Mark Walters exclusive video interview Edgar
Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost
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Video interview by
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and
Nick Frost talk HOT FUZZ
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost do not look like British
actors. They look like regular blokes going from the pub to the football
match. Edgar Wright does not look like a successful writer/director but
like a Literature student going from the pub to the football match. But
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are British actors and Edgar Wright is a
successful writer/director, the creators of Shaun of the Dead and the
new film Hot Fuzz.
Hot Fuzz is a British take on the staple of American cinema, the
action film. Simon Pegg plays Angel, a London cop who is so good at his job
that he is reassigned to a small town. The locals have such major crimes as
an escaped swan or kids out late at night. Angel befriends Danny Butterman
(Nick Frost) the bumbling son of the police chief (Jim Broadbent). But
Angel starts to notice strange activities, mostly to do with the richest man
in town (Timothy Dalton of James Bond fame). All this leads to an over the
top, gun fueled climax.
A few years back, this trio scored a major cinematic hit with the quirky
Shaun of the Dead, a comedy/horror hybrid with the catch line "Aim for
the head." Shaun is of a group of ragtag fighters who band together to save
themselves from the zombie hoard. It won acclaims and huge box office
worldwide. It took these three into the spotlight of international praise.
Even the makers of Grindhouse wanted the trio to make a trailer for
their loving tribute to low budget 1970's filmmaking. The trailer is for a
fictitious flick Don't.
They are back in Dallas with the new film Hot Fuzz,
an action film in the Point Break/Bad Boys school of over the
top excess. The flick had its Dallas Premiere as part of AFI and was
introduced by Dolph Lungdren. For those in the audience who thought it was
unusual for the star of Masters of the Universe to be presenting a
comedy, the joke comes during the screening. Simon Pegg's character says
"By the power of Grey Skull," a reference to the Masters of the Universe
When asked about coming up with the idea for Hot Fuzz,
Edgar said with a laugh, "There was a gap in the market in the fact that
there were no other British cop films…at all. Very few films with a cop in
the lead and most of the crime films made in the UK are gangster films.
There are a couple of classic exceptions. I have always been a fan of cop
films injecting a bit of violence, mayhem and amusement."
Added Nick, "British cops aren't perceived as being that
cool, particularly uniform cops with funny hats and sweaters."
Simon explained further, "Beat policemen don't carry
firearms. The British policeman doesn't have cinematic prospects. Even in
British cinema it is more of the detectives that get the limelight. It is
more of a procedural detective story, unravel a crime through deduction
rather than firing a gun at someone's head."
Edgar finished the explanation; "You take a staple of
American cinema--the brash action film--and transplant it into a different
context. I think that in this sort of material the US is better equipped to
understand the jokes. You are seeing a version of your own culture. I
think that American audiences tend to be a bit more vocal anyway. Americans
are slightly less embarrassed by themselves than British people."
Simon Pegg noted that American audiences are louder in a
good way. Director Wright said, "In the UK we tend to get the polite golf
clap. In America, they get into it."
Since this does make loving fun of the regular British
police service, there was a thought of what the reaction of the actual
English police would have of Hot Fuzz. Said Nick of the police
response, "So far, so good."
Then Edgar explained further, "They liked it. We
interviewed some policemen when we were writing. We did about fifty
interviews. We went around to tour little stations. We had a lot of great
source material to take from it. And the way we pitched it to the police, a
few of them were skeptical about a comedy. They thought we were getting in
there to get a dig into them. Basically, we wanted to present something
over the top. Some of the broader antidotes are based on real things, like
the escaped swan and the officer buying cakes as punishment. The scene
where the police had to get a translator to talk to the farmer is also based
on real incident."
Simon Pegg seemed to take the idea of playing a cop as
serious as his character Angel did. "All the things about Angel being a
stickler for police vocabulary is very true. When we started writing the
film the notion of 'police force' became an odd notion now it's 'police
service'. 'Force' was deemed a too aggressive word. There is a rigorous
policing of language." Simon did get hurt a few times while making Hot
Nick Frost worked on his character through observation.
"I went down into the West Country where we were shooting and spent a couple
of days with the police down there," he said. "We did ride alongs with the
police and went on patrol in London in quite a dangerous part of the city.
I was surprised by how little crime there was. Time and time again, the
police wished they had a bullet so they could solve the crime."
For Nick the country police enforcement was very different from the city.
"In those kinds of communities the poorer elements are in trouble. The way
you have to police those kinds of communities is so careful and measured.
You might arrest someone on Friday and they might be driving you to work on
the bus on Monday. Everyone knows everyone and that is a big deterrent to
crime. You don't want to be embarrassed in front of people you know. Weird
crimes happen in the country; drug abuse and sexual bothering of animals."
With so much source material, the script for Hot Fuzz
seemed it would be a breeze but the first draft took eight months. "It's
always tough with a blank page," Edgar said. "Then we had to immerse
ourselves in research materials, interviews and watching lots of
films--probably an 18 month period after that. Then it was another nine
months of revisions. We are very anal about the script. We work on it with
the actors, and then we work on it with Nick for a week. We go through
improvisations but is it done by the time we get on the set." He did admit
that editing was the best part of this project.
