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Nick Frost and Edgar Wright – The Hot Buzz on Hot Fuzz



by Jay S. Jacobs

You don’t expect to find a big-budget action blockbuster settling down in a tiny, quaint British village. However, don’t tell that to Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright.

In a few years, this troupe of talented filmmakers has created a splash by taking some of the most over-the-top film types and adding a laid-back British perspective.

The trio broke out from the pack and found an international audience with their 2004 zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, in which the undead congregate outside a small pub searching for a couple of British slackers (Pegg and Frost) who are the last hope for mankind’s survival. Written by Pegg and Wright (who also directed), the film was a surprise critical and popular success.

Now the three are back with the follow-up, the even funnier Hot Fuzz. In it, British policeman Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is so prolific at capturing criminals that he is transferred out of London to a tiny English village called Sandford because he is making everyone else look bad. When he arrives, people start dying mysteriously, but the only person he can convince that the deaths are not all accidents is PFC Danny Butterman (Frost), the local never-do-well officer. Together they form the weirdest odd-couple buddy cops ever while they try to unlock the village’s secret.

The movie is as comical as it is exciting. Just, whatever you do, don’t call the films spoofs…

On the week of the Hot Fuzz premiere in the US, co-star Nick Frost and director/co-screenwriter Edgar Wright sat down with us to tell us about the movie, their career and the orgasmic thrill of shooting two guns while jumping through the air.

I believe the three of you first worked together on the TV series Spaced in 1999.

Edgar Wright: Yes. I had worked with Simon before that.

At the time did you think that you would still be together all these years later?

Nick Frost: (laughs) I don’t know the answer to that. I guess it would have been nice to think that we would have done that. We are all very similar in our sensibilities, what we like and what we don’t like. We’re all best mates as well. So yes, it is a wonderful dream.

Edgar Wright: Well, you know, I would have hoped so. I think the first time I worked with Simon I felt like I had found my muse. So, yeah, I definitely would have hoped it. Nick was kind of more of a curveball in a way because he came into it later.

What is it about the team that works so well together?

Nick Frost: I don’t know. Edgar is a wonderful director and Simon and Edgar write a great screenplay. Once the three of us get a hold of it and put it together… we seem to have tapped into something that people like. We’re very honest and we all share a work ethic. We love working very hard. So that helps.

Edgar Wright: I think it’s we all have the same sense of humor really. We just kind of complement each other. We’re into the same things. So we’re like-minded. It’s basically as simple as that.

What is it about horror films or action films that make them so rich for satire?

Nick Frost: Maybe not horror films as such, but the action genre is just ripe for it – straight from the wonderful homo-erotic subtext on Lethal Weapon all the way up to never having to reload your weapon. Or if you’re running away from a fireball you’ll never be injured. All these little conceits are perfect.

Edgar Wright: Well, in a weird way, we don’t even think of them too much as satires of films. I suppose the idea is that they are more affectionate, in a way. It’s not like we sit back and say, “Hey, horror films are really stupid.” It’s more that we love those films. Same with action films. It would kind of be redundant to do just a straight spoof of action films, because not only have there been so many anyway, but they also spoof themselves. It’s more our way of reconfiguring what we love about those films and trying to set it in the UK.

Nick Frost: We don’t like to use the word spoof or parody. We love these films. We love horror films, too. We like to think of them as love letters to the genre.

Shaun of the Dead came out and became a surprise smash. What was it like to be a part of? How big a surprise was it that it became an international hit and crossed over the pond, so to speak?

Edgar Wright: It was amazing. We didn’t even know that it was necessarily going to get released in the US. So, really just the fact that it was released in the UK was just amazing.

Nick Frost: It’s very surprising. A lot of films don’t even get shown over here. Rogue and Focus really got behind us and really pushed it. But when you’re on set, you’re so near to the product itself that you don’t think about what was going to happen a year down the line. Then Shaun of the Dead got released over here and people loved it. I don’t think you ever make films with a thought in the back of your mind thinking America’s going to love this. You just have to make the best film you can. Once you’ve finished it and it’s edited and it’s out there, it’s out of your hands.

In certain ways, British comedy is different than US comedy. Why do you think your films make them universal?

Nick Frost: I don’t know. You know what; I don’t think there’s that much difference between English comedy and American comedy, to be honest. The cultural specifics are different. I don’t know what Tom Landry’s hat (the long-time Dallas Cowboys coach who always wore a cap) is, for instance. But what we find funny and what America finds funny isn’t that different.

Edgar Wright: I think things are definitely changing with the access of DVDs, the internet and cable. It [allows] people [to see] international shows. It’s less the case [now] really. I think it’s more the cultural specificities of things that are different.

