Interview with Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright for “Attack the Block”

Attack the Block had its world premiere as one of the midnight features at SXSW 2011 where it went on to win the Midnight Feature Award at the festival. The morning after its debut Lost in Reviews had a chance to catch up with the writer and director of Attack the Block JOE CORNISH and producer Edgar Wright. Cornish’s name may not ring a bell right away but if I told you that he wrote Shaun of the Dead as well as Hot Fuzz that should make you familiar with some of his work. After grabbing some breakfast and a brief aside about a remake of Warlock with Charlie Sheen in the starring role we discussed Attack the Block, Ant Man, discussing next projects during interviews, and some of the differences between ratings in the UK and America.

JOE CORNISH: So you both saw the film?

I did yeah. Good morning we’re doing well to be here, but no it was great. It was a lot of fun and I loved the action. Congrats of your first film. That’s very huge.

JOE CORNISH: Thank you, we’re really exciting to have it here and to be here. It’s a really great crowd. You know to have the Alamo Drafthouse thing going on and the festival thing going on. You know I couldn’t have asked for a better place to open the movie. The one thing I am waiting to do is to show it to British kids. It’s the one thing we haven’t done yet. So I am excited about that. But you know for an international launch who could ask for more. What a receptive crowd and the lovely thing here is people know their movies. You can talk to people in real detail with references and not be afraid people won’t know what you are saying. Which is really pleasurable. It makes interviews much easier.

For those of us who couldn’t make the Q & A last night what were some of those references that came up with the audience?

JOE CORNISH: Um, what were the references? Well, for instance before the film started I referenced a film called Over the Edge, the Jonathan Kaplan film, and that’s very little known in the UK. It was only released on DVD last year. So you talk about that in the UK nobody knows what you are talking about, but here you know I said it before the film and people applauded the reference to the film. The idea of people applauding the names of films that wouldn’t happen in the UK and it speaks of real passion and dedication and as a film maker it’s lovely to walk into a room where people to applaud you mentioning a film. You know what I mean? It was really cool.

Are there some concepts in the UK that just don’t play very well, but they play very well in America?

JOE CORNISH: Well it’s tricky to talk about. There are differences and I don’t really know, but I think there are wonderful festivals in Britain. There is a fantastic festival called Fright Fest which is full of hugely enthusiastic horror and genre fans. The London Film Festival is a great festival, but I don’t know Austin is amazing. What’s the population here, a million or something? And you have five branches of the Alamo Drafthouse with between 3 & 5 screens. In London the repertory circuit has diminished massively in the last five or six years and London’s population is 7 or 8 million, isn’t it? So it’s amazing to have a town with this many branches of Alamo man. I can see why people come and live here. The differences in the UK, I don’t know if people are a bit tougher. I think people in the UK take a bit more time to…they’re a bit more keen to the intellectual I think and a bit less, a bit more head than heart perhaps. Which in some ways is good and in some ways is less good.

Edgar Wright: So it’s kind of a London thing more than just a whole of the UK as well.

JOE CORNISH: It’s a tricky thing to talk about because one doesn’t want to get into crass generalizations, but if you want a crass generalization there it is.

(All laugh)

Well I was just thinking recently, well I wrote a rant a little bit about, well The King’s Speech. I mean I loved it, everybody loved it overseas, and we adored it here. I got mad because of the PG 13 version that came out.

EDGAR WRIGHT: Oh yeah I know its bullshit…

The people in London I talked to said.

EDGAR WRIGHT: It’s a 12, it’s a 12 in the UK. It’s really stupid. I think that whole thing, some of the things about the archaic things about the MPAA really strange and you know. Also what’s weird is that it didn’t use to be that case. Like All the President’s Men which is a PG has like more than one “F” word and you know because it is a historical film its allowed to have 3 or 4 fucks in it but let’s The Kings Speech get a R rating it’s stupid.

