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AN INTERVIEW WITH NICK FROST, SIMON PEGG, AND EDGAR WRIGHT

 

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a panel interview with Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead stars/creators Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. We met at the always beautiful Ritz Carlton hotel in San Francisco on April 3rd, and I shared the time with 5 other members of the press. My questions are identified accordingly, but I've got the rest up for your reading pleasure as well.

 

Word was out that the three of them had just arrived from the UK that morning, and had been at it most of the day, so our 3:30PM start time couples with their jet lag made them quite visibly fatigued, but they toughed it out and gave us all a hilariously good and informative interview that is already one of the most favorite ones I've been able to be a part of.  So without further adieu...

 

retroCRUSH: What's the hardest part about working with a swan?

 

Simon: That's a great question, we haven't been asked that yet.

 

Nick: There is a fear of avian flu transference to human beings at the moment.

 

Simon: At the time we were shooting it was when that swan was found dead.

 

(at this point someone accidentally hit PLAY on their recorder and a very loud static burst plays)

 

Simon: Holy Christ!

 

retroCRUSH: DUCK! (laughs) Under the table!

 

Simon: I think the swan, Elvis, who played the part of the swan in the film, was slightly nervous. He was cranky and difficult to work with.

 

Nick: I think he had just had his HM51 test so he went to see if he was HM51 positive and it came back and he was fine.

 

Simon: He was fine. It was difficult because we had to sit on him for about 2 minutes before we

 

retroCRUSH: (laughs)
 

Simon: Not "we" the bird handler would have to sit on him with her hands over his eyes, to stop him from running away. And she'd sort of gradually lift them off and back away and

 

Nick: And then he'd run away.

 

Simon: And then he'd run away, but we'd have to sort of use those moments of him acclimatizing to, sort of...you know...

 

Nick: Never really was quite good at it, though, that scene where we were going to hit him with the batons.

 

Simon: He was a bastard. But you can't kill them, they belong to The Queen.

 

Nick: They're royal birds.

 

Simon: All swans are property of The Queen, so killing one is an offense.

 

Nick: Only The Queen can eat a swan. It's treason to eat a swan.

 

Simon: And she can only eat it, how is it?

 

Nick: And it's a shame because swans, their necks are perfect for...you put them in a baguette, it's the perfect size.

 

Simon: It's very crusty.

 

Nick: It's almost as if their neck was made for a baguette.

 

Simon: A neck sandwich.

 

Nick: You have to hollow out the soft bread and then...it's perfect.

 

Simon: You have to cook it for a long time like oxtail.

 

Simon Pegg, star and co-writer of the film plays Nicholas Angel in Hot Fuzz

 

As a co-writer, how many action films did you have to watch to prepare for this movie?

 

Simon: Well I'll tell you. We watched 138 films in preparation, but they weren't all action films. They were a lot of different permutations of the cop genre, but also films about small communities and stuff. We watched as much Agatha Christie as we did John Woo. We watched less films like Local Hero, Dead and Buried, and Wicker Man...Wicker Man was the first film we watched, because it was the last British film made that had a uniformed officer as the lead, which we were kind of interested in doing...so yeah, it was 138. And we just wanted to...most of them we had seen before, not all of them, when we started delving in to the Chuck Norris/Stephen Segal oeuvre, we were in uncharted territory, trust me, it was murky and intimidating. We just wanted to be familiar with the language of those kind of films so we could write hackneyed dialogue without thinking about it.

 

What was the process for coming up with the idea for this film?

 

Simon: It sort of came about when we were doing press for Shaun of the Dead. Edgar was the one who kind of spearheaded it. He was the cop movie fan. It was his intention to literally outgun Shaun of the Dead, so it would be bigger in every way. And take it up a step, take the filmmaking up a step. Also one of the things that seemed to appeal about Shaun of the Dead was the relationship between myself and Nick onscreen so we figured, well, let's do a buddy movie.

 

(Edgar Wright enters the room)

 

Nick: Oh (laughs) late again...

 

Simon: (to Edgar) I was just explaining where the idea came from, for Hot Fuzz.

