A chat with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright of “The World’s End”

If you’re a geek, then odds are actor/writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and writer/director Edgar Wright are superstars in your world. Pegg’s face is known to geeks and mundanes alike as the comic relief Scotty in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” movies and the similarly amusing techie, Benji Dunn, in the “Mission: Impossible” films, but to many of us, that’s merely a footnote.

The now legendary Wright/Frost/Pegg collaboration began with the very funny 1999 U.K. sitcom, “Spaced.” It went worldwide with 2004′s horrifically delightful ur-zombie comedy, “Shaun of the Dead,” and the even more gleefully bloody buddy cop homage, “Hot Fuzz,” in 2007. Co-written by Pegg and Wright, the films’ sharp and hyper-imaginative direction and well-crafted, sincere screenplays gave us all hope that the ancient art of dramatic comedy was undead, at least.

While the trio remained best pals, their professional lives inevitably diverted. Frost and Pegg collaborated on the 2011 science-fiction comedy, “Paul,” with director Greg Mottola, while Wright took on “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

Now, it’s time for the inevitable reunion. The third film in what is being called The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy, a sly nod to the late auteur Krzysztof Kieślowski and a popular brand of ice cream cone, “The World’s End” might lack zombies and buckets of blood, but it’s easily the darkest of the three films. It’s also pretty clearly influenced by such wry post coming-of-age comedies as “Diner,” “The Big Chill” and, believe it not, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s great 1955 noir musical, “It’s Always Fair Weather.” (The latter two films played together at a recent film series curated by Edgar Wright at L.A.’s New Beverly Theater.)

“The World’s End” bring us a leather-jacketed Simon Pegg as Gary King, a bad boy well past his sell-by date who goads four old chums into recreating a 12 pint hometown pub crawl. As the film rolls on, the depth of Gary’s estrangement from his pals, especially his embittered, teetotaling ex-best friend Andrew Knightley (Frost), becomes increasingly clear. The fact that the boys’ old digs are the apparent seat of the imminent destruction of humanity via an alien invasion of mechanical humanoids actually lightens the mood.

“The World’s End” features UK acting stalwarts Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan as the rest of the gang, and Rosamund Pike as the girl who got away, all grown up. Critics, like our own Jason Zingale, are upbeat about the film’s quality, but the more downbeat tone of the tale it tells is inescapable.

We caught up with an intense and very tired Pegg, a laidback but slightly shagged-out Frost, and an ever enthusiastic but clearly exhausted Wright, whose next film will be the long discussed “Ant Man,” at, where else, Comic-Con.

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Movie Review: “The World’s End”

Starring
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, David Bradley
Director
Edgar Wright

Fans of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” have been badgering director Edgar Wright about the final installment in his self-titled Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy for so long that it seemed like it might never happen. Granted, it’s not really a trilogy at all, at least not in the traditional sense, but any time that good friends Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost get together is cause for celebration, and the long-awaited “The World’s End” is no exception. While expectations are undoubtedly high for their third (and hopefully not last) cinematic outing together, Wright and Co. have produced another excellent comedy that, although it falls a little short of their previous two films, still delivers all the laughs that we’ve come to expect from the trio.

Back in 1990, a group of high school friends embarked on a quest to finish The Golden Mile, a 12-pub crawl through their peaceful town of Newton Haven ending at the titular World’s End. They never made it that far, however, and more than 20 years later, it still haunts would-be leader Gary King (Pegg), who’s refused to grow up while the rest of his friends have gone on to build families and careers. While reminiscing about the good old days in group therapy, Gary decides to get the gang back together so they can finally complete the illustrious pub crawl, and seeing how much it means to him, Andrew (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Peter (Eddie Marsan) reluctantly agree to tag along. Upon their return to Newton Haven, they inadvertently uncover a secret invasion by robot-like beings that have assimilated most of the town’s inhabitants. When their attempts to blend in fail miserably, the guys are targeted by the robotic collective and given a choice: submit or die, but Gary’s not about to let that get in the way of him finishing the Golden Mile.

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The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Matthew Macfadyen (“Ripper Street”)

Although BBC America received considerable acclaim from their original series, “Copper,” a period piece about New York City police officers circa the 1860s, it should come as no surprise that their stock and trade still tends to be series set in the UK. Don’t worry, though: they’re still sticking with the whole period-piece thing for their latest endeavor, “Ripper Street,” which is set in Whitechapel, in London’s East End, n 1889, a mere six months after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. The series stars Matthew Macfadyen, a familiar face to Angophiles for his work in numerous TV and film appearances, and Bullz-Eye had a chance to chat with him just before the “Ripper Street” panel at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, where we asked him about his new gig, several of his old ones, and how he got into acting in the first place.

Bullz-Eye: You, sir, are no stranger to period pieces.

Matthew Macfadyen: I’ve done a few, yeah. [Laughs.]