And I went back after I heard the new I went back and saw the film again and it’s only in two sequences where you know he goes through a rant then includes variations on the F-bomb and at the end there is the conducting scene where Geoffrey Rush is just mouthing the words. But I had actually talked to a speech therapist and she said “Oh yeah it’s quite common that people actually use the word and they should its empowering (Ed. note: couldn’t quite make out what was said here).

Edgar Wright (left), Joe Cornish (Right)

JOE CORNISH: But it’s a very dangerous word and it’s a word that has the power to control and if you hear it can sometimes kill you if you are under 15.

It’s like Monty Python’s The Funniest Joke in the World.

EDGAR WRIGHT: Exactly. It’s a deadly, deadly word.

He saw two words as a joke and he was hospitalized for a month. But so I know like in America now Alien invasions are in vogue like especially this weekend with Invasion LA (Battle: Los Angeles) and so how does that kind of stuff play with like your film do you expect it to play very well in London?

JOE CORNISH: I hope so. It’s very much made with the type of kid who’s in it in mind. I hope it has a broader reach. I hope adults will enjoy it, but yeah the alien invasion thing is weird. I thought of the idea for this in the early 90s and it’s kind of crazy. It’s taken years to get it going and write it and then suddenly the year it comes out every other film. And I have a theory about that I think again it’s to do with people around my age or a bit younger and a bit older and I guess maybe some of you guys around this table just we were kids at an amazing time. We were kids at possibly the best time not just for children’s cinema but what Lucas and Spielberg were doing wasn’t children’s cinema as perceive it now. It wasn’t like full quadrant box ticking and that talk about penis breath in ET. Talk about Indiana Jones saying sh*t on the bridge and you know I wasn’t allowed to see Scanners yet I could see Raiders as a kid. We just had this amazing period and for me I think maybe its people of that generation working that sh*t through because it had such an effect on us. Plus the feeling of the absence of that energy from contemporary cinema.  Contemporary cinema has become so polarized it’s either for children or it’s an extremely sadistic horror. Do you know what I mean? And that sense where the energies were mixed up a bit and you didn’t know quite what you were going to get that was there was all in Lucas’ and Spielberg’s stuff has gone a bit. I think the marketing has just driven everything in to these very prescribed corners and I think our generation missed the mystery and excitement. When I went to see Raiders of the Lost Arc when I was whatever, 12, I had no idea what it was and I came in before the end of the film. I came in at the end of the previous screening and I just picked up enough of the plot to know that I shouldn’t look in that box. So I closed my eyes because I didn’t want to ruin the film and all I heard was the sound design and I thought “Motherf**ker this is …I felt like Indy because I was keeping my eyes closed and then the movie ended I remember watching the credits and thinking “Boy I cannot wait to see the whole thing.” And that’s just gone and I think maybe were all, people like JJ Abrams and obviously my film is a very low budget and very kind of quirky compared to these other films, but maybe that’s what going on. People don’t…

It doesn’t look low budget…

JOE CORNISH: You’re very kind, but you know Super 8 looks like exactly that. It looks like someone who was a kid then going “Please do this kind of stuff.” Even that trailer is like pining isn’t it for that. Plus what he did is mix fantasy and reality in an amazing way. Like in ET, it’s like a Ken Loach film. It’s like an Altman film. It’s a realist drama with an alien in it and that you don’t get so much either; that attention to reality and I don’t know why. I think people just miss that kind of thing maybe.

Speaking of the Amblin films, there are these great producer/film maker collaborations like Spielberg and especially with Zemeckis on Back to the Future and now Peter Jackson is doing it for Neill Blomkamp and whoever we get to see next. Could Edgar Wright and JOE CORNISH be the next pair?

JOE CORNISH: Man I hope so and I keep saying to Edgar, you know Edgar’s Shawn of the Dead I couldn’t have made my film without Shawn of the Dead and he was very much the pioneer. That movie was the first film…even to attempt to do genre in the UK is really difficult to get people to give you the money to do it, because we don’t do it. The King’s Speech is a terrific film, but there’s precedence and it’s quite a safe pitch in many ways. It’s not easy to make a good film whatever you’re making a film about, but to raise the capital probably a little bit easier.