 

Edgar: Have you explained it, or did you want to explain more?

 

Simon: I was speaking for you in some respects.

 

Edgar: What did you say, then?

 

Simon: The usual.

 

Edgar: (laughs)

 

Simon: So, yeah, that was kind of it. It was a desire to....there were several prongs to it, not the least of which was the buddy issue, doing something as well that we would want to make in the UK that we don't have in the UK. It's not the kind of film we have there, it's not in our culture. The cop isn't culturally the sort of figure at is here, so we thought we would sort of drag it kicking and screaming into the UK.

 

Director and co-writer of Hot Fuzz, as well as snazzy t-shirt owner, Edgar Wright

 

I don't know if you remember, but last year I was at a comic con, and after I said something you accused me of masturbating to a Lego Batman...

 

Edgar: (laughs loudly) It's kind of coming to me now. I can't remember what the setup of it was, though.

 

I said that that (unintelligible) I started worshipping Buffy and you said that.

 

Edgar: I'm sorry, did that traumatize you? How did we get on to Lego Batman?

 

Nick was talking about touching Lego Batman's cock.

 

Simon: Of course....I'm lost.

 

retroCRUSH: This interview is going all new places now.

 

Edgar: I apologize

 

Nick: He's been interrupted like 40 times now.

 

That's OK. Well asked Nick about La Triviata back then and now that we have Simon here I wanted to ask, what's going on with the TV show that's been rumored for such a long time?

 

Simon: It's not gonna happen. We wrote it was commissioned and green lit by Channel 4 and stuff and it got to a point where we wanted to cast these people and they weren't sure...

 

Nick: They wanted to cast people

 

Simon: They wanted to cast people we weren't sure about so, kind of an (arguing?) on both sides and by the time...it never really got resolved...so that was that really. We had written quite a lot of it, sadly, but I guess the thing about writing comedy is that you can just wholesale take the jokes out of one thing and put them into something else. We're just going to harvest them like lungs. Or kidneys.  It was kind of weird in a way because I think we probably would have resolved those issues and moved forward with it, but the dynamic changed because of how Shaun of the Dead did and we decided we'd like to take our careers and... What happened was, recently a tabloid journalist made up a story that he had seen me at a premiere that I wasn't at and that La Triviata was about to happen, and that's why everyone suddenly keeps asking us about it again. I mean it had gone away, we hadn't mentioned it for years,

 

Edgar: What a thing to make up.

 

Simon: I know, you might as well say that I had slept with Elvis Presley or something.

 

Edgar: (to the writers) Write that down...write that down.

 

Simon: That instead of sitcom that we nearly did...

 

Edgar: He did make you drink milk and eat cookies, though, didn't he?

 

Simon: Yes.

 

Nick: And Jesus Juice.

 

Edgar: That's somebody else.

 

Simon: That's another troubled pop star.

 

Hot Fuzz co-star and swan sandwich aficionado, Nick Front

 

Was there any particular scene that you loved that just did not make it into the final cut of the movie?

 

Nick: The lovemaking.

 

Simon: The hard fucking.  Sorry...

 

Edgar: You occasionally have jokes that you really like that just don't make it. There was a joke about the office being out in the street, and you sort of saw Nicholas' office furniture all out on the street and it was like a joke that worked really well in the script but when we came to shoot it with the location it just didn't work right. So some things the execution fails you in the end. It hasn't done, what you've written, justice really. But there's no big action scenes missing. There's lots of stuff, there's about 20 minutes of deleted scenes, lots of interesting things. A whole third sub-plot with The Hoodies... and there was a fight where Angel fought the hooded teenagers which didn't make it.

 

Simon: There was a little burst of it.

 

Edgar: Right, but it wasn't enough.

 

Simon: It was great to shoot.

 

Edgar: It was fun to shoot, but it was not long enough.

 

Anything more with the Living Statue guy?

 

Edgar: No...all of his scenes are in.

 

So basically you guys kept in the beating up old people, and took out the beating of children.

 

Edgar: That's for the next film.

 

Simon: Yeah, there will be a massive youth beating in the next film.