Nick Frost: It’s just that all you see of our comedy is Monty Python and Benny Hill. There’s a lot more to us than that. If you’ve seen the film, a big guy falling through a fence is international. That’s a comedic thing people are going to enjoy all over the world.

Or a policeman chasing a swan…

Nick Frost: Absolutely.

Edgar Wright: In the case of Shaun not only was it a genre that US audiences recognized and maybe thought the responses of the Brits to the apocalypse was funny. But also, the characters were really universal in Shaun. Everybody knew somebody like that. With Hot Fuzz, again, it’s a genre that people are so familiar with that re-setting what you usually see in Bruckheimer films in a tiny English village – there’s nothing not to get, really.

So what inspired you to make a “no-holds barred thrill ride” and set it in the sleepy English countryside?

Edgar Wright: Mainly because it hadn’t been done before. There were no British cop films. There was nothing even close to a British action film. With good reason, because it would look faintly ridiculous, as it does in Hot Fuzz. (chuckles) But that was exactly it, basically.

Nick Frost: Well, Edgar – out of the three of us, he’s the biggest film geek. I think he has a bit of a man crush on Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. And he always has had. So, he was a massive fan of the genre. A lot of people have really enjoyed the relationship that Simon and I had onscreen in Shaun of the Dead and wanted to see that taken a little bit further. The buddy-action genre seemed right for a double act for a comedy pairing.

Was Sandford based on a real village?

Nick Frost: Well, we shot it in a place called Wells, which is down in Somerset. That was Edgar’s hometown when he was growing up. Sandford is I guess based a little bit on Edgar’s hometown. Also, it’s sort of an everyplace village in England. There are a lot of villages like that. Well, obviously without the murderers and the killings and stuff.

Edgar Wright: Sandford is shot in my hometown, which should tell you everything. Sandford – the name itself – is the name of the town that British police use in training scenarios. A little police in-joke there.

Nick Frost: Sandford is a joke specifically for the British police. Sandford is the place that is on all British policemen’s examinations, you know? For instance, “A riot is taking place in the village of Sandford. What do you do?” It’s the theoretical village that the British police use to train themselves. That’s a joke just for the policemen.

So what was it like to shoot two guns while jumping through the air?

Nick Frost: It was a wonderful dream. (laughs) It was great. We’re big fans of the John Woo oeuvre as well, so it’s always been a little boyhood [fantasy]… You know what? Firing one gun jumping through the air is fine. Two seems… it’s a little like gluttony. But delicious…

Edgar, did you get to try it?

Edgar Wright: I didn’t. I didn’t get to do that until a photo shoot publicizing the film. That’s how I got a chance to do it.

So, is it true that there is a point where if you shoot a man in the head, it will just blow up?

Edgar Wright: It’s not true. I dearly wish it were, though.

Michael Bay – talentless hack or misunderstood genius?

Edgar Wright: (laughs) Now, there’s a question.

Nick Frost: (laughs) Maybe a little bit of both. After staging an action film ourselves, you can feel what they feel, you know what I mean? It’s not easy.

Edgar Wright: You know what? I wouldn’t say I’m a major fan of his. I’m more of a fan of Tony Scott. But, especially having done a film that has some action in it, you do have an admiration for anybody who can direct action full stop, because you kind of have to be like a field marshal. I’m a very big fan of action films anyway, but coming out of this, I have even more respect for directors who can stage action. There are some of his films I’d stick up for. I would actually stick up for Bad Boys II and The Rock.

You got some really great actors for the film – Bill Nighy had obviously been in Shaun as well, but you added Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Billie Whitelaw, Edward Woodward and others. Does it surprise you that such huge names want to be in your movie, and what was it like to have them in there?

Edgar Wright: It was great. It was just really exciting to have people from different generations in the same film. That was exciting for me as a director. Obviously, we were big fans of a lot of those actors. Working with them is a real treat. But, also, just kind of pairing them with younger actors and having a big ensemble was amazing. Really exciting. I think everybody got a big kick out of it.

Nick Frost: The first time we did a read through with everyone in it was a very, very special moment indeed, (laughs) when we first heard everyone’s part being read out by these amazing older British actors. We like to think of them as proper actors if you know what I mean. But there were a lot of people on that set and there wasn’t one ego amongst them. At all. They were clever and funny and prompt and just great. A lot of the time, we’d all be sitting around – you know, no one went to their trailers between shots. Everyone just sat around doing crosswords. There’s a reason those people are the best of the best. It’s because you get the whole package. They’re just really clever people.

Was the hardest part of the role that you had to wear a Bristol [football club] shirt?

