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MH talks to Edgar Wright about The World’s End and Ant-Man

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Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy apparently has nothing to do with the fact that the films within that series all feature a trio of nuts, as Clint Morris discovered when he caught up with the amiable filmmaker to talk all things “World’s End”.

Really good stuff, man.  Good work.

Thank you.

So, we’ve reached the end of the Cornetto trilogy. Do you feel a bit like Coppola, when he came to the end of the Godfather trilogy?

No, because we did our films a little closer together [Laughs]

I don’t know. I mean, I feel very satisfied in terms of that we always promised to do a third one, and we even had the idea 6 years ago when we were doing the “Hot Fuzz” press tour.  Actually, between Wellington and Sydney, I thought of the idea on the plane.  Then I told Simon about it when we landed in Sydney, so you could claim some intellectual property as a country for the idea.

Yeah.  It feels very satisfying to actually complete it.  Aside from the references to Cornetto, which is a very silly running joke, we tried to actually have themes throughout the three and on this one try and wrap them up in a way.

Is that the joke, that you see a Cornetto in every film?  I’ve always wanted to ask you were it came from.

In the first movie, it just comes from the fact that Ed asked for one on a Sunday morning.

It’s a very strange thing to ask for.  It’s because it used to be my college hangover cure.

Not doctor approved.  Then, we had it in “Hot Fuzz.” Then after that, a journalist said, “Are you going to do a trilogy based on different flavors?” and I said, “Yes, it’s going to be like Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colors. (laughs)

That’s just the superficial linking thing.  There’s things like that and like fence jumping and returning actors that link them.

I guess what we wanted to make is a trilogy of tone in a way.  They’re all films that take place in contemporary Britain.  They’re all like a sort of character comedy that morphs into a genre film. They all have connective themes.  They’re essentially about growing up, fantasy versus reality, perpetual adolescence, the individual versus the collective.  It was all three films.  We tried to have underlying, connecting themes.  Then, in this one, trying to make it seem like a final statement within the movies.

For sure.  I think the thing that got me, and this is obviously intentional, is the whole getting older, or ‘you are old’ now.  It’s a reminder that we’re not those high school hooligans of the ’90s anymore but… we’re bloody adults, now.

That’s the idea.  That’s what the idea is, that there’s a sort of horror aspect to it.  It’s the idea of the cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t look backwards, why you shouldn’t go backwards.  There’s that phrase, “You can never go home again.”  When Simon’s character drags the other one back to their home, they have the worst possible outcome.

It’s really based on the experience of going back to your home town and finding it a bittersweet experience.  This idea of giving some external reason as to why the town has changed.  It just felt like there were a lot of themes that we can make within this one movie, even when you’ve got the reunion aspect about five friends reuniting.  Four of them are adults, one of them wants to be a teenager.  Alcohol as a sort of lubricant works like a time machine in terms that they start to act like juveniles again.  Then, as the genre element comes in, by this point, they’ve fully become like little kids again.  They’re acting like teenagers. Gary is their captain and he’s going to lead them on to the bitter end. We never wanted to be accused of “Oh, you just do this comedy thing and then you just take a big left turn, and it turns into something else.”  What we really wanted it to be was like the genre element that comes in, in that kind of sharp left turn actually really focuses all of the internal dynamics and the different tensions between the characters, just to quite shortly then exacerbate it by the other threat.  It just makes it even more intense.   We just tried to make everything, the character comedy and the scifi plot,  dovetail into each other in terms of that this is about a man searching for eternal youth and finding it to be a hollow triumph.

As a genre film it really works, too.  As you say, it’s two films in one… so to speak.  It’s your coming of age “reminder, shit, we’re all old” story and the looming, invaders from Mars-type threat kind of movie…

Yeah.  Even with that aspect nods toward social science fiction and British scifi of a particular kind of vintage … although there’re a lot of American films as well.  Obviously, there’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Stepford Wives,” but specifically in the UK, you have John Windom and Nigel Neil and John Christopher.  We liked that idea that a lot of those B movies and horror and scifi of that time were always about something.  I feel like, especially in horror films, these days  they’re not really about anything anymore.

No.  Not anymore.

It’s like no metaphor.

No.  You’re right. 

With this, what we liked was the idea that the character comedy is basically like a Trojan horse.  We made a zombie film, a cult film and a scifi film, but inside the Trojan horse is this character comedy and we smuggled in this thing about growing up into another movie.  That’s the idea.

I was just going to commend you on the visual effects.  They are fantastic.  You didn’t need to, but you really made sure those effects packed as much punch as the comedy.

Oh, thank you.  We worked really hard.  This is a movie that obviously cost a lot less than “Scott Pilgrim” but also costs less than “Paul” as well.  We had a bigger budget than “Hot Fuzz,”  but less than those other two that we’d made in the interim.  We just tried to absolutely make sure that all the money was on screen and to give you bang for your buck in terms of the action and special effects, that they really erupt on screen, come out of nowhere.  “Holy shit, this scene is just happening out of nowhere!”

Exactly.  It really throws you when you knock their head off, so to speak.  It works a treat. Was it 6 years ago at Comic-Con you first announced “Ant-Man”?. I remember talking to you about it then, and it’s still not done.  Did you want to do some other things first before you got on to “Ant-Man” that were like this?  Where you could play a bit more with the visual effects side of stuff.?