EDGAR WRIGHT: Yeah, I think it is difficult to make genre films as well because also we have to compete with Hollywood films. I think that’s the biggest thing. I think what kind of happened in the 80’s and 90’s the genre films kind of went away in the UK and part of the reason for that is because British cinema became famous for kind of like Oscar winners. Like Chariots of Fire and so there’s a model for that kind of cinema, but we lost the genre model. I mean I didn’t…like I said last night in the Q & A I sort of took on more of the godfather role on this. We were just discussing this at breakfast. Jim Wilson and Nira Park who were the two producers who were on set every day. I was busy doing Scott Pilgrim but I would come in cold at key points and I think Joe first mentioned this script to me… we were talking about this last night, we were trying to work out the time line. (Directed at JOE CORNISH) The first time you had thought of it was 10 years ago. The first time you spoke about it and then starting writing about it kind of after we wrote our first script together like 3 years ago.

JOE CORNISH: I would recommend it to everybody. I mean I’ve been really lucky to be friends with Edgar, but if you can surround yourself with other filmmakers there’s nothing like it. Film is a crowd thing. You are going to watch it with a crowd, play to a crowd; so to expose it to other people is the best thing. I really was lucky to have Edgar around.

Who you surround yourself with is important in anything. You probably want to surround yourself with people who do things as opposed to people who just talk about doing things.

JOE CORNISH: Absolutely, that hands-on experience is really key.

EDGAR WRIGHT: I think as well…I thought because we would talk about it a lot and this is even before me working on it in an official capacity when Joe was just talking about it and I think with anybody’s first film there is a lot of, there’s always going to be some there was going to be some hurdles and even if you’re going to hit those potholes I could try and impart Joe what problems I went through with my first film and what maybe he could do to avoid them or just be aware of them. I actually watched it last night like as an audience member for the first time. This was the first time I had watched it without giving you notes, you probably still got them -directed towards JOE CORNISH

JOE CORNISH: No I didn’t.

EDGAR WRIGHT: That was the nice thing about it I just sat there and watched it and clapped along with the audience. I was one of the Alamo patrons.

JOE CORNISH: But that’s another cool thing about seeing it here, seeing it out of Britain. Obviously you guys probably know, but when you finish a film as director you know every frame, every sound, every line, and every take that had been used. You know what a set is, what’s not a set. Whenever you look at a shot you remember the problems of the day. You remember the issue. There is this swarm of bees in your head when the audience is only seeing one bee kind of thing and to take it out of the UK and bring it here helps to clear that fog. It’s just cool to seeing it through the eyes of someone who knows nothing about it. Uh yeah doesn’t really connect to your question.

EDGAR WRIGHT: (at Mr. Cornish) was kind of a trip seeing your neighborhood on the big screen?

JOE CORNISH: That hadn’t crossed my mind, but that’s actually true we both shot near where we live.

EDGAR WRIGHT: We’re in diametrically opposed areas of London as well.

So is there any neighborhood rivalry when you guys are working together?

EDGAR WRIGHT: No, but the media tries to make a thing out of North and South London.

JOE CORNISH: The issue of territorialism is a very big thing, especially with these young gangs in the UK and it’s not something I would want to encourage or be frivolous about. Because it is a serious thing and one of the messages in the film is that these creatures are extremely territorial and they will kill and be greedy and selfish and they will take their territory. One of the ideas of the film was to …kids like that are kind of demonized in the UK and they are called feral, amoral. So I wanted to make a monster that if you took all the words people call those kids in the press I wanted to turn them into a monster, set that monster against the kids and bring the humanity out of the kids. So one of the bad things that I wanted to express with the monsters was territorialism and even though it is never said hopefully you understand that’s one of the bad things and it’s kind of stupid. Kids in the UK and I am sure everywhere in the world kill each other over territory in that kind of meaningless way and that’s something I would want to highlight. So in no way do I want to start a territory war between me and Edgar.