 

I work on a DVD site, so what do we have to look forward to here in the next 6 months of so?

 

Edgar: There's lots of stuff we've done with the DVD. We're hoping that the UK and the US version will be similar. There's all sorts of annoying things with different bit rates and stuff. The differences between PAL and NTSC which is a bit of a bummer. Like I know Shaun of the Dead only had 2 commentaries in this country and we had 4 in the UK, so there's loads of stuff to be done, 4 full length commentaries, there's one (commentary) with me and Simon, one with Simon and Nick and the rest of the police service, the Sanford villagers, and we also did one with real police officers fro the area doing a commentary, which is pretty hilarious. We asked them to kind of like rip it to shreds on an accuracy front, which they truly did. But quite a lot of it was based on real anecdotes, we did a lot of real research. So it's kind of cool because they do this commentary and it's like 50/50 where it kind of hits home, and touches a nerve, which is cool. But it's really daring of them to do that.

 

Edgar: But what else is on there...you see the other side of Danny's flip book. You have all of our various substitutions for the TV version.

 

Nick: The love story between Simon and I.

 

Edgar: Yep. All of Simon's takes where he starts pulling faces after being so serious.

 

Simon: We've done three plot holes like we did on the Shaun of the Dead DVD. How they managed to kill Tim Messenger, how everyone survived the explosion, and how Danny...

 

Edgar: Stabbing...

 

Simon: Right how Danny stabbed angel, and how he knew how to do that.

 

Edgar: Lots and lots of making of stuff.

 

Simon: The blogs...

 

Edgar: The blogs that were on the internet. They're all on there.

 

Nick: And a HILARIOUS blooper reel.

 

Edgar: (laughs) Oodles of good stuff.

 

Simon: We're kind of aware that you have to make DVDs worth buying because in the UK they're very expensive over there. I mean, you have to make them worth the money that you pay for them. And we've always been very conscious about putting as much extras on the DVD as we can. It goes back to when we did our TV show Spaced, it was something we always took a long time over so...hopefully Hot Fuzz will be the same.

 

Speaking of Spaced and DVD and the US...any plans with that? I keep hearing rumors that there's a possibility that Spaced will be coming out on our shores.

 

Edgar: We have pushed so many times to try and get it released over here, and lots of distributors have shown interest in it...there's various music licensing issues. We have been approached by 4 or 5 distributors who would like to do it but it's just a matter if we can get these tracks cleared, or they pay the money to clear the tracks. You know, we've asked about that so many times on this tour that the first thing I'm going to do when we get back is ask, 'What the fuck is going on with the Spaced DVD?' because I don't know (laughs).

 

Simon: Then we can give a definitive answer.

 

Edgar: We'd love it to be released over here.

 

retroCRUSH: What's the secret to creating incredibly violent scenes that still end up being hilarious to watch?

 

Edgar: More blood! And red blood! (laughs) The gore the merrier! The more blood there is the funnier it gets. I think that's it. The more red it is the more cartoon it is, in a way. In a film like Kill Bill Volume One, one of the reasons that got away with an R rating was that the blood was really really really red. Same with Shaun of the Dead as well. It's kind of just a way of sort of showing violence, but making it slightly cartoon to make it kind of palatable and funny. And you know, the idea of the deaths in this film and the various injuries is so outlandish...sort of Agatha Christie by way of Tony Scott, or Paul Verhooven in fact, that was really what we were going for. Certainly the murder in the church, the more gorier we made it the funnier it got.

 

retroCRUSH: Yeah, that was incredible.

 

Simon: Also a lot to do with it is the motive as well, the force behind it is more light hearted than just nastiness. It helps. A film like Wolf Creek or something where it's actually quite harrowing it's harder to watch. But if it's kind of light hearted head smashing, it's fine.

 

Romantic sub-plot...the expectation was that we were going to have a female character show up and then it just shifts to the two male characters, and how you felt about doing that. Whether it was in there, or did you excise it.

