Sunday Geekersation: Comic-Con part of Wright's 'World'

05:00 AM, Jul 14, 2013

Edgar Wright directs Martin Freeman on the set of "The World's End," which Wright is barnstorming all over the globe — including a trip to Comic-Con this week. Laurie Sparham/


Written By by Brian Truitt, USA TODAY

Edgar Wright is taking the title of his movie The World’s End seriously when it comes to frequent flier miles.

The British director has been traveling the globe screening and spreading the word on his apocalyptic comedy, and his itinerary takes him to San Diego this week for Comic-Con, the pop-culture event that is home to Wright’s geeky interests as well as those of more than 125,000 others.

Last week was when he really embraced the whole “end of the world” motif, though, by passing through the land of Peter Jackson.

New Zealand is about as far out as you can get,” says Wright, 39, who did a “proper” premiere at a cinema that Jackson had renovated.

Australia you usually go to for press because it’s one of our most popular markets with our films, but not many people ever go to New Zealand for press even though it’s only a three-hour flight away. So we did it for Hot Fuzz and people were extremely happy that we actually bothered to go.”

The final part of the so-called Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is the third collaboration between Wright and his two stars, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The pair played two slackers amid a zombie apocalypse in 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and small-town coppers in the British countryside in the 2007 action comedyHot Fuzz.

In The World’s End (out Aug. 23), Pegg — who also worked with Wright on the 1999-2001 British series Spaced — is a man who rounds up four of his childhood friends to complete a legendary pub crawl in their hometown that they failed years ago, but this time things go wrong in the form of an alien invasion.

On the eve of Comic-Con, Wright talks with USA TODAY in the middle of his globetrotting adventure about how ice cream figures into his films, his favorite Comic-Con costume and getting ready to do his first Marvel Studios superhero movie, Ant-Man (in theaters Nov. 6, 2015).

Q: You put a lot of effort into publicizing your movies in general, but there seems to be extra love and care put into this one.

I like to think I put the same amount of enthusiasm into all my films, but this one — because it’s part of the same unofficial trilogy with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which are all films me and Simon Pegg have written together — is really personal to us. There are lots of elements and situations from our upbringing.

It was great doing the London premiere because a lot of people who weren’t in this film but had appeared in the previous films were there, so it was a special night.

We really like introducing it to audiences, so doing things like going to New Zealand and showing it and showing it at Comic-Con next weekend and doing a panel. There’s nothing like it.

Q: Is there something inherently great when you three guys get together creatively?

I was thinking about this. It’s unusual to find a double act of actors like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost who have genuinely been friends for a very long time. There are people who have become friends through being famous, but Simon Pegg and Nick Frost shared a flat for at least a decade before they actually became proper stars. And then me and Simon, we first worked together 17 years ago. You feel fortunate to make a film in the first place, but to make a mainstream sort of movie that has escapist mayhem going on with two of your best friends is incredible.

And it’s fun to write because not only are you writing with your very good friends but we’re drawing from our own experiences and putting it in this genre film. It feels like a very fortunate position to be in to make the three films we have.

Q: What’s most enjoyable about exploring an apocalypse?

Even with that title and apocalyptic elements, it is a movie about them being on a bar crawl. Obviously the stakes start to get higher and higher throughout the movie, but I liked that idea. There are a lot of those kind of ’50s and ’60s B-movies that would have these enormous titles like The Earth Dies Screaming! and then the actual film is just in a village.

This is a bit of both of that: It’s seeing a cataclysmic event through the eyes of these five guys, but then it starts to get bigger and more global and galactic towards the end.

It was really fun on this one, actually. We designed the baddies ourselves and designed all of our sci-fi elements, and it wasn’t something where we were taking, like with zombies, something that’s pre-existing from another film.

Q: When you started Shaun, did you have a Cornetto-inspired trilogy in mind or were you just really craving that particular brand of ice cream cone at the time?

No, not at all. It was a silly joke in an interview that all became fact in a way. When we made Shaun of the Dead, we had no ideas even beyond that. It definitely wasn’t supposed to be a trilogy, but we also were just first-time filmmakers so it was a big deal to get a film made, full stop.

After Hot Fuzz, we had used the same brand of ice cream in both movies, and a journalist said, ‘Oh, now that you’ve used a Cornetto in two of your movies, are you going to do a third one?’ I just said, as a joke, ‘Oh yes, it’s going to be like Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors trilogy. This is the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.’ That was one joke in an interview that then stuck.

Then later we started to think, well, wait, maybe we can make it a trilogy. And actually, ice cream aside, we wrote and devised this movie as a way of wrapping up themes from both of the other two. They don’t have returning characters, but they do have returning actors and an overall sensibility and themes that recur. And they all feature a lot of mayhem in very mundane British locations with a sudden inject of the insane.

