There’s a pub in North London called the World’s End that sits across from the Camden Town tube station. Luminaries, including Charles Dickens, figure among its famous patrons, but it’s also important in the annals of British comedy as the place where Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright would meet up in the early years of their creative partnership, grabbing a pint after seeing movies like “X-Men” at a nearby cinema.
So when it came time for the pair to write the screenplay for their film about a 40-ish man in a state of arrested development who inadvertently stumbles onto an intergalactic conspiracy during a small-town pub crawl, the title was a given: “The World’s End.” The place even held a special significance for Nick Frost, Pegg’s longtime onscreen comic foil and off-screen best friend.
“Me and Simon used to meet there to go to the movies because there was an Odeon cinema,” Wright explained. “Simon went on his first date with his wife there, and Nick Frost fell off the wagon after two years of not drinking at the World’s End. He broke up with a girl and went straight to the World’s End and got hammered.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, plenty of alcohol is consumed in the new apocalyptic comedy from Wright, Pegg and Frost, which sees Pegg cast as the clueless, obnoxious Gary King, a former punk rock rebel who coerces, guilt trips and lies to his high school pals to lure them back to their hometown to attempt a famous pub crawl known as the Golden Mile.
Drinking their way through 12 pubs in the quaint hamlet of Newton Haven, the old friends – played by an impressive roster of English actors including Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Frost – find tension running high as past rivalries and wounds re-emerge.
And that’s before they run afoul of invading alien robots who bleed blue ink and have sinister designs on the human race.
Over the course of three films together, Wright, Pegg and Frost have garnered a following for their preternatural ability to blend the silly and the serious into a frothy, satisfying, decidedly English brew. “The World’s End,” which reaches U.S. theaters Friday, moves with the same oddball, kinetic rhythms as their previous movies, 2004’s zombie rom-com “Shaun of the Dead” and 2007’s action movie send-up “Hot Fuzz.”
The new movie, though just as enjoyably offbeat and remarkably quick-witted as the first two, also offers the most overt exploration of the more sophisticated concerns that have always underpinned the trio’s genre-centric comedy.
“All of those genres that we’ve taken on, the reason for them … is that they are Trojan Horses which we can smuggle in more human stories,” said Pegg, seated between his filmmaking comrades at Hollywood’s own English pub, the Cat and the Fiddle. “‘Shaun of the Dead’ is about growing up, and ‘Hot Fuzz’ is about friendship and about having to dumb down a little bit sometimes if you want to get something done. ‘The World’s End’ is about male friendship and letting go and nostalgia and addiction.”
“Most American comedies are like Hershey bars, and we like to be like those gourmet dark chocolates with bits of sea salt in them,” Wright added. “It’s chocolate-y and then you go, ‘Oh!’”