You obviously are a huge movie fan and have an encyclopedic knowledge of genre film. What were some of the movies that inspired "The World’s End"?
I think this one came from a more personal place. When we did "Shaun of the Dead," the initial idea was we wanted to be inside a George Romero film so we wrote a film set inside his universe. And in "Hot Fuzz" it was very much about the difference between the mundane reality of British cops and the fantasy of the American police. In this one even though it’s very much in the paranoid, science fiction world, the sci-fi elements came as an expression of our feelings about going home.
There was a time when I was going back home and I felt much like the characters in the movies. Even though I’d gone away for a year I felt disconnected from my parents. It’s that feeling you have when you go back home and expect this hero’s welcome and realize the town has changed without you, architecturally, socially. I just felt the town was slowly being changed, so that was definitely a touchstone. There’s a whole wave of movies about small-town paranoia, "Invaders from Mars" in the U.K. There’s also a literature element as well—John Wyndham was a big influence and Nigel Kneale. I think those people are so influential that they are responsible for a lot of great horror and sci-fi in the '60s, which trickled into TV with "Doctor Who" and "The Avengers" and "The Prisoner." In a similar way to this film is about nostalgia, a lot of the sci-fi elements are things as I grew up with as a kid; things I watched before I even knew what genre meant. In a way it's harkening further back to a great strain of paranoid, post-war sci-fi that I watched before even acknowledging that I was a sci-fi fan.
Visually it’s a little bit John Carpenter there, at least with the lens flare when the characters open their eyes and their hands.
Absolutely! "Shaun of the Dead" we actually shot in John Carpenter’s format and I used his idea of making a low-budget film look artsy. I was always taken with the glowing-eyed pirates in "The Fog." "The Fog" is one of my favorites and even though he only put it on screen for a couple of minutes, that image was burned into my subconscious. Also, "Westworld" as well. Yul Brynner’s contacts—that’s still amazing as an in-camera effect. If you look at the trailer there’s a shot of them running down the street and all the people running actually have lights on their eyes. A lot of the burning eyes effects are in-camera. To save money, we tried to shoot all the daytime stuff when you’re not drunk yet in stereo and switch to anamorphic when you start to get drunker at nighttime, and all the stuff in the past we shot in 16 mm.
You’re about to start shooting "Ant-Man." It sounded like "Ant-Man" was going to be something outside the canon of the Marvel film universe at first and now it sounds like its back in. Has that changed?
I think it’s just doing its own thing in the accepted history but it's still part of the other movies and always was. In the time I’ve been working on it other things have happened in the other movies that could be affected in this. It is pretty standalone in the way we’re linking it to the others. I like to make it standalone because I think the premise of it needs time. I want to put the crazy premise of it into a real world, which is why I think "Iron Man" really works because it’s a relatively simple universe; it’s relatable. I definitely want to go into finding a streamlined format where you use the origin format to introduce the main character and further adventures can bring other people into it. I’m a big believer in keeping it relatively simple and Marvel agrees on that front.
What’s the tone supposed to be?
It's hard to say, my head’s still in 'World’s End.' I think it’s funny…I wouldn’t say it has any of the comedy that is in my previous but I think it’ll be in a different vein. There’ll be less swearing in it.
What’s going on with "Night Stalker"? Is that still something that’s going?
Yeah. I think that’s still a ways off, it’s not even been written yet but yeah, it's happening.
What about "Collider"?
That is being written at the moment. It hasn’t gone away. It’s something I’m excited about but it’s a little ways off. I’ve become more superstitious in this day and age and I think people expect to have hourly updates on every project. Even in the case of "Ant-Man" it's true, twice I was contemplating another project. The chance to do "The World’s End" came up and it was something more personal and it became very clear to us that we had to do 'World’s End' next and also we wanted to. Marvel was great and said, "We can wait. See you in two years." People always say "Why is it taking so long?” and my answer is that "I’d rather see the movie with VFX from 2015 than VFX from 2005" and you can’t argue with that.
That’s amazing that Marvel let you put it off like that considering they have this all mapped out decades in advance.
The reason it’s always been there is because they really love the script and so I was very excited that they didn’t say, "Let’s give the script to someone else." I’m so glad that I made 'World’s End' and it was the right time to do it and there were many reasons why we wanted to do it, had to do it and I’m very prod that I did it because if we didn’t do it in the next couple years we’d have never done it.
You kind of teased about future flavors in the ice cream.
There’s so many but this is the final in the Cornetto. In the U.K. there were only three flavors and you can see in the movie why it’s over. We give it finality at the end.
It seems it wouldn’t be out of the question.
One fan said, without giving away what happens said, "I can’t believe they don’t get to eat it." We had to subvert it.
Seemingly you’d team up with these guys again in the future.
I’d love to. It’s a very rare and fortunate position to be able to make movies with two of your best friends who happen to be really amazing actors and writers. If we never did a film again I’d be very happy with the three that we’ve done, but it would seem foolish not to work together again. When you’re doing a long press tour as we’ve been doing for the last five weeks, it’s sitting in domestic airports for delayed flight and we have time to talk about what we’d like to do and in the future it might be something dramatically different.
Between the three movies, the ones I’ve directed, their partnership in each of them is radically different. I find it strange when people say the dynamic is very different in this one. I’m pretty sure the dynamic is different in the second one. It’s like Nicholas Angel and Shaun might have something in common and Gary King is very different. I love working with them and I think their performances in this are really great and I’d like to keep working with them and going deeper. It’s something you can only do with good friends; it’s the benefit of being really close that you can be honest. I don’t think I could get to that position with an actor I didn’t know as quickly as we have done with this. I love them and I always want to work with them so we have talked about future ideas.
Are you still thinking of doing a straight horror thing?
Yes, I am actually. I’m actually developing it with Big Talk and Film 4. It’s something I’ve been doing a lot of research on and I want to write at some point once I’m stopped with this crazy promotion for this movie.
Can you give us a tease of what vein that’ll be in?
I want to do something that’s very visual and has very little dialogue. All of my films have been very dialogue heavy and that’s great. It always makes it more of a challenge to market in other countries. I like watching films that can play in any language because they’re essentially silent.
You’re a big Nicolas Roeg fan right?
"Don’t Look Now" is one of my favorite films, absolutely!
When you said horror relying on visuals it made me think of "Don’t Look Now."
"Don’t Look Now" is a masterpiece. I think it’s the best-edited movie of all time. I adore it.
Last question and a random tangent: how do you feel about the original 'Star Wars' actors returning for the new movies? It seems like kind of a waste considering how massive the potential universe is. Since you're a huge 'Star Wars' fan, what do you think of that?
I think it's more than okay to have the stars of the previous movies appear as elders and I don't think they will be the leads. I think it's just about passing the torch. I guess the proposed spin-off movies could go off into complete new worlds. I am a big fan of 4, 5 and 6, so I'm intrigued as to what J.J. does with 7.
"The World's End" opens on Friday, August 23rd in wide release. Wright's "Ant-Man" is already set for a November 6, 2015 release. And below is Mike Relm's "Cornetto Megamix," which Edgar tout as "what might be my favorite re-edit of any of my work."