Director Edgar Wright's latest movie The World's End just came out on Blu-ray and DVD and it's also been included in a boxed set with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, the other two movies in his "Cornetto" trilogy. He talked to us about watching movies with his WWII vet grandfather and the themes he's trying to illuminate in between all the jokes in his movies.
The Word's End tells the story of five childhood friends who return to their hometown after twenty years to complete an epic pub crawl they first attempted when they finished school. What first appears to be a Big Chill-style meditation on lost youth takes a sharp turn into a Body Snatchers-inspired sci-fi comedy. In the end, the friends drive away the aliens but it's debatable whether they've managed to save the world.
Wright also directed Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and is now making an Ant-Man movie that Marvel plans to release in 2015.
Do you have an family connection to the military?
My grandfather was in World War II, an Air Force pilot. And, in fact, when I went up for my birthday last year, my parents gave me his medals. And so I have my grandfather's actual Air Force medals and these amazing photos he took in World War II. There's like Afghanistan, Iraq, which is kind of amazing to see black and white photos from latter 30's in Afghanistan.
I'd seen them when I was a little kid, but I hadn't seen them since and then I was given this book of the original photos and it's just kind of incredible to see my grandfather, who I knew up until he died when I was about nine years old. Growing up, I would watch World War II films with him. So I had this sweet and slightly strange experience of watching World War II movies with somebody who fought in that war.
Was that the time you got interested in being a filmmaker?
My grandfather was a big movie fan, but my parents were, too. They certainly encouraged my brother and me to watch lots of movies and we'd go to the cinema a lot. My parents are both from an artistic background. They're both art teachers and artists. I knew I wanted to be involved in movies. I didn’t necessarily know that I wanted to be a director until I was a bit older, but I wanted to be involved at an early age on some kind of level, whether it was makeup or like animation or something else on a technical level.
So tell us about 'The World's End' and how it relates to the other two movies in your trilogy.
I think some people sometimes are a bit confused about how these movies make a trilogy when they're not like related by characters. But they're all personal comedies wrapped up in other genres. They're all about different periods in life and about work versus play and fantasies versus reality and ambition. They're all about the individual versus the collective and they're also about growing up. So I think that’s pretty obvious.
And so with The World's End, we wanted to make a movie about old friends reconnecting with each other and also going back to their hometown. The question hanging over is it that they’ve changed or has the town changed? And the sci-fi element was just a fun way of like tackling different questions of identity and maturity and whether these characters wanted to accept a better life or live with their own flaws.
There's a great use of the Primal Scream song "Loaded" on the soundtrack and in the script, one that pays off at the end of the movie. Did you start with that idea or did it develop when you wrote the script?
We didn’t start with it, but it came very early in the process. We wrote the script listening to those songs from the early ‘90s. In my iTunes, I already had had songs like “Loaded” by Primal Scream, “I’m Free” by the Soup Dragons, “Step On” by the Happy Mondays and “Fool’s Gold” by the Stone Roses, so those things very quickly become part of the story. We started to work the lyrics into the script. “Loaded” was a big track for me because I always remember it as being my gateway drug into Indie Music. I think maybe I did more like listening to pop and classic rock and maybe even my parent's record collection. I remember hearing “Loaded” and thinking, “What is this?” That was in 1990, when I was 16. It was great to make that a really key track.
The idea with that joke is that Gary King has got such a Goldfish memory that he starts to believe that he made up those lyrics. I think when he quotes it at the end, he's not even quoting the song. He thinks that he came up with it himself.
Are you glad to see all three movies released as a boxed set?
Recently we've done triple bills of all three movies in theaters. In fact, I did one on Saturday at The Egyptian in Hollywood and it was great. When you watch them together, it becomes clear what the thematic overlap is.
The other thing that was clear from watching the movies is that the characters are getting older. Shaun of the Dead is a film about somebody about to turn 30 and The World's End is a film about somebody to turn 40 So it's kind of a fun thing to actually deal with different topics that come up as you get more mature.
You're scheduled to direct "Ant-Man" for Marvel. What can you tell us about that? I'm just starting that so I can't really talk too much about it, because I'm in the thick of it right. But I will be able to talk soon, but not right now. With any comic book adaptation, you should make a film that anybody could enjoy. I think when Iron Man came out, I would say that 20 percent of that audience, maybe less, had actually ever read an Iron Man comic. If it's a good movie, it should serve as an introduction for the character You shouldn’t have to have read anything before you see a movie. If it's an adaptation, it's got to work as a movie and sound right. And if you liked the movie, maybe you'll go and read the comic.