. The thing with writing a film like this is it's therapeutic in way because you can talk about things in the movie that are difficult to talk about in real life. But as you can see from the movie, me and Simon have a lot of sympathy for that character even though he spends most of the film almost being the villain of the piece, by certainly dragging his friends into more dangerous situations, but we know that what's driving him deep down is some pain, so we want him to find triumph, as unlikely and cataclysmic as it might be.
Frost: I think if you've got a friend who's borrowed more than five hundred pounds off of you and it's been more than three years, and there's been no mention of it, that's probably your Gary King.
Wright: (Laughs) In that case, I'm Simon's Gary King. I owe Simon money but he refuses to let me pay it back because he always wants to have that over me.