What’s your philosophy on action scenes and what do you think of the modern trend of very shaky hand held to the extreme?

JOE CORNISH: I thought about this a lot to the extent I was really worried…I suddenly thought I had this weird paranoid theory. I thought does the contemporary generation, is the contemporary generation so used to having camcorders that they don’t believe something that’s not shot hand held? I was really paranoid and still until it showed last I night I thought maybe people are going to think this is old school and dated. Because what Greengrass (The Bourne films, United 93) did and what those documentaries did has transformed action cinema, but personally I like James Cameron. My favorite action movie is Terminator 2 and Terminator 1. I just think it’s extraordinary and for me it has the same energy and I think it has a sense of geography and kinetics and cleanness. You know where everything is, you know the direction everything is traveling. Die Hard as well. I get the sense I know the layout of those walls of ducts in Terminator 2. I know the layout of the Nakatomi Plaza. I know where the reception is, where the limo driver is. I feel I can walk into that building and kind of…even though you can’t you just have that sense in your head and you lose that with shaky cam. You gain other things. You gain immediacy and rawness, but I don’t think it’s the be all and end all. I miss the old way and I wanted to try it the old way. Plus the bottom line is I like composing shots. I really like… I like setting people up… I like composition and I don’t see how you can really do that….Shaky cam I think….

EDGAR WRIGHT: It’s also good to do it in a low budget film as well. I think me and Joe were fans of John Carpenter and Walter Hill and in their early films where they don’t have a big budget the thing that really comes across is the economy of the original story telling and I think on a low budget some big set up they really kind of play and I think that’s what you did (directed at JOE CORNISH) brilliantly.

JOE CORNISH: Like Halloween, which I watched, you’re really there. You’re at her shoulder and that isn’t Shaky-cam that’s Steady-cam.

Whatever your budget style is style and I even commented to you once when you showed some of your early movies you had style when you were just practicing film making. So style is style no matter the budget and Cameron is a good example because obviously the old way still works too. I would think you can use Shaky-cam more deliberately. I think often they don’t. I would even say Greengrass doesn’t. He likes to shake it around and then cut it together. I would think there is a way you can plan your shaky shot and…

JOE CORNISH: Sure, sure.

EDGAR WRIGHT: I think it would work a different way. I think what Greengrass does is a leftover from a…it’s an expansion of…French Connection was the first major film to do that where William Friedkin wouldn’t tell the operator what was happening. So he would find what was happening and it felt like a new report and I think that’s the way Greengrass works. He actually sets up the situation and then shoot’s it without telling the camera operator what’s going to happen and just lets the action happen. So there are different ways.

EDGAR WRIGHT: I think the thing is actually using Greengrass as an example is a bad one. I think what we are talking about is more is the people that ripped him off. I think he does it really well and then there are a bunch of other people who have done like a media fraction of him and gone “whoa”

But you even said he wants to keep the camera people in the dark so that it has the effect. So it would be an approach where you collaborate with him and say “here is what I am shooting. I want it to flow but we’re not going to put it on a tripod or crane.

EDGAR WRIGHT: It’s just different approaches, isn’t it? What I think is really impressive about what Joe did is what I miss from some of those films. That I used to love growing up and I think about this especially with the John Carpenter films. They have a pace and there is a sort of very moody, kind of slow burn nature to them that I love and I wonder whether modern audiences will go for it. When Joe was first telling me about the idea he very sort of, um clear on how the coverage was going to be and you pretty much said it in sense of studying Spielberg, Cameron in terms of their shooting styles and trying to…

JOE CORNISH: Well those guys used handhelds as well and I used handhelds, but I used it for the dramatic scenes. I’d actually watched quite a bit of Larry Clarke to try and look and how he covered teenagers talking and under those circumstances I would not tell the kids who the camera was being pointed at. I would tell them you might be in close up, you might not so everybody give their all cause if I catch you and I put you in the film and you’re no good you’ll regret it forever. So I think its different strokes for different folks and I wouldn’t want to disparage. Well like Edgar says there are loads of Shaky-cam movies. It just seems to have become the norm and I think whenever anything becomes the norm it’s always interesting to give the other direction a shot.