Nick Frost: (laughs) Yeah. Yeah. In many ways. I’m a West Ham supporter. West Ham ‘til I die. It’s tough putting on another team’s shirt. I guess it’s like if you’re a Yankees fan putting on a Red Sox shirt. It took – they had to pull me out of it, and I had blisters and skin lesions and things. They had to put a lot of talc on me.

Do you think you will ever make a movie which does not feature a pub prominently?

Nick Frost: (laughs) No. They’ll always have a pub in it. It’s such a vital part of England and what England is. Not necessarily the alcoholic drunk fighting. That’s not England. But the pub is, and has been for hundreds of years, such a focal point of the community.

Edgar Wright: (laughs) Hah! You know what? If I was making a film in the UK – probably not. It’s almost impossible because the entire [lifestyle] revolves around that at some point. Me and Simon are up for another film which would again involve pubs. I did actually say after Hot Fuzz through the filming… the pub that we were shooting in, where there’s the big shootout, is one of the oldest pubs in the UK. And it’s tiny. I did say, oh, man, this is the last time I’m shooting in a pub. I’m sick of it. But I’m sure we’ll be back.

So what genre do you think you’ll take on next?

Nick Frost: It’s not like we sit there with a hat full of genres and we pick one out. We’re doing the Hot Fuzz press for another month or so yet. Then Simon and I have written a screenplay which we’re going to start shooting at the end of the year or the beginning of next. That has a kind of Sci-Fi tinge to it, I’d say. Edgar won’t be directing that one. It’s just going to be Simon and I writing and starring in it. Hopefully, Edgar will produce, and script edit. Then, after that, Simon and Edgar will get together and they’ll write the third in the “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy, which is what we’re calling it.

Edgar Wright: There are various things in the pipeline. Three or four exciting things. It’s just a matter of having a little break after this and just getting down to it.

Nick, since Shaun, you have done Penelope and Kinky Boots, Simon made Mission: Impossible 3 and Edgar did one of the trailers in Grindhouse. What were those side projects like, and did you know you’d be getting back together for the whole time? Is it weird not working with the buddies?

Nick Frost: Well, it is, but Simon and I have done quite a lot separately, as well. The things we do together seem to be the most popular. After doing Shaun of the Dead – I hadn’t been acting for very long, you know. I’d only really done things with Simon and Edgar. So, for someone, Julian Jarrold, who is the director of Kinky Boots, to cast me in that was great. It was a chance to get out and do some stuff on my own, on another film set with other people. It was great. We spent a month in a place called Northampton, which was the heart of the British shoe industry in the 20th and 19th centuries. It was a great, great film to do. With Penelope, the director of that (Mark Palansky) was a big fan of Shaun of the Dead. So I didn’t even have to cast for it. He just said come along and just be in the film. That’s always a treat when you don’t have to do a casting.

Edgar, how did the trailer in Grindhouse come about and how much fun was that?

Edgar Wright: It was a lot of fun. I got asked by Quentin [Tarantino] and Robert [Rodriguez] back in 2005 to do it. It was amazing and I just had a real blast doing it.

Nick, if you weren’t acting, what do you think you’d be doing?

Nick Frost: Dear me. Do you know what? I never really wanted to be an actor. I’ve only been acting for… Spaced was the first time I’d ever acted. I never wanted to be an actor or anything. I was a waiter for eight years – and a really good one, too. So, I would have to say if I wasn’t acting, I would be assistant deputy floor manager at a Bennigans’-style restaurant.

What about you Edgar? If you weren’t writing and directing, what do you think you’d be doing?

Edgar Wright: I like editing. That’s really my other favorite part of the job. Or I don’t know… Yeah, I think editing.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Nick Frost: I am a virgin. (laughs) What would people be surprised to know about me? I’m slightly miserable in real life.

Edgar Wright: That I’m single. (laughs hard) I don’t know. That’s a good question. That I have never sunbathed in my life. Actually, no that’s not surprising. You only have to look at me for two seconds to figure it out.

How would you like people to see your career?

Nick Frost: I would like them to think that I was a nice, funny guy. That would be enough.

Edgar Wright: I suppose, hopefully what comes across in the two films is our total love for the movies. I would hope that enthusiasm is infectious.

Are there any misconceptions you’d like to clear up?

Nick Frost: About me?

About you. About your movies. Whatever…

Edgar Wright: That every scene from Hot Fuzz is a reference to something else.

Nick Frost: Well, about our movies; they’re not spoofs. The misconceptions about me… I don’t know if there are any. I don’t know if people care about me enough to misconceive me.

Copyright ©2007 All rights reserved. Posted: April 20, 2007.

Photo Credits:

#1 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

#2 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

#3 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

#4 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

#5 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

#6 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

#7 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

#8 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

#9 © 2007 Matt Nettheim. Courtesy of Rogue Pictures. All rights reserved.

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