London Calling

11.18.13

My London Getaway With Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Stars of ‘The World’s End’

I was recently whisked off to London to hang out with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, best friends and stars of the apocalyptic comedy ‘The World’s End.’ Here’s what transpired.

It’s inherently odd to run a piece pegged to a film’s DVD/Blu-Ray release, but then again, the installments in the Cornetto trilogy—Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End—aren’t like most films. As Simon Pegg, the star of these genre-exploding films would later tell me, “We make cult films.” Indeed, they do. While the oeuvre of filmmaker Edgar Wright and duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost doesn’t tend to break box office records, the films have a very long shelf life. Hot Fuzz, the second installment in the Cornetto trilogy, grossed close to $40 million on DVD. So when Focus Features, a subsidiary of Universal Pictures, offered to fly me to London to interview Pegg and Frost at a pub in London, I jumped at the chance.

For starters, I love The World’s End. It’s one of the two or three best comedy films of the year, alongside another apocalyptic comedy, This Is the End, and Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, so partiality wasn’t an issue. And, owing to a particularly cramped schedule, I’d neglected to give it the kudos it deserved during its theatrical run.

For the uninitiated, all three films in the Cornetto Trilogy were directed by Wright, written by Wright and Pegg, and star Pegg and Frost. The trilogy’s name was coined by a blogger for Imagine Games Network, who noted the inclusion of different Cornetto ice cream flavors in the first two films—strawberry in Shaun of the Dead, signifying blood and gore, and blue for Hot Fuzz, signifying the fuzz. The World’s End features mint chocolate chip, for the film’s alien/sci-fi elements. The film centers on Gary King (Pegg), a high school legend-turned-middle-aged alcoholic who vows to reclaim his glory years by tracking down his estranged crew and finishing the “Golden Mile,” a 12-pub crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven. Along the way, however, the old friends—Andy (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), and Peter (Eddie Marsan)—encounter some otherworldly guests.

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On Thurs. Nov. 14, we had our two-hour pub lunch with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost at a posh pub near our hotel in London, just a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square. Eight journalists were in attendance, mostly hailing from movie sites. I can’t imagine anything worse for two movie stars than attending a two-hour lunch with a gaggle of predominately nerd-bloggers, but the two couldn’t have been more warm, and engaged—Pegg even went as far as showing off pictures from his camera taken during the making of The World’s End. “This actually wasn’t that awkward at all,” Pegg would later say.

Here were the biggest takeaways from the lunch:

—Pegg really wants to act alongside Jennifer Lawrence.

—Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) is not confirmed to direct Star Trek 3, but they’re definitely in talks.

—Pegg was never approached for Love Actually or The Hobbit.

—Pegg and Frost are truly best friends and amuse each other for hours doing random impressions of people; e.g., an incredibly attentive Irish flight attendant.  

—Pegg is a big fan of Community and spoke to Dan Harmon about the paintball episode. Harmon assured him he hadn’t seen Spaced before and didn’t rip off the show. Pegg views Community as a very post-Spaced show, and also HBO’s Girls as a very post-Spaced show, as he sees Lena Dunham’s character as similar to Daisy Steiner.

—Pegg and Frost were fans of This Is the End, released just over a month before The World’s End, but feel it’s very different from what they do, because they rarely improv, which is one of the biggest misconceptions about the Wright/Pegg/Frost films.

—Pegg was deliberately trolling the Internet when he posed by a cover of Ant-Man at Marvel HQ.

—The cast of The World’s End would take the piss out of Martin Freeman about The Hobbit all the time, cracking short jokes. One time, when an armored car drove by, Paddy Considine said, “Hey, Martin, are those your Hobbit residuals?”

Earlier in the day, I got a chance to chat 1:2 with Pegg and Frost, and we had a very fun discussion about their storied friendship, booze, and what’s next for the duo following the Cornetto trilogy.

Below are excerpts of our discussion.

I’m curious about the first time you guys met. I’ve had friends I’ve met who’ve rubbed me the wrong way at first but we eventually got along famously. Was it bromance at first sight?

SIMON PEGG: I do remember! It was on a balcony in Cricklewood in the early ’90s.

NICK FROST: Which is in north London.

PEGG: Cricklewood is the place where, if you’re going to make a joke about going all the way to Hollywood and then replace Hollywood with a place that isn’t quite as luxurious or fantastic, you say “Cricklewood.” It was a balcony at Nick’s house.

FROST: I’d known his girlfriend for a while, so we were friends and she thought we’d get on, so she was going to introduce us at this party. I was certainly quite nervous about meeting.