I kept thinking when everybody else was talking about Cloverfield from 4 years ago the whole idea, well it was all based on a shaky-cam because it was a video tape of a birthday party and suddenly ok aliens are here or something and then the camera becomes a character. It’s a POV from whoever is holding the camera and then the person dies and then it’s I’m sorry you’re dead. Here we’re going to pick up the camera and we’re going to go. I thought it was interesting. My friend called it the vomit-cam because after a while he said he had to turn away from the screen because it was so shaky in Cloverfield.

JOE CORNISH: I love it. I kind of prefer that found British genre. I loved The Blair Witch Project, I still love that movie. I thinks it’s really, really good. I think everything can be effective or poorly done. (all laugh) I don’t think it’s the technique that’s good or bad I think it’s the application and the story you tell and whether it suits.

Or like in District 9, the documentary style definitely. I mean it was shot as, well we are going District 9 and this is the aliens and this is what they eat. I thought that was very effective.

JOE CORNISH: I know, absolutely. Looking at all the horrific stuff from the TV at the moment you can’t ignore how it’s been shot and by whom it’s been shot and by where they are standing and it’s integral to the drama. As much as you are looking at the situation of the camera person is part of the narrative. Inextricably in all this contemporary horrific new footage we’ve seen over the last 10 years so that has to have some effect on even subconsciously on the viewer and on the drama of the situation. So I think it makes total sense that modern films are paying attention to that and it’s about the camera person as well as the story. The camera is a character which is a cool thing, but yeah sometimes people do it well, sometimes people…

Now you mentioned that you wouldn’t tell the kids that were in the film where you were putting the camera and you mentioned last night in the Q & A or actually quite previous to the screening these are all kids that never acted professionally before.  How was it working with them? Because I mean afterward you had kind of said that they had shown an interest in acting so it wasn’t like kid off the street kind of thing. That would have been great too. I mean I couldn’t personally tell that they never had acted so.

JOE CORNISH: Well that is cool, thank you. What was the question, what was it like working with them?

Well yeah, what was it like going and finding them and then working with them?

JOE CORNISH: It was great; I feel a big responsibility towards them. I mean they’re all 16 and over. A lot of them are from backgrounds not entirely dissimilar to the kids in the story. A lot of them are local to the area where we shot it. In terms of working with them it was an absolute joy and one or two of them. Well the arch of the movie you start with these masked kids. You don’t know how old they are, you don’t know who they are, what color they are. Their just bandits and then as the story progresses you unpeel the layers and hopefully you the dimension and stuff. And that happened a little on the set as well. You could see that the talent, but socially they were a bit shy. They wouldn’t make eye contact. They tried to be tough. They tried not to let themselves be vulnerable, but the beautiful thing was as we shot they just became more and more relaxed. By the time we were through the rehearsal period they were like friends. So that was really gratifying. The narrative was happening in front of my eyes with the kids. But they were great. I am so proud of them, seriously I am so proud of them and seeing them up on the big screen here I kind of wish they were here.

Have they had the chance to see the final film yet?

JOE CORNISH: They have. I showed it to them the week before last and they giggled a lot for the first 20 minutes because I think it’s just so weird to see themselves on the screen. Then they just went silent and then at the end they kind of exploded and it was really cool. I cannot wait for the premiere in the UK. I can’t wait for them to get the reward for all the hard work they put in. But I do feel a big sense of responsibility because it’s a big thing. And you know that was a good thing as a director for me as well because I didn’t want to make these kids ashamed and it’s easy to make a bad film and I didn’t want to put these poor kids; they’re so excited. They’ve got such high hopes and dreams. What an awful thing it would be if I put them in a turkey. So fingers crossed we come off ok and I’ve rewarded their work because they worked very hard. I mean making a film is not as you guys know easy. Long days, long nights, real dedication and it’s a chase movie. It all happens almost in real time so the energy they have to have for every shot. I’m massively proud of them.

