Before you get to The World's End, you have to encounter many pints of English beer. At least that's what I learned on my travels to England to explore small town pub life and interview Simon Pegg and Nick Frost about the third installment of their "Blood and Ice Cream" (aka Cornetto) trilogy.
Out now on DVD/Blu-ray, The World's End follows Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz -- and once again stars Pegg and Frost, and is directed by Edgar Wright. But instead of zombies or small town mafia, the plot revolves around old friends who return to their hometown for an epic pub crawl called The Golden Mile. Except, instead of reminiscing, the crew faces off against robot aliens and a realization that home is never quite the same as you remember it.
Although, according to Pegg, the sense of alienation that comes with going home is due more to the visitor's changes.
"If you feel alienated it is because you've changed, not necessarily because the place has changed," he said, which is why the team took the idea of alientation to its literal extreme with an alien invasion.
But what is pleasant is the town of Welwyn Garden City, England, which stands in for Newton Haven in the film. The burb is located an hour or so outside of London, and is the setting of four of the Golden Mile's pubs. And on a recent visit to the area, I discovered the pub life is more similar than not with the environs portrayed in The World's End.
As I visited locales such as the Pear Tree (known as The First Post in the movie), The Doctors Tonic (The Old Familiar), The Two Willows (The Famous Cock), and The Parkway (The Cross Hands), I discovered a small English village full of spirited pints and spirited people. Visiting these small pubs leads to friendships with enthusiastic locals who want to spend the night over "the next round," and reliving the glory days gone by.
Pegg said that's kind of the thrust of the film. A big part of the joke on display in The World's End is that if you try to relive those days too much with friends, the friendship is dead and you're just echoing old times "until that gets boring."
Within The World's End, Pegg's character Gary reassembles old friends, which include Frost's Andy, Peter (Eddie Marsan), Oliver (Martin Freeman) and Steven (Paddy Considine). The others have moved on, but Gary only has the past and the Golden Mile.
"It's kind of draining when that's all you have," said Pegg.
Meanwhile, Frost said he fears those situations, which is why he isn't a particularly nostalgic person.
But the relationships that have warmed like stale beer in the film are quite unlike the one between Pegg and Frost. The pair text 20 times a day, and talk in a series of in-jokes and references that only the two of them might understand.
"We just kept moving," Pegg said of his friendship with Frost.
"Good friendships: a) they have to evolve but b) you don't notice them evolving," said Frost. "We've been friends for 20 years; where's that time gone?"
Much like the characters in the movie, at least some of that time has been spent in pubs. Pegg no longer drinks, but their last pub crawl was for Frost's stag party -- which the latter said he has no recollection of.
Speaking of pub crawls, Frost said there isn't any rules when embarking on one such as the Golden Mile or when visiting the collection of establishments in Welwyn Garden City.
"You want it to get messy," said Pegg, who said a good crawl should be like a quest. "You need to at least have a fight with a giant crab."
As for pub crawl advice, Pegg suggested to "keep drinking." But remember to "be nice and eat something" Frost added.