Simon Pegg added, "The most important part of it is right
before we shoot it, we actually rehearse with the cast. People have said
their lines before they get to set. I've done films where you are on set
with barely a read through and suddenly you are in to it. It is nicer to
have hung out with at least some of the cast. It helps with the chemistry."
Which brings up the cast. Hot Fuzz has a stellar
gallery of start from former Bond Timothy Dalton to Oscar winner Jim
Broadbent. When writing Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright admitted that they have
people in mind when they are writing the script and feel fortunate when they
get them to sign on to the project.
Simon explained on getting Jim Broadbent, "(He) came to
us at the BAFTA awards and said, 'I loved Shaun of the Dead and the next
time you do a film would you consider using me.' When we began to write the
part of Frank Butterman, we went, 'This is Jim's part.' And we were hoping
he felt the same way. We were all in a bit of awe of the actors we were
working with. Jim really took to Nick because Nick would make him laugh on
the set. He'd almost be on the set ready for Nick to perform."
Nick added, "It was the way a scientist looks at an ape
they are about to fire into space. I am the ape that knows not to touch the
bar when it is electrified."
It was a bit different with the former 007. "With
Timothy Dalton," Simon said, "we had shaped this character to be a 'Timothy
Dalton' type and it didn't occur to us until late in the process that we
could get the real man. We were thrilled when he said yes and even more
thrilled when he came to rehearsals for the first day and said his lines for
the first time. He nailed it. We were so excited. It was certainly our
Dalton sports a mustache in Hot Fuzz. "He didn't
want to grow it," said Simon. Then Director Wright quipped, "His mustache
gives him special powers." Simon said, "Yeah, like one of those guys like
Selleck. Who is another one?" Nick popped up, "Hitler." Simon laughed,
"Yeah, he has a mustache and still looks sexy." The pressroom roared in
Hot Fuzz was not made by looking for something to
parody. "We don't pull them out of a hat," explained Simon. "Shaun
was because we love zombie films and Hot Fuzz was because we are fans
of the action movie. Something we have grown up on. The next film might
exist within a genre but I don't know. I don't think Shaun of the Dead
particularly satirized zombie films, I think it was a zombie film and a
comedy as well. Hot Fuzz slightly satirizes itself by drawing
attention to some of the more extreme cliches and devices used in those
movies. It was made with affection, as a Valentine to those movies. It is
not a critique."
To which Nick said, "We love Homo erotica."
characters in Hot Fuzz have an affection for Point Break and the
Bad Boys movies. "They are supremely entertaining and completely
unpretentious," said Simon. "They are proud to be big and dumb. That is why
we picked those two. Bad Boys II is an absurd display of machismo and
fireworks. But that is not to say there is anything wrong with that.
Artistically you cannot defend Bad Boys II, like you cannot defend
fireworks going off."
Edgar added, "If you have 130 million, why not smash up a
bunch of cars. That's the way to solve the world's ills."
With Shaun of the Dead being such a big hit with a
tremendous cult following, there is a push for more zombies in the trio's
future. But these filmmakers have no desire to go back to and retrace their
steps. "We get it not just from the fans but from the studios as
well," Wright said. They are pushed to do sequels and TV versions of
Shaun. "It is even unlikely there will be a Hot Fuzz II," Wright
finished. "You would rather like to take the same sensibility and move on.
You could do a sequel to Hot Fuzz but once you go to 'good ass' to
'bad ass', you can't start the next film." He used The Matrix
sequels as an example, "Where do you go when your lead character has become
a god? Nowhere."
The reaction to Shaun of the Dead in the US was
great, but did it surprise them. Answered Simon, "We were hoping it would
do well, gamble that people would get it. We didn't make any concessions to
the American audience in terms of trying to make it more accessible and
removing the Britishness. The cinema audience here is very intelligent and
they get stuff. You don't have to talk down to people all the time and that
they are capable of understanding different stuff, knowing and making the
connections themselves. We specifically didn't pander. That risk paid
off. We did the same thing with Hot Fuzz. Audiences are
constantly underestimated by filmmakers, or at least by people that make the
marketing decisions. They assume that people are dumb and that is a
But Shaun of the Dead had some revelations for
Simon. He was amazed to suddenly become a toy. "I was a huge buyer of
those when I was a kid," said Simon.
Nick added, "You still are."
Simon also has met himself on the streets. On Halloween,
he ran into a guy dressed as Shaun. According to Simon, the guy went "Oh my
god!" to which Simon answered, "Oh my god!"
Simon did get a bit philosophical about making movies and
their message. "If Hot Fuzz has a message, it is not as much as a
social commentary as Shaun of the Dead was. Dead was about
living in the city and your identity. Hot Fuzz is about saying that
it is sometimes okay to switch off your brain and relax."
Nick and Simon are working on a project in America and
all three are working on what Simon called "A third in the Blood and Ice
"We make the films we would want to go and see," said
Nick. "We make a film that would make our friends laugh. So there are lots
and lots of people like us."
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