Speaking of your collaborations; what is the progress of Ant Man?

EDGAR WRIGHT: We’re writing it in LA like sort of about 48 hours ago. Here’s the thing I mentioned this in the Q & A last night our treatments for Ant Man dates back to 2001 after the conclusion of Spaced maybe 2002. I asked Joe to come and write it with me. Actually the treatment was the first thing we had ever done together and I had already…before I became friends with Joe I had already been a fan of his. Because in the UK he had an award winning TV show.

JOE CORNISH: It won one award.

EDGAR WRIGHT: Winning one award means you that you can always say award winning so I have to…let me be your publicist. Drop award winning in…It doesn’t matter what it is.

JOE CORNISH: Sounds like a very emotional & romantic song. Let me be your publicist. Barbara Streisand’s unreleased song, (singing to “wind beneath my wings”) “You are the publicist beneath my wings….Did you ever know that you’re my publicist?”

(all laugh)

EDGAR WRIGHT: To answer your question what’s funny I mentioned last night that our treatments for Ant Man have existed longer than Marvel Studios itself. So it was actually when Shaun of the Dead came out they weren’t even aware we had written a treatment and then I made them aware of it. But we had actually finished the first draft in 2007 and then we both went off and made separate films. I wasn’t entirely clear on what the right’s issues were and then Kevin didn’t see it until like two years later. So anyways to make a short story we both went off to make other films and we wrote a draft in 2007 which is before we worked on Tin Tin for a couple of drafts and we went off to make films. Joe went to make Attack the Block and I made Scott Pilgrim. So were both respectively coming out of those two kinds of projects.

Are you still as excited about it or is it now just “oh now we have to finish it?”

EDGAR WRIGHT: No it’s good. It’s tough sometimes to come back to…the thing is when you…hopefully you get better at it. I think that’s the good thing you have…

JOE CORNISH: It’s kind of a two pronged thought. We know we can improve the draft and I think we both learned a lot since we finished it. Personally I’m hugely excited. I think it’s…I love the fact that he’s not an A list character in the Marvel Universe and I think things you don’t expect to be good are more fun. I think the people can discover and I think it will feel like a discovery for the audience and are more fun I think.

Well I think we have gotten to hear Edgar talk about his connection to Ant Man before what do you love about the character?

JOE CORNISH: Well I don’t want to give too much away about what we are doing with it by answering that but I refer to the honorable gentleman to the answer I gave earlier as they say in British Parliament.

I didn’t mean it as a spoiler.

JOE CORNISH: No, not at all.

EDGAR WRIGHT: We are well aware in every interview where we even mention it like…It always makes me laugh literally for five years there will be a ***Breaking: They are still working on Ant Man.*** The update is there is no update.

JOE CORNISH: In a nutshell what I love about it is people think he is not as good as the other heroes. That is what to me is exciting about it and that’s kind of liberating because it doesn’t some with the level of expectation that the major league Marvel characters have, but for us that is an opportunity.

EDGAR WRIGHT: Your short answer kept on going.

(all laugh)

I remember when Margot Kidder hosted Saturday Night Live and he walks in and goes, “I’m Ant man.” “Well what are your powers?” ‘Well I can shrink to the size of an ant and I have the strength of the normal human man” “Whoa this guy’s got the strength of a man. Whoa.” But I liked the evolution of the character because in Marvel he went from the second issue of The Avengers he was Giant Man. He said, “Well hey if I can trick myself and grow myself back I can become a giant” and then in the 70s he became yellow jacket and in the 80s were like when he went nuts and started beating his wife and got kicked out of the Avengers. Henry Pym had a total breakdown and there was a really moving issue of the Avengers when he was being kicked out of the Avengers mansion and walking out with his bag. He gets his redemption later on in the 80s. I don’t know if you tell about that. I read too many comics in the 80s. But Henry Pym’s a fascinating character. I think he is even more so than Tony Stark. I think it’s got a lot of potential.

