Page 2 of 3
It seems like the genre elements come into play here at precisely the moment Gary has his major realization. He understands that the night is drawing to a premature end; he’s in denial about the fact that nobody recognizes him and that he isn’t really a local legend. And although the film doesn’t go quite so far as to say this for sure, it seems as if the movie is turning into Gary’s fantasy.
Absolutely. It’s like his reprieve. And as a master manipulator, he very quickly turns it around to his advantage. He’s kind of so brilliantly Machiavellian when he’s drunk that he can say, “Hey, wait a second, this is the perfect cover.” People sometimes ask me why the characters would continue with the pub crawl, and I always say it’s because Gary King is a master bullshitter. [Laughs] He shuts down every alternative. He doesn’t want there to be any other option or any escape. It’s common in a lot of small-town films, especially in films noir, to have this sense that you cannot escape from the town you’re in. It happens in this great Jim Thompson novella called Nightmare Town: there’s this feeling that you cannot escape the town no matter what you do. In a sci-fi context The Prisoner always had that. I like this idea that once the characters accept that they’re going on the pub crawl, there is no going home—they’re fucked. There is definitely this idea that the alien intervention sort of arrives as an excuse to continue their quest.
And by that point in the film it seems like Gary has hit rock bottom.
Yeah. His first point of hitting rock bottom—well, actually, one of his many points of hitting rock bottom—is his attempt to ditch his adult friends to go out with some 16-year-olds instead. They wouldn’t take him, of course, but I think there’s something really pathetic about asking a 16-year-old at the next urinal where he’s headed next. A 40-year-old man saying to an 18-year-old, “let’s go for a drink,” is a bad idea. But yes, absolutely, the film is definitely designed so that the robots only enter once the normal story has reached its end, when things have come to a head and it’s clear it isn’t working. And that’s also the point at which Gary King gets to become the captain of the team again. I mean, essentially, if you took out the sci-fi element, this is a film about a man who escapes therapy but triggers his own intervention. The end scene is his cosmic intervention. That’s the idea: he won’t listen to doctors, and he won’t listen to friends, so finally it’s alien overlords who have to come in and intervene. And his response to that, without giving too much away, is to turn to self-help. That’s what it should be in the first place: only you can help yourself.
Preferably not just by drinking twelve pints.
Right. It might be acceptable to do a pub crawl if you’re a teenager or a student, or if you’re a doctor or a nurse, or maybe if you’re in the armed forces or on a sports team. But if you’re in your late 30s or early 40s, doing a pub crawl is like submitting to a night of self-destruction. That’s really what the film is about. It’s one man’s journey: he really wants to get to the The World’s End, and he absolutely gets his wish. We worked really hard on the emotional arc of the film. We wanted there to be a clear emotional revelation for Gary. He’s a character who only admits to his demons when he’s alone, whether it’s in the mirror or alone with Nick or Rosamund. When other people are around and he puts his trench coat back on; it’s as if he’s thrown on his armor, and he’s ready to stick up his fingers to the man. For us, he’s a very complicated character. He’s much more of an antihero than Shaun or Hot Fuzz’s Nicholas Angel. But Simon and I have a deep, deep sympathy for him, and we want him to be ok. We want him to work this out. It’s interesting: when we did this Q&A with Guillermo Del Toro last night, he said, “Success is fucking up on your own terms.” I sort of think that’s what the film is about. Nobody can tell you what to do—you have to find your own happiness.