BE: What was it about “Ripper Street” that stood out for you in particular? Certainly it’s a bit darker than some of your past fare.

MM: Yeah, I thought it was dark. But I just thought the writing was brilliant. I really did. I didn’t expect to…I wasn’t planning on doing another series, but then it came along and I couldn’t stop reading it, which is sort of the acid test for me. So that was it, really.

BE: When you took the role, how much of Det. Sgt. Edmund Reid was on the page, and how much were you able to bring to the part?

MM: It was all on the page. I mean, it’s there. It’s so beautifully sketched out, and there’s so much going on underneath him. He’s got this terrible thing with his family, his daughter, so…there’s a lot. It’s interesting. And I think the writer, Richard (Warlow), doesn’t immediately build the characters, but you know there’s a back story, and it sort of comes out in dribbles. It evolves.

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5 Questions with Anna Kendrick of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”

It’s likely you were first captivated by her Oscar-nominated performance in 2009′s “Up in the Air,” but that doesn’t mean the widely acclaimed comedy was Anna Kendrick’s first go-round in the world of big time performance. Ms. Kendrick, who is also a very fine singer, had been one of the youngest Tony nominees of all time when she was recognized for her work in a Broadway revival of “High Society” at age 12. Her first major film role was nevertheless four years away with another award-nominated musical appearance in the indie fave, “Camp.”

A few more years of hard work would land the young actress a leading role in the mostly well-regarded coming of age comedy “Rocket Science” and a recurring part in the pop culture behemoth we call “The Twilight Saga.” Still, it was only when Anna Kendrick wound up stealing scenes from George Clooney and Vera Farmiga that she became one of Hollywood’s hotter faces to look out for. She also earned the attention of geeks around the world with her role as Michael Cera‘s acerbic yet gorgeous younger sister in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”; her reported romance with director and uber-film nerd Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead“) probably did no harm to her already impressive and growing dweeb appeal. The 20-something actress’s most recent non-”Twilight” major film appearance was as a romantically conflicted therapist in the cancer comedy, “50/50.”

Purportedly inspired by the self-help bestseller of the same name, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” features Kendrick as a food truck proprietor whose fling with a high school flame (Chace Crawford) results in a surprise pregnancy. She was busily promoting the film when we caught up with Ms. Kendrick at the Los Angeles Four Seasons one Cinco de Mayo afternoon. There, she proved herself to be up to the 5 questions challenge, giving succinct answers to our slightly longish questions.

1. You play a professional chef in the movie. Do you cook in real life, and what was the most important thing you learned about food preparation while making the film?

I cannot cook. I bake a bit, but I cannot cook to save my life. We had to take lessons for this. [The most crucial thing I learned in them was] that you have to hold your hand like a claw and not lay it flat, so you don’t cut off your fingernails — like I did.

2. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” is part of the ever-growing subgenre of interlocking story movies that includes everything from Robert Altman’s “Nashville” to Garry Marshall’s “Valentine’s Day.” What’s your favorite multi-story movie?

Now that you mention “Nashville,” I actually do love that movie. But as far as the modern version of that genre, I actually really love “Love Actually” — but “Nashville” is really great and I loved [Paul Thomas Anderson's] “Magnolia.” That was one of those movies that, when I was a teenager, [I thought to myself], “Movies can be like this? This is great!”

3. You’re probably best known to the public for your really outstanding performance in “Up in the Air.” I was just watching the scene where you kind of break down, and you’re very funny. I was wondering what you think is the secret to comic crying, as opposed to sad crying? I’ll dedicate this question to Mary Tyler Moore.

I like to talk through the funny cry. That makes it sort of easier, but I’m a pretty ugly crier, so that makes it kind of easy also.

4. Let’s talk about your singing roles. What was it like being a 12-year-old Tony nominee? And what about being 16-years-old and making your first movie, “Camp” and blowing everyone away with your version of Stephen Sondheim’s “The Ladies Who Lunch”?

It was obviously incredibly exciting, but I think it’s probably good I didn’t fully understand what a big deal the Tonys were at that age. I think my little 12-year-old brain would have exploded. It was just exciting. I was just happy to be invited to a party really.

["Camp"] was such a magical thing to make. It was everyone’s first film. Now, everyone says, “Making a film feels like summer camp,” but [during] that film we were living at that summer camp. We had no contact with the outside world. There were no cell phones, no computers, no TVs. So, it was just us and the film crew living in this place. It was a very intense and fun [thing] to do with a bunch of teenage non-actors.

5. There’s a clip online of you promoting “50/50″ with your co-stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen and discussing how women tend get asked different questions from the press than men do. You get asked about health and beauty stuff, your workouts, etc. What is the most embarrassing or just plain stupid question you’ve gotten and how did you answer it?

In relation to ["What to Expect When You're Expecting"], somebody asked me if I would be prepared for a one-night stand. I was like, “I don’t even know how to get out of this question in a joking way. That is so wrong and weird.”

  

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