PEGG: I was too, because I was representing someone that was supposed to be a stand-up comic, because that’s what our common ground was—that we were both in the infancy of stand-up comedy careers. And I’d been doing it a bit longer and Nick was just starting out, so I felt a bit like an “expert” even though I didn’t know much about it. But I really liked him.

FROST: I was so pissed-up by the time you arrived! I remember that he was there for a while, and I didn’t make much of an effort—I actually avoided you. There was a tension there. And then you were out on the balcony, and I came out on the balcony, and then it just erupted. We did a lot of impressions.

This sounds so romantic—like the end of When Harry Met Sally.

PEGG: We didn’t hate each other straight-away! And then I left the party, and he was sleeping by a giant speaker.

FROST: I was slumped by a giant speaker…

PEGG: I’d never seen anything like it! I was like, “Me and him are going to be friends.”

The World’s End is, of course, about drinking. What’s your poison?

PEGG: Nick?

FROST: Things have changed, but it was always lager. I think I’m probably more likely to have a nice glass of Prosecco these days. I find lager makes me really sick. I enjoy it, and I really love drinking it, but it really physically affects me now.

PEGG: I don’t actually drink! Back when we used to drink together, we’d always drink Stella, and I’d always finish my first pint before Nick, and every consecutive pint after that he’d finish before me. But since I don’t actually drink, when I go out I order a nice sparkling water—and I do enjoy it with a squeeze of lime.

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Laurie Sparham

Do you remember the first time you got drunk?

FROST: It’s a tough one because we weren’t big drinkers even back then—we were herbologists at the time, if you know what I’m saying.

PEGG: I was at a college party, and I got home to my digs—I was staying with a family—and there was makeup all over the pillow, and I don’t remember entering the house. I think one of the girls at the college had put makeup on me. My landlord was very amused.

FROST: As kids, we used to try to sneak into the pub when we were 13 or 14, so that, or singing over a bit of waste ground with a bottle of something you’ve nicked from someone’s house. I remember waking up and drinking my contact lenses one morning, and then I couldn’t see. I remember going to this place called the Shamrock Centre when I was 12 to get illegal Shamrock’s, but it was always packed on a Sunday with old, thick-fisted Irishmen. There was a massive fight there once and someone got hit over the head with a bottle, and it sort of put me off the drink for a while.

PEGG: For most British people, the first time they get drunk is with cider—or Thunderbird pear wine.

Nick, I understand you were best man at Simon’s wedding. Was that a crazy night of drinking?

PEGG: And I his!

FROST: I think it was just a great night. The thing about weddings is you start drinking earlier, and weddings are the only times where you drink yourselves sober.

PEGG: I remember we had champagne on the morning of my wedding, didn’t we, in my room? And then we had a couple of jellies and a bottle of red wine in bed the night before.

FROST: We slept together the night before the wedding—non-sexually.

PEGG: Was it? 

FROST: You don’t call anal sex sexual? [Laughs]

PEGG: Sensual, not sexual. [Laughs]

Sounds wonderful.

PEGG: But like Nick says, you drink very steadily and sensibly on a wedding day—because you’ve got a long time. The trouble with here is, because of the licensing laws, people have such small periods to drink, so that’s why they get so drunk, and that’s why we have a reputation for being drunkards.

FROST: Both our weddings were fantastic, and it just means that the subsequent marriage is really difficult to live up to the wedding. [Laughs]

Now that the Cornetto Trilogy has wrapped with The World’s End, what’s next for you two? I imagine you’ll still be working together.

FROST: I think it’d be bonkers not to. And, as much as we love working together, we also love doing other films apart, seeing how other people do it, and then going back and applying what we’ve seen other people do. I’m working with Vince Vaughn on a film called Business Trip with Vince Vaughn and Dave Franco, and I’ve shot a film called Cuban Fury, which is a Cuban dance extravaganza, which comes out Valentine’s Day in the UK. Simon Pegg?

PEGG: I shot a film called Hector and the Search For Happiness which will be out next year, and a film called Kill Me Three Times, which will be out next year. I play this very evil hit man. And a bunch of other stuff next year, which is shaping up to be a very crowded year.

Are we going to see you in Mission: Impossible 5?

PEGG: I think you are! Yes. Very much so.

Universal had a few other activities lined up for the group of journalists, including a tour of some of the pubs featured in The World’s End, as well as some meals, but I had to back out of these activities because I was feeling under the weather. Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience. It was my first time meeting Pegg and Frost, and they came off as two very down-to-earth, genuinely good guys. And, press trip or not, I do recommend you check out The World’s End. It’s a lot of fun.