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In 'The World's End,' director Edgar Wright laughs off the apocalypse

Director Edgar Wright at KPCC.
Director Edgar Wright at KPCC.
Mae Ryan/KPCC

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By now it's clear that British director Edgar Wright has a knack for making cult films, with "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz" and "Scott Pilgrim Versus the World," to name a few. 

His latest effort, "The World's End," is about five childhood friends who reunite as middle-aged men to re-live a notorious pub crawl from their school days. But, this being an Edgar Wright movie, nothing is quite as it seems. 

By the end of the night, the quest to down 12 pints becomes a quest to save humanity. 

The film marks the third of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy that started with "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." The name is something of an inside joke: in each film a different flavor of Cornetto ice cream novelty appears, along with other repeated themes. 

"If we wanted to get really pretentious, ... it's more of a triptych than a trilogy," said Wright on Take Two. "They're three standalone films, and you don't have to have seen the other two to enjoy 'The World's End.'"

Wright joined Take Two to talk about how he came up with this pub-crawling adventure, why we're obsessed with the apocalypse, and how Delta Airlines may have inspired his next film. 

Interview Highlights: 

On how he came up with the idea for "The World's End":
"I was 19. It's worth pointing out that the drinking age in the UK is 18. In my hometown, there were about 15 pubs, and the town is about a mile wide. I had the stupid idea — I was the instigator of the crawl that we should drink a pint at every one. I saw it as proving myself ... being a man, and I could take on the town and drink it dry. I managed a pathetic six out of those 15 pubs. Unlike in the movie, the pub crawl just stopped after pub six. I wandered off into the night to try and find the girl that I was seeing at the time. It was a spectacularly messy night, and it stuck with me enough that, when I was 21, I wrote a script about it, about teenagers going out drinking, which I never did anything with."

On the main theme of the film:
"In a way the whole theme of the film is you've got somebody who wants to be a teenager forever, who sees himself as a rebel, and sees his friends who have grown up as being sellouts."

On our obsession with the apocalypse:
"I think its been a thing that has been on people's minds since the millennium. What's interesting, I think, is that it comes from a general pessimism about our future as a race, that we are eating ourselves as a planet. I always attribute it to, when I was younger, sci-fi would be about going out there and exploring. I feel like a part of that died when the space race died. When you realize there is no space program anymore, and we're never going to live on another planet, and the aliens are not going to come to us, this is it. We've got to sort of figure it out for ourselves on Earth."

On balancing humor with dark themes, zombies and the end of the world:
"The characters can die, and they don't have to come back, but you want people to care about them. And so I think that's what makes the films work. There are real stakes in them. Most of the comedy comes from what we would think would be naturalistic reactions to extraordinary circumstances. One of the things in 'Shaun of the Dead,' we wanted the whole thing to have this sort of hungover feel to it, that the characters are hung over, so there's not nonchalance, but there's this delayed reaction."

On what connects the three films as a trilogy:
"I guess essentially if we wanted to get really pretentious, ... it's more of a triptych than a trilogy. They're three standalone films, and you don't have to have seen the other two to enjoy "The World's End.' But I think it came from the fact that we never wanted to do a sequel to 'Shaun of the Dead.' So the surface-level connections that people like to latch onto — the sillier things, like ice cream cropping up in all three of them, or fence jumping — in a way, when we were writing this movie, we had the idea for the story, and we realized that it actually tied up some themes that are in all three of them. Because all three of them are about growing up. All three of them are about perpetual adolescence and the dangers of that, and all of them are about an individual versus a collective."

On whether the team will be back with another film:
"One of the things we've tried to do with the three movies is get older onscreen, because I see so many comedies where people pretend to be 26 forever and pretend to be single, slacker guys when in truth they're husbands and fathers. I liked the idea with our movies that we play our own age. Usually we start talking about new ideas when we're waiting for a delayed domestic flight, so thanks, Delta Airlines, for helping us come up with our new movie."

Web Extra

Edgar Wright on how the film "Bugsy Malone" and the music of Paul Williams influenced his work:

"I love it, because I thought when I was a little kid, it seemed like the film I wanted to be in. There was a school production of 'Bugsy Malone' that I was in when I was 12, and I was one of Fat Sam's gang. The thing that I love about it still is that Paul Williams' songs are amazing.

"I've often thought, weirdly, when you get asked that morbid question, 'What would you like to have played at your funeral?' I always say, 'I'd like to have "So You Wanna Be A Boxer" play,' because I think when I'm dead it will be clear that I was never a boxer. So I think that's the song I'd like to have play at my funeral."