It was never really a 6-year plan or anything, but it’s kind of worked out like that in a way in terms of I’m very happy.  I had a chance to do “Ant-Man” after “Scot Pilgrim.”  For various reasons, some of them personal in terms of people working on the movie, we wanted to do this one next.  I actually told Marvel, “I want to do ‘Ant-Man’ but I cannot do it next.  I have to do this film to work it out.  It’s really important to me on a personal level.”  And, that’s what we did.  To be honest about it, it’s been great doing two movies with lots of special effects in that then build towards that.  I’m just really glad we did this film, that we could finally make good on our promise.

Make good on your promise… then get a guy in tights.

The other thing, is that Ant-Man is not going anywhere.  The later it is, the better the special effects will be.  It’s fine.

You don’t want to see the 2005 version of “Ant-Man”

No, we do … (laughs). I assume it’s a totally different film story-wise and everything else, too, conceptually.  What it isn’t going to be now, but what it was then. 

Not really.  No conceptual changes.

Just in terms of the effects, then? I saw your video test for “Ant-Man” at Comic-Con a year or so back… very impressive!

Yeah.  I actually did the test just before this with the same crew.

Oh, really?

One of the two Melbourne people who worked on “At the World’s End,” actually, the editor’s from Melbourne, Paul Machliss.

Yeah?  OK.

And the stunt coordinator, Brad Allan, is from Melbourne as well.

Oh, really?

Yeah.

Oh, nice.  When you get around to Ant-Man, are Simon and Nick going to be in it? 

I don’t think so, because I think it’s going to be an American movie.  I want to do films with Simon and Nick again, and I’d like those to be our movies, you know?

Yeah.  Yeah.  You’ve also got to do your own things, too, I guess. 

Yeah.

Simon’s got his things going on with Trek and so forth.  I was just talking to these guys about it before.  Do you pinch yourself sometimes and go, “I’ve had such luck.  Lucky to be here.”  Do you see a billboard for your movie and still get goose bumps?

Yeah.  It’s amazing.  No, I feel extremely fortunate.  I feel fortunate to do my hobby and passion as a career.  It’s crazy.  I feel very proud of these movies in terms of we’ve made these comedy genre movies, but they’re all quite personal.  I realize in this day and age, maybe even more so than when we did “Shaun of the Dead” 9 years ago, it’s gotten increasingly rare to have the chance to do that.  It wasn’t easy to get this film made because what we were trying to do was very specific.  It took a little bit of legwork.  It wasn’t like, “Here, take the money.  Go make it.” We had to sing for our supper, but I’m very proud of that and the response that I’ve got from people is that they feel like, hh, this is something that feels like more person in a good way.  That it actually, hopefully, has something to say.  It feels like summer movies and not really about anything.

True.  True, though your “Ant-Man” will be, of course, about something.  You’re supposed to add that disclaimer on the end.  (laughs).

It’s 2 years away. [Laughs]

Yeah.  You’ll forget about it before then.  I was just going to say, have the guys changed at all in terms of their acting ways in that time that you’ve lost?

I think, if anything, they’ve become better.  I think Simon’s and Nick’s performances in this one are the best they’ve ever done.  I think their actual capacity to go between drama and comedy is even better.  I’m really proud of their performances in this movie.  I think people will be surprised at how real it feels.  It’s just really good fun.  You never want to get complacent, so the nice thing to do with each movie is really push yourself and really push them.  We’re not happy resting on our laurels.  The idea of this one, in doing a third film, is lets go further than we have before and deeper than we have before.

Obviously, your sound track’s great.  It fits the whole time from these guys’ heyday, basically.  How important was it for you to get that right, just the tunes and everything.

It was very important.  It actually helped the writing of the film, because we actually wrote the movie listening to this playlist.  At the time, I made this playlist that was about 200 tracks long.  It was all from 1988 to 1993. We used to listen to it on shuffle all day when we were writing and quite a lot of those songs found their way into the movie.  They were all quite on-the-nose in terms of their commenting on what’s happening in the movie.  That was really fun to do, you know?

I bet it was.  Can I asked what you filmed the movie on, just out of interest?

On 35 mm.

It looks beautiful. 

It’s an old-fashioned film.

That’s why it looks beautiful.  It’s on film.   Yeah.  Yeah.  There’s just something about film.  It’s still got it.  What do you think of digital, though, as opposed to film?

I think it has its benefits and stuff, but I don’t like what’s happening where filmmakers are being forced to use digital.  It’s not become a matter of choice any more.  It’s been dictated by somebody else that this is happening.  I don’t like the fact that filmmakers are being forced to use digital.  It’s what’s happening.  I had to really argue to get to shoot this film on film.  It’s the thing of it.  It’s like people who are film snobs don’t like people using the word, “movies,”  are going to have to rethink when there are no films.  (laughs)

That’s right.  Yeah.  It’s very true.

I’m very glad that this is on 35 mm because I just wanted it to be like the other two.  I just thought that, because its 6 years since “Hot Fuzz,”  if we came back and people watched it and said, “Mmm, something funny about this film.  It looks a bit like…

 “The Hobbit” trailer.” (laughs)

It looks different.  (laughs)   I wanted to make sure they all looked the same.

As I said, there’s something about film, if you can keep using it.

I try.  I really try.  It gets more and more difficult.

Yeah.  I can imagine.  Good seeing you. 

Good to see you, man.  I’ll say hi to the Moviehole guys in San Diego for you!

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About Caffeinated Clint

The writer/publicist/producer who wears the editor hat on Moviehole. Favorite films include "Say Anything...", "The Hunt for Red October", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", "Die Hard", "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo", "Young Guns", "American Psycho", "Back to the Future" and the "Star Wars" series.
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