Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been charming worldwide audiences since Shaun Of The Dead, but their friendship started even before that. If you haven’t seen a little TV show called Spaced, which was directed by Edgar Wright as well, this geek-culture BBC series shows the trio’s comedic stylings in their rawest form. Seriously, right now, it’s steaming on Netflix, you have no excuse.
But I’m not here to talk about Simon and Nick’s past, and neither were they (well, OK, maybe a little bit), as I was invited to sit down with the two for a roundtable interview while the duo were out promoting their next film, The World’s End. We already spoke to Nick a few weeks ago when he was with Edgar in Toronto doing some press for the film. This past week though, he was in New York with Simon.
Finishing off their planned “Cornetto” trilogy with director Edgar Wright, there was plenty to talk about concerning the epic end to a trilogy that has cemented itself in pop-culture history.
Read on to hear how the duo have matured since their first film, what they plan on doing next, and if we’ll see Simon and Nick re-team with Edgar for yet more hilarity in the future. Enjoy!
Starting off the roundtable, we asked Simon and Nick when the word “trilogy” first popped into their minds:
Simon Pegg: I think it was on the Hot Fuzz press tour when we realized we’d been able to make two films, and those films were, in essence, thematically connected, they were tonal sequels in a way. They were not direct sequels, not the same character stories, but they were definitely variations on a theme. We figured if we could possibly get to do it again, we could wrap it up as a nice threesome as it were. It wasn’t like we set out to make a trilogy, we would never be so arrogant as to as to assume we would make three films…
Nick Frost: Making one was enough. We thought, being British filmmakers, we were lucky to make one. It’s true. We thought if we could sell this to Lufthansa and they show it on a flight, we’ll be lucky. Then we got a chance to make Hot Fuzz, and it seemed like the logical thing to do, to push for a third.
Mentioned earlier was the idea that the themes that started in Shaun of the Dead had been refined in each film, so we asked them what they meant by the word “refined” in that sense:
Simon Pegg: There’s ideas in The World’s End that we’ve explored – the battle of the individual against the collective, the idea of losing one’s identity to the notion of extended adolescence, that kind of thing, and now more than ever, at 40, we’ve had that extended adolescence for 10 years since Shaun of the Dead.
Nick Frost: I hope it never ends. [Laughs]
There were also technical refinements in terms of Edgar’s ability. He went off and made Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which is an amazing film. He met some amazing people and brought them onto this.
I read somewhere recently that it takes 10 years or 10,000 hours to perfect anything, and we’ve kind of been at this now for 10 years. We’re always trying to be better actors…
Simon Pegg: We’re not saying we’re perfect…
Nick Frost: No, no, no. Well… [Laughs] That helps when you surround yourself with an amazing cast. You look at Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Martin Freeman, and you think – “We have to be as good as them.” That helps. That really ups your game. You don’t want to be lost, thinking “Oh wow they’re amazing, they’re much better than me” – but we do. You have to push for that constantly. You can’t make Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, sit back and think “Done!” We’re not like that. We always want to be better, we always want things to be better.
In the 10 years since Shaun of the Dead, the trio of Edgar, Simon, and Nick have branched off and done their own projects as well. We asked how it felt re-uniting for The World’s End, and what the three learned while working alone:
Simon Pegg: It was great, [Edgar Wright and I] really hit the ground running this time. We’ve done it twice together, and we learned a lot through each experience. We learned a lot about the technical aspect of screenwriting, the practical aspects of screenwriting, the creative process – and third time’s the charm. We came in, went away on our little weekend together, and we discussed our concept designs. We had the basic idea back in 2007, going back to your home town and finding it oddly different and strangely familiar, feeling alienated, and realizing it’s aliens – that was the basic idea initially.
Edgar noted one time that going back home was like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Everyone seems the same but nobody recognizes you, and it’s kind of odd. Science fiction felt like the genre we would use as our Trojan horse in this case, to say the things we wanted to say.
We sat down and we just wrote. It came very easily this time. Edgar and I, in a room together, we start very broad on big bits of paper, a flip-chart, we outlined what we have to do, and it gets smaller and smaller, down into a script. Nick is the first person to see it, he gives his notes on it, we go away and apply those, and then we get into a rehearsal period with the other actors – then we’re shooting. It felt to me like the smoothest one.
Noting the obvious, we asked Simon and Nick how it was to switch roles, with Simon taking the manchild approach and Nick taking the serious role for once:
Nick Frost: Those other roles, the central character isn’t always the craziest or the funniest, even though Simon is an incredibly funny man. This time, it was, and it was always going to be Simon. I never look at it and think “Oh, why am I this again?” It never feels like that, it’s for the good of the film. Simon’s going to laugh because I say this all the time, but we are actors. The chance to play any different person or character is what you want to do as an actor. I kind of argue that Ed and Danny are very different characters anyway, even though Ed is very lazy and cynical and Danny is just a big, lovely Labrador. The chance to be a hard-nut, and to be a moral voice of the audience at certain points in this film is a great challenge. Also, I get to kick ass!
The only thing I put my foot down on was that Edgar wanted me to rip my whole shirt off, so essentially I’d be topless for the second half of the film…
Simon Pegg: Which is a relief because it was winter…
Nick Frost: We’ll I’ve got quite a lot of tattoos, so coverage of tattoos would have been an issue. Also, it doesn’t look so good. But it got cold, it got down to minus 10 at night when we were shooting.