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Homogenization of Ye Olde Pubs bemoaned in ‘The World’s End’

Dennis King Published: September 4, 2013

BY DENNIS KING

NEW YORK – Edgar Wright has been hanging out in London pubs since he was 15. So it seems inevitable that this successful writer-director of Brit TV series and film comedies such as “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” would some day make a movie about an epic pub crawl.

Edgar Wright
Edgar Wright

That would be “The World’s End,” a rowdy, alien-invasion comedy that Wright directed and co-wrote with long-time mate Simon Pegg. Pegg stars as an over-the-hill rounder determined to pull four far-flung high-school friends back together for one rowdy night to complete a 12-step pub crawl they failed to finish 20 years earlier. The movie forms the third leg of a loose trio dubbed the “Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy.”

“All of the pubs (in the movie) have like real pub names,” Wright said during press interviews hosted by Focus Features before the film’s release.

For the record, the faux-quaint establishments featured in the film boast classic, ye-olde-pubby monikers: The First Post, The Old Familiar, The Famous Cock, The Cross Hands, The Good Companions, The Trusty Servant, The Two Headed Dog, The Mermaid, The Beehive, The King’s Head, The Hole in the Wall and The World’s End.

“Like The World’s End – there are many of those in the UK, and there are about four in London,” the director said. “But there’s one specific one that me and Simon used to meet in that was in North London. It was near a cinema that me and Simon used to go to.

“It always used to strike me as a weird thing to say, ‘oh, I’ll meet you at The World’s End,’” Wright said. “So that stuck in my head, and when we came up with the idea for the story, I said, ‘It has to be The World’s End.’

“Then, once we’d worked out the plot and knew there were going to be 12 bars – 12 steps, very pointedly – then we went back and took real pub names and attributed them to different scenes,” he said. “So the idea is the names of the pubs are like Tarot cards, and they tell you something that’s happening in each scene.”

As something of a connoisseur of British pubs, Wright said he found a lot of rich history on which to peg some of the film’s comic bits.

“I always found pub names quite fascinating, because they’re always very descriptive,” he said. “Some of them have some history to them, but most of them they just put a fancy name on a completely crappy bar. And I always used to find that funny – like, ‘oh The King’s Head,’ but then you go in and it’s like a rat hole. So I really found that fascinating, and all those names were real – even The Famous Cock is like a real bar in the UK.”

One running joke in “The World’s End” concerns the corporate homogenization of so many formerly funky pubs, to the degree that many have completely lost their quirks and boho individuality.

“Where I live in London there’s about 10 pubs within two minutes walk from my house, and I’d say that 80 percent of them look exactly the same,” Wright said. “And I have a love-hate relationship with pubs because of that thing like the homogenization of the chains. It makes me feel like I’m in an MC Escher nightmare, like all of these places look exactly the same; all the signage is the same.

“My pet hate, which is in the movie, is that kind of fake chalk writing, which is supposed to look like it’s hand-written but it’s done in a factory, so they’re all the same,” he said. “So you notice that throughout the movie the signage is the same in every single bar. The only thing that changes is the name of the pub and the number. It’s that fake folksiness but it’s really sad.”