 

Edgar: Yeah well...there was in the first draft of the script a girlfriend for Nicholas Angel who we excised after the first draft because a) it was too long, and b) we just felt that we should concentrate more on the Nicholas and Danny relationship, and we ended up giving a lot of her lines to Nick. Which just seemed funnier and fresher. And because a lot of the buddy comedies kind of skirt around that sort of...they are like male romantic comedies, really. Sort of very homo-erotic, so the idea of grasping that with both hands... (laughs)

 

Simon: It is a two-hander

 

Edgar: That's the thing, you know, sort of like cop and buddy movies have exactly the same beats as romantic comedies. And that's the whole set up with the ex-girlfriend, the whole point of the ex-girlfriend scene is she's saying 'you have to find someone you care about more than your job', and that's Danny, it doesn't turn out to be another lady. And not necessarily in a homosexual way it's a platonic romantic comedy, essentially. 

Simon: And we all know who played her, right?

 

Cate Blanchette?

 

Simon: Maybe.

 

(Edgar says Cate Blanchette while coughing at the same time)

 

Edgar: We have time for one each quickly (for those who are left)

 

I have a two parter actually.

 

Edgar: Awwwwwwwww

 

Simon: Your two parter means this guy can't ask something.

 

What can you tell us about Them, and who's going to be involved, because I talked to Mike White and he's very interested in trying to get Jack Black involved.

 

Edgar: Well that's been something we've kind of had on the back burner.

 

Simon: If he's going to bring his bitches, you should get to bring yours.

 

Edgar: That's something we were working on before Hot Fuzz, actually. Because we were doing Hot Fuzz, and Mike was doing Year of the Dog...it's something we're going to have to start thinking about.

 

Nick: Me and Jack can have a wrestle, and see who wins.

 

Edgar: Ok...(laughs)

 

What's it about, though?

 

Edgar: Well it's based on the John Bronson book...it's a non-fiction book about extremists and various wild conspiracy theories. And the idea is to sort of set the film in a world where some of these things exist, basically.

 

And Jack Black?

 

Edgar: Well...it's very early days.  He's playing a lucha libre.

 

Really?

Edgar: No (laughs)

 

Simon: The lucha libre on the grassy knoll.

 

Edgar: No it's early days, but I'm sure if it happens Jack will be involved.

 

Are you guys planning on a third film and if you do will it follow the same trend of sending up a specific genre?

 

Edgar: Yeah, we have an idea. Simon and Nick are writing something. Just started formulating the idea for the third one, in what we're calling our "Three Flavors Trilogy" in that the films will all contain blood and ice cream, and that's the only link between the three. But yeah, we've got an idea, and...we really don't think of ourselves as "spoofers" it's kind of like we try to find a story within a genre we like and appeals to us in some way. Shaun of the Dead is about turning 30, and Hot Fuzz in a weird way is not autobiographical at all but it is kind of based on where at least me and Simon grew up. So it is about that kind of emotional hook within a genre it starts to become organic after that. It might well be in another genre, mainly because we like making films in the UK that people in the UK don't make. They may fancy...Oscar hungry kind of films, they don't make too many genre films.

 

Simon: We won't be doing a period piece, let's put it that way.

 

(The press contact sticks his head in and says he's sorry to break things up, but we're out of time)

 

Simon: We've got one more question here.

 

So is there any updates on Ant-Man?

Simon: No! Thank you very much!

 

Edgar: I'd have to say early days again, still in the works.

 

So everything is going smoothly so far?

 

Edgar: Well, I mean again, I've been working on this for like 18 months.

 

Is the script still being done?

 

Edgar: Yes.

 

Do you see it taking place in the UK?

 

Edgar: No, I think it would have to take place in the US.

 

At this point I pulled out a cricket bat and asked if they wouldn't mind signing it for me. Simon jumped back and bit and said, "I thought you were going to hit us over the head with that, like something out of The Untouchables!" I don't normally ask for autographs during interviews, but how could I resist, when I had a chance to get this wonderful thing.

 

 

This is now officially the coolest thing I will ever own in my life.

 

Hot Fuzz review coming soon, as well as a hilarious audio file of this interview for Episode 118 of our podcast. Check it out, right?

 

-Robert Berry

rberry@retrocrush.com

 

 

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