Edgar Wright had a simple question about a curse word in his new film, and he got a very thorough and enlightening response from a British censor.
Wright took to his blog today to share an interesting piece of correspondence he had with an examiner from the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) back in 2011, when he and Simon Pegg were writing the screenplay for The World's End. Wright and Pegg were aiming to get a "certificate" (the British equivalent of an MPAA rating) of 15 for the film, allowing ages 15 and up to see it in theaters, as well as rent it and buy it when it hits home media release, but they were concerned that the film's language would push them into the 18 certificate range, thus limiting their audience.
"We realised that the language was getting rather strong, going so far as to utter the dreaded ‘c word’ three times," Wright wrote. "Unsure whether this would get us a ’15′ or an ’18′ certificate and very much hoping for the former, I wrote to the British Board Of Film Classification for help and guidance."
So, Wright asked the simple question: How many times he could get away with the c-word and still get a 15 certificate, keeping in mind that he had gotten away with some use of it already in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz?
"We are writing a script at the moment where the word ‘c--t’ appears several times with a comedic tone. All very much in a naturalistic, social context rather than an aggressive, threatening one.
"I know that this word appeared once only in both ‘Shaun’ & ‘Hot Fuzz’, but is it the case that using the word more than once would push the film from a 15 to an 18?"
The response, from BBFC senior examiner Craig Lapper, was swift and thorough, and included this general verdict:
"So, the answer to your question is that it is possible to receive a ’15′ with three or four uses, provided they are not aggressive or threatening or complicated by any kind of power imbalance. However, it’s best not to concentrate them together into a short outburst and we’d certainly caution against more than three or four uses."
So, Wright and Pegg made their movie and it ended up with a 15 certificate. It was also, as the BBFC website notes, passed uncut.
You can read the full exchange over on Wright's website. If you've got any interest in why films are rated what they are in any country, it's a fascinating inside look, and it might even make you wish the Motion Picture Association of America were a little more like the BBFC (The World's End is rated R in the States, so 15-year-olds can't go in by themselves). It should be noted, though, that while we censored the use of "the c-word" here, it's not censored over there, so it's a bit NSFW.
The World's End hits U.S. theaters on Aug. 23.