JOE CORNISH: Cool. Well we agree.

I don’t know if you touch on it initially when his wife was killed by terrorists there’s the classic line she said “Go to the ant thou sluggard.”

JOE CORNISH: Thou sluggard that’s from the bible.

I always thought he was a great character, underrated. He’s kind of in the Dr. Strange’s corner. Like Dr. Strange is really cool but not a lot of people write him back in the 60s. Sorry.

JOE CORNISH: No we agree.

Sorry I was on a rant.

JOE CORNISH: No it was cool, that’s impressive knowledge. You know the Marvel universe is a complicated place and I’m always impressed by people who know its ins and outs.

Would you tell it to every girl I’ve dated?

(all laugh)

JOE CORNISH: Yeah well that’s another story.

So getting back to Attack the Block. Being first time big budget, well not big budget necessarily, but directing you’ve been around being Edgar’s producer on several films working together. How was it?

JOE CORNISH: I wasn’t a producer.

I mean well writer? How was it? Was it intimidating to get out there on the first day of the shoot and even in preproduction?

JOE CORNISH: The thing is that I had made this show called the Adam and Joe show in the UK and that was kind of like a homemade show. It was actually influenced by a show called Squirt TV by a kid called Jake Fogelnest in the 90s in New York. You guys haven’t heard of that? It was kind of a cable show in America in NY in the 90s, but it was all homemade so we used to light it, write it, direct it, and present it. We used to do animation and songs. Spoofs and puff promos. But the point of that is that I used to do it all myself. We used to have full control. There were just two of us and we used to deliver it to the channel, Channel 4 in the UK. And that was it we would never get any interference. We didn’t have crew. We didn’t have actors. So it was the complete reverse of walking on to the set and I was quite badly behaved for the first few days on the set. I tried to run the set basically and I was shouting at people and telling other people not to look the actors in the eye and Nira Park (ATB producer) had to come over and go “Joe you know the First AD does that. You don’t have to do all that stuff.” And that was actually kind of a relief, but the first couple of weeks were a learning curve of how to not resist all this talent around me but to use it and harness it rather than try and regard it as adversary. Do you know what I mean? Not to be too precious and by the time I realized that and got in to it was amazing to have 100 experienced people who are being paid to sell your demented idea it’s incredible. It’s really exciting and stressful and I kept running out of time. I enjoyed it. I had wanted to do it since I was a kid. I had fantasies about directing when I was 10, 11, and 12. When I got depressed I would think of myself as a kid and think “Man, just remember what an opportunity this is really.”

Edgar I did want to ask you when you think you will be able to get started on The World’s End with Simon?

EDGAR WRIGHT: Not to hijack the Attack the Block talk…but soon.

We’re interested in all of your work.

EDGAR WRIGHT: Whenever that happens the important thing is actually…If anything from watching Joe’s film last night made me like whenever I watch Shaun of the Dead and see it with an audience it is kind of a thrill to do something with your home country or hometown.

JOE CORNISH: It’s fun for things to come out of the blue though, don’t you think? What I was talking about Raiders before with stuff to come out of the blue it’s very tough to do because obviously one wants to be generous and tell people as much as you can and everyone’s flattered that someone would even ask the question, but at the same time it sometimes diminishes the movie a bit if you watched and monitored their development incrementally there is often not much left to be revealed. So I think that’s how we feel about Ant Man a bit.

EDGAR WRIGHT: We kind of have to clam up because in some cases you end up talking more about it then you end up doing it. Especially when you’re doing like a press tour of a film like Hot Fuzz or Scott Pilgrim by the end of the film you’re kind of sick about talking about the next project and your kind of like I am going to keep it top secret so nobody knows about. Not to say with that being said you always get excited about the idea again. But sometimes it’s really tough talking about the next thing because you realize you should kind of clam up.

I think there is an art to it. James Cameron is again a good example. They showed tons of Avatar stuff in the year leading up to it and I don’t think that ruined it for any one when they finally saw the finished thing so I try to be skillful and vague and make it about excitement and hope that’s cooperative.

