When Shaun of the Dead premiered in 2004 to critical acclaim, the response was easy to understand. Edgar Wright was like a breath of fresh air to the industry. Having only directed TV episodes, namely for the British sitcom Spaced, and a no-budget film, A Fistful of Fingers, Wright came out of the gate swinging with a style of moviemaking that was visually snappy, amusingly current, and thematically relatable.
Shaun of the Dead isn't just a zombie movie made for the morbid thrill of watching the undead get bludgeoned over the head. It's a movie about a burnt-out man (Pegg) learning to take responsibility for the people in his life, disguised as zombie movie made for the morbid thrill of watching the undead get bludgeoned over the head. Wright also admitted that it's an apology to his ex-girlfriend for being, as he put it, "useless."
Reteaming with Pegg and Frost, Hot Fuzz continued on the thread of taking a tried and true genre formula and adding a human element to it. This time, the buddy cop flick is used to communicate the story of a best friendship. At this point, the trio had set in a stone a new standard to aspire to. Action flicks didn't need to be so mindnumbing.
With The World's End, the three are wrapping the themes that they've so expertly weaved throughout the trilogy. And trust us, they've put a lot more thought into it than you can imagine.
Pegg: "We’ve never set anything up as [a genre send-up]. I would never call Shaun of the Dead a parody, and Hot Fuzz is not really a parody. It draws attention to some of the formal aspects of cinema, but not in the way that it is satirical particularly. It might, by changing the context, make you realize how ridiculously rambunctious these films are sometimes."
"The films that I’ve made with Edgar are like Trojan Horses to say more important things about life. If you want to make a film about a guy breaking up with his girlfriend, not many people are going to go see it. But if you put zombies in it, you can use them as metaphor and make everything a little more poetic. The same thing about friendship and male bonding in Hot Fuzz or alcoholism or the sense of loss when you go home in The World’s End. We always liked the idea of taking the kind of cinema we love as big kids and using it to say what we feel as adults."
"When Nick and I made Paul, one of the central jokes was that he had an influence on all pop culture. By that, every reference we made to the film was by that Paul invented it, even to the point where he helped Spielberg make E.T. That film is so referential. Edgar also got pissed off after Scott Pilgrim at the people who were like, 'Oh yeah, there’s a bit of some video game in there,' when there was some smart writing in the film that was his idea and isn’t all references."
"We decided to not make any of the references in The World’s End. If you put it under a microscope, you can see the social science fiction, the paranoia writings of what’s become known as the cosy catastrophes of John Wyndham and J.G. Bellum, and insidious invasions where everything changes very subtly, like in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers or Invaders from Mars."
"Outwardly, the only references to the other films that remain in The World’s End are the connective tissue between Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, and The World’s End, which is the fence gag and Cornetto. And also, all of the films are about the loss of identity, whether it be zombies literally eating you or the NWA reshaping you or this combination of the NWA and the zombies, which is this huge galactic force of corporate change, which is what The Network is."
"When you take away all the referentiality, what you’re left with in The World’s End is seemingly just references to ourselves, but those references are important in order to bind the films as a trilogy. If we’re gonna use a term as lofty as trilogy, we wanted it to actually be true. When The Hangover III came out, it was like, 'The thrilling conclusion to The Hangover.' It’s not a fucking trilogy. It’s two sequels because they made some money after the first one! I think the thing with this is we wanted it to be a piece that you could watch in one day and see the connections."
Wright: "[The loss of identity] is something we've had in all of the movies. They're all movies about growing up. In Shaun, it's about Shaun has to grow up and take responsibility. In Hot Fuzz, it's about Nicholas Angel and Danny Butterman meeting somewhere in the middle—one of them needs to grow up and the other one needs to dumb down, or at least become a human being and stop being like a robot."
"In The World's End, it's that the four of them are growing up and have seemingly conformed in Gary's eyes, and he wants to be the high school rebel forever. You cannot be that rebel forever unless you're willing to be completely off the grid. The reality of it is that me and Simon and Nick live happily somewhere in the middle and we're happy with our Starbucks and our Apple Macs and stuff, but in the movie, there's a sharp line. Is he going to be with them, or with the other guy? Are you going to be with Gary King or are you going to be with the robots?" [Laughs.]
Pegg: "I think any expression in art, even in popular culture, is an expression of how we’re all feeling at the time. All of our preoccupations bubble to the surface in our artistic output, whether it be high-brow art cinema or fuckin’ Jersey Shore. It all comes out in the way we express ourselves and indulge in entertainment. I think you could reach more people."
"It’s good to adopt [from other art]. You use the tools available to you to show as many things to as many people as you can. If you can harness popular culture, you’re likely to be less in a position where you’re preaching to the converted. If you make a heavy piece of art cinema, then a lot of very intelligent, cinematically literate people will go see it."
Frost: "Also, in terms of our output, we never tried to second guess what people want. We always just made what would make us laugh. I think we realized quite early on that if you’re going try to pander to a particular group of people, you’re in trouble because what you give them is probably not what they want, and you’ve diluted the thing they liked in the first place. We’ve always been really firm that what we make benefits [the interests of] the mates who we’ve always hung out with and laughed with."
Pegg: "And trust that there are other people like that."