Q: One of the themes does seem to be Simon running into a fence.

I would say that’s less of a running gag and more of a falling gag. Maybe that’s the first time I ever thought of that pun. I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that before. (Laughs)

Q: Whenever you make a movie, do your friends just assume they’ll get the call to join you?

In this movie, it’s kind of a mix of regulars from the other two. Obviously Simon and Nick, but Martin Freeman is in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz in supporting roles, and we’ve been friends with him forever. In Hot Fuzz, he was already big, but now (with him in The Hobbit) it’s like, “For the third one, we have to write you a proper part.”

We love the idea of a repertory group. I’ve always liked that about Quentin Tarantino’s films or Wes Anderson’s films, that they have a rep company of players.

Q: What’s it like to have American audiences not only like the films you make but the very British vein in which you did it?

It’s very satisfying. There was and still is sometimes a school of thought with British films that there was definitely a wave of them, and it still exists to this day, where British producers try and make it more transatlantic by putting American leads into a British film. I’m always sort of dubious of it.

Shaun of the Dead came out and American audiences really embraced it for what it actually was and actually liked its Britishness. There’s always been a thing in this country where people said, “The Americans won’t get it with British comedy.” And then with our film, it’s like, well, they do because they’re not idiots. Of course they get it, and they liked the cultural differences. Watching American movies, I want to see a window into your culture the same as if I watched a French movie. I don’t want to see a French movie look more American. I want to see a French movie.

I was very pleased and satisfied about how American critics and audiences embraced Hot Fuzz andShaun of the Dead, and it always pleases me when I see the films running on a Sunday afternoon on Comedy Central. (Laughs) I feel a swell of national pride that my hometown in Hot Fuzz is playing on American cable. It never ceases to amuse and amaze me.

Q: So, what is this legend that a Cornetto is a great cure for hangovers?

It’s not medically proven. I am not a doctor so I don’t want anybody to take me to court over any sort of wild medical claims but for me, one time, it personally worked.

Q: How old were you?

I was like 19. (Laughs) It was at college 20 years ago and I got wildly drunk on rum and woke up with a terrible craving for sugar. The Cornetto seemed to completely satiate me and get rid of my headache.

Q: Does it still work?

I try to not be quite as foolish and not get quite so apocalyptically drunk anymore. I do eat them, though. You’ll never be disappointed with one.

Q: Other than a sweet tooth, when you’re traveling around the world, is there something you have to have with you?

I can’t exist without music. I still have one of those outdated iPods, the 180-gigabyte one where I can have my entire record collection with me. I listen to music a lot. When things are stressful and stuff, music is always my comfort blanket.

Q: What band do you listen to when you’re most stressed?

What I’ve been listening to recently that’s super chill and stuff is Tame Impala. They have an album called Lonerism and they’re Aussie psychedelic rockers. I like listening to that because it’s proper ’60s trippy.

Q: Are you moving on to directing Ant-Man next?

I have this marathon press tour that goes on till the end of August in the States. I’m going to take a tiny break for four weeks lest I completely collapse and then I’m going to start in October.

Q: Do you have an Ant-Man in place?

No, we don’t yet, actually. We have been discussing some names but they themselves don’t know it. (Laughs)

Q: That’s a huge stage for you. Is it something you’re looking forward to?

Yeah. What’s really fun about that character is it has the potential to look better on the big screen than it did on the page and that is down to modern effects. When they used to have comic-book adaptations in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, the films could never quite match up to the art. And now I think it can. That character is one where his very power will actually look really good in live action in a way that’s a visual and aural treat.

Q: You premiered Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at Comic-Con three years ago and you’ve been there before with Simon for your TV show Spaced. Do you feel like you’re among your people there?

I think that’s true. It’s why studios go there with films. It’s actually a way for filmmakers to intersect with fans that you can’t in other situations. Film festivals are a little different to Comic-Con even just in terms of the age range of people. But then also, you do meet your fans one on one. You get closer to an audience response than you do with a festival crowd or industry screening.

Q: Are the days over where you can just go to Comic-Con and hang out and not be mobbed by people?

Because Simon and Nick are in front of the camera, sometimes when I walk around with the two of them, I can measure my fame mathematically. For every five people who stop them, one person stops me. I am completely cool with that math because I like to walk around the convention floor without a mask.

I walked around with Simon when he was wearing a mask, and I did it once. I do envy the two people in front of the camera.

Q: What mask did you wear?

I think I wore a Green Hornet mask, actually, so it wasn’t too bad. Simon had a full Jason Voorhees mask on. He was really covered.

Q: Even partly disguised, did anybody recognize you?

They did, actually. That’s the thing. Even with that on, someone said, ‘Are you Edgar Wright?’ I didn’t really need to wear a mask.