News Column

Director Edgar Wright completes his odd trilogy with 'The World's End'

August 18, 2013


Aug. 18--Edgar Wright has arrived not just at "The World's End," but at the end of delivering on a promise, to fans and to himself. The movie opening Friday bookends collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost that include the George Romero homage "Shaun of the Dead" and the Hollywood cop send-up "Hot Fuzz."

In "The World's End," Mr. Pegg's 40-something slacker Gary King enlists his high school days entourage -- Mr. Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan -- to complete unfinished business: have a pint at each of 12 pubs along a route known as the Golden Mile. A long-ago night of debauchery that Gary cherishes as the best time of his life ended before reaching the intended finale, a pub called The World's End.

"The film is a cautionary tale to what happens when you try to turn back the clock," said Mr. Wright, a boyish 39-year-old director-writer who has teamed with Mssrs. Pegg and Frost on various projects since the 2001 British TV comedy "Spaced."

"The World's End" completes what fanboys have dubbed The Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy or the Cornetto Ice Cream Trilogy -- referring to the over-the-top violence and choice of treats.

"It's an odd trilogy in the sense that they are all stand-alone movies, but there are themes that run through them," Mr. Wright said by phone during a recent press junket. "One of them is about the individual vs. the collective, one is about growing up, and the other one is about the dangers of perpetual adolescence. In a way, we wanted to make this movie seem quite final by making nostalgia itself the villain of the piece. It was something we thought would be a great way to round off and make the films a thematic trilogy."

This film makes a statement about moving forward, but Mr. Wright had no problem with a rear-view glance to the starting line, 2004's "Shaun of the Dead," co-written with Mr. Pegg. "We always called it a Valentine to George [Romero]. Obviously our film would not exist without his."

That film also was Mr. Wright's ticket to Pittsburgh.

"Me and Simon did a cameo in 'Land of the Dead' because George Romero was so supportive of 'Shaun of the Dead,' and he asked us to play zombies," the director said. "And then we came to Pittsburgh for the premiere, and George's son, Cameron, took myself, Simon Pegg and Quentin Tarantino to Monroeville Mall and Evans City. It was amazing."

Sci-fi influences are evident throughout Mr. Wright's work, which includes "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and the upcoming "Ant-Man," the long-in-development project that was put on hold to make "The World's End."

"You know, I had some personal reasons for making this film first," he said, alluding to the cancer diagnosis of friend and executive producer Eric Fellner. "I can tell you ['Ant-Man'] comes out in 2015, so I've got to get my skates on once I finish the press tour. Marvel has been very kind and the character has been around since 1962, so it didn't seem like another two years was going to be too harmful."

Ant-Man, a Marvel character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, has had several incarnations, beginning with Henry Pym, a brilliant scientist who invented a substance that allowed him to change his size and a helmet that allowed him to communicate with ants. Mr. Wright has confirmed only that Pym will be in the film that introduces Ant-Man to the Marvel cinema team. In the comic book universe, the character often worked with the Avengers to fight enemies including Ultron, Pym's own robotic creation. (The second Avengers film is subtitled "Age of Ultron," but director Joss Whedon has said that Ant-Man will not make an appearance.)

Last month, Mr. Wright was invited to Comic-Con in San Diego not only to promote "The World's End," but to answer questions from expectant "Ant-Man" fans as he took part in The Visionaries Panel with fellow directors Marc Webb and Alfonso Curan.

The current film has genre elements that make it just the prep for a Marvel launch. Gary is the first among the friends to discover that aliens have replaced townsfolk with humanoid robots and that the group is in a bit of trouble on that front.

When it's suggested that Wright-Pegg films take some pleasure in ripping apart the fabric of small-town England, the director laughed and said the reason for the seemingly bucolic settings are twofold.

"When I was a kid, a lot of the sci-fi I would watch, way before I knew what the term genre meant, would be about small-town paranoia, whether it's 'Invaders From Mars' or 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' or British films like 'Village of the Damned' or [TV series] 'Quatermass.' They are usually dealing with some kind of planetary crisis through a very narrow keyhole, and I always liked that aspect. But also, the reason I like that aspect, is I'm a small-town boy, so that would immediately resonate with me," said the director, who was born in Poole in Dorset, England.

The influence of those movies is on display in the way the character of Gary King takes "the metaphor of alienation to its most extreme extent," Mr. Wright said. "There's a moment in the film where Simon's character has an epiphany about what's happening, and you can see that he's happy as he starts to explain that there might be aliens that have invaded his town. It's because that conclusion to him is one he'll accept more readily than that he's, A., gotten old, or that, B., his hometown might not have been that great in the first place."

Mr. Wright expects that there will be further adventures in film for him and his trilogy mates, although they have been a busy lot -- Mr. Pegg has played Scotty in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" films and Mr. Freeman, who has appeared in all three films, recently wrapped another trilogy, as the title character in "The Hobbit."

For now, there's closure in arriving at "The World's End."

"As much as we made a promise to fans that we would make a third film, we made it to ourselves as well," he said. "We wanted to work together again, and we don't want to leave it at three films. Hopefully the movies feel -- outside of the sci-fi and the head-smashing and the comedy -- they feel quite personal. It's because we've made movies that we want to see rather than ones we ought to. That's the key to it, and I hope other people appreciate that."

Back-to-back-to-back showings of "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End" are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the AMC Loews at the Waterfront; check for more info.

Sharon Eberson: or 412-263-1960.


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