EDGAR WRIGHT: I think what happens in the flip-side you managed to finish Attack the Block for the screen in the UK last week.

JOE CORNISH: But no one was anticipating it.

EDGAR WRIGHT: But that’s what’s cool the trailer drops the next day and suddenly it’s on people’s radar. It’s weird you talk about James Cameron. Aliens was finished the week before it came out and nobody had seen anything when that movie was being filmed. Can you imagine when you saw that for the first time was there any knowledge of what was coming?

This has become the hot ticket of South by Southwest so that is a surprise in itself.


EDGAR WRIGHT: I apologize for not answering your question…

JOE CORNISH: And I apologize for answering your question for you. As I just made my first film and I know what I am talking about.

Before we were talking a little about territorial-ism with the gangs in England and Aliens in the United States. One thing always fascinated me was Robin Williams once said to me that he went to Poland and he said it’s the homeboyification of the world. There were kids wearing low slung jeans and saying “What up dude” Did the concept of gangs start here and move over the pond and come back?

JOE CORNISH: No I think what changes are the stylings. It’s gone on forever it goes back to Neolithic times, doesn’t it? It’s a basic tribal human instinct I think. I think you find it in the 50s in Britain. You find it post war in Britain and America when there were lots of munitions on the streets. In fact I think it is probably better now than it ever has been in history. But it’s the stylings that change and I think hopefully the whole droopy jeans thing is in the past. I’m fed up with seeing people’s boxer shorts.

I do like the concept that the whole concept of your film reminds me a little of the scene in Robert Townsend’s film Meteor Man where he is living in an urban area and he comes down in the middle of a gang fight, territorial fight and he doesn’t throw a punch. I think Bill Cosby produced it and it was a superhero film, a meteor landed on the earth and…

JOE CORNISH: I have never seen it.

I think it got released in 1993 but I think it was his first attempt at a superhero film because he came off of Hollywood Shuffle.

JOE CORNISH: Now Hollywood Shuffle I remember well and in fact that used to cross my mind that the famous audition scene in Hollywood Shuffle. Particularly when I was casting the part of the gangster in this film, I was very conscious I was giving young black actors roles and I was very conscious I was casting a gangster. So he and I, Jermaine Hunter, worked pretty hard to make him…Chris Rock our model for that. We tried to make him Warner Bro’sie and slightly cartoony and absolutely that scene from Hollywood Shuffle went through. And again I am from the Do the Right Thing generation, all of us we saw hip hop evolve. I remember having a big thing that summer and sitting with my friends and having big debates about the ethics and morals of the film. I remember when NWA first hit the UK and having this big debate: Are they real, are they responsible? Are they a part of the problem or reflecting the problem? I think everybody had that debate no matter what background, color, or creed you were from.

So do you think this film drops the barriers and realizes that everything is bigger than just our block? It’s the world, it’s the universe, and we’ve all got to work together. Is that the underlying…?

JOE CORNISH: Yeah absolutely. It’s just to see the humanity in people really. I don’t think it’s a particularly new message to see that there might be good in somebody who has done badly. Again it’s a trope that has slightly vanished from cinema, because people are a bit frightened of anti-heroes now. People are very keen to make the protagonist sympathetic in the first act. Give him a wife and kid. Have the kid be kidnapped. You get that in notes a lot. How is the audience going to invest in it? But some of my favorite films Assault on Precinct 13 you’re not sure where you stand with the protagonist and for me that is pretty cool and that’s what I wanted to try and do. I don’t think race has a huge amount to do with my film. I really wanted to give a young black actor the lead role because as someone who lives in a very mixed urban area I don’t see it reflected on the screen very much. But a part from that race doesn’t, they were kind of interchangeable. I certainly didn’t cast with color in mind.

I am definitely looking forward to seeing the final product tonight.

JOE CORNISH: Cool, thank you very much. Well thanks for coming.

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