The Shaun of the Dead pair team up again on the police comedy
How do you properly follow up such an iconic film like Shaun of the Dead?
Well, you take the three same people and make it even funnier. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost teamed up once again for the cop comedy, Hot Fuzz. Edgar and Simon wrote the script together, with Edgar directing.
Simon plays Nicholas Angel, one of London's best cops, but something his fellow station cops don't like. So they reassign him to the countryside; that's when he partners up with Danny Butterman, one of Sandford's laziest cops. The two have completely different visions for how things are run and should be run.
When a string of 'accidental' murders start happening, Sergeant Angel and PC Butterman investigate what's really going on. From there, it's an all out Point Break meets Bad Boys war between the cops and the townspeople.
We spoke to Simon and Nick to get the skinny - and the fat - about coming together again for Hot Fuzz. Here's what they had to say:
Was there any pressure to getting the follow-up written?
Simon Pegg: Oh yeah, the pressure is from entirely home; we bring the pressure ourselves and didn't want to disappoint anyone and come across as a one-trick pony. We wanted to do it again and do it bigger and better, so that pressure was more of a positive thing.
Simon Pegg: They were challenging in different ways, physically Hot Fuzz was more challenging than Shaun of the Dead because it was just a bigger deal. There was more demand on us physically and there was a lot of running around; and the daily strain was tough, wasn't it, Nick?
Nick Frost: Yeah, it was; when the three of us do a film, we all have a tremendous work ethic. And I have to explain to my girlfriend, 'I am Edgar's now for four months.' And it's literally that -
Simon Pegg: You're mine forever.
Nick Frost: And I'm yours forever. But you're working from half five till 9 every day, six days a week for four months, three months; you just have to prepare that you're not going to see your cat for that.
Are you your worst critic?
Simon Pegg: No, Christopher Tookey in The Daily Mail is our worst critic. No, absolutely; we want to make something that we'd want to watch, and that goes for every aspect of the film in terms of the purses - we always wanted to make it look like something we'd want to go and see. We start worrying if it starts to become something other than that.
How has your relationship grown over the years?
Simon Pegg: I feel less responsible for Nick these days. At first, I felt I introduced him into acting and I felt very protective of him when we were doing Spaced together.
Nick Frost: I'd catch you off set like that -
Simon Pegg: Watching in the monitor. But now I don't need to. Now -
Nick Frost: You can say good.
Simon Pegg: Grounded. I wouldn't go that far. Now, he's matured so much, I can gladly not be at work when - I don't have to protect him anymore. But our working relationship is the same as ever, the same as daily life.
Did you do research with cops?
Simon Pegg: Yeah.
In the city or in the countryside?
Simon Pegg: Both.
What's the best single piece of advice you got?
Nick Frost: Don't get shot.
Simon Pegg: It was interesting because in the city, it's very different the way they're policing the city - in terms of there's a lot of proactive crime. There's a lot of mugging and street crime; whereas in the countryside, it gets a bit more insidious and it's more alcohol related and more domestic crimes, bored kids. And there's less police officers in the country; there's 250 people for every square - no, there's nine cops for every 250 square miles in the country, and nine cops for every one square mile in the city. So there's far more personnel in the city. But then they're dealing with stuff that's far more immediate than the country. The whole idea that Angel throws those kids out of the pub was supposed to show that he gets that wrong; the whole point of that is he then has to go and arrest all of them and book all of them for being drunk and disorderly. The reason they're in the pub is to stop the police from - and they do that in the countryside, the younger kids.
Is there any Angel in you?
Simon Pegg: In me? Not at all, I'm not anything like Angel. I'm more like Tim or Shaun, Angel's like a machine.
He grows as a result.
Simon Pegg: Maybe in terms of his sort of ambition or his resolve; but he's got a lot of - the thing about Angel is he's not like Dirty Harry, he's not like a renegade, or even a quasi-fascist or liberal. He's the perfect policeman, he just doesn't know how to slow it down.
What's it like having dolls of yourself from Shaun of the Dead?
Nick Frost: It's insane, I talk.
You've got a 12-inch, too.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, I saw it, the 12-inch doll. I walked past the Forbidden Planet in Dublin and saw it in the window; I said, 'Hold on, no one sent me one of these. I should have one.'
Was it odd buying your own doll?
Simon Pegg: I didn't have to pay for it; he said, 'You shouldn't have to buy this.' And so he gave it to me.
There's one with a zombie head.
Nick Frost: It comes with a zombie head.
Simon Pegg: We told them not to do that one because he didn't have zombie arms, so he put the head on and he looked like he was half and half. So we said we'd do a separate doll.
Shouldn't you be getting a royalty check as well?
Simon Pegg: You'd think.
Nick Frost: It's not all about the money.
Would you want to work independently from each other?
Nick Frost: We do; we've probably done more apart than we do together, what we do as the three.
What were you aware of about the characters in Hot Fuzz?
Simon Pegg: They go on - with Shaun of the Dead, you have a story of a man learning to take responsibility; in Hot Fuzz, he's learning to let it go. I think it's a sweet relationship in the heart of it, and Danny and Angel kind of complete each other in that sort of way. Angel brings to Danny this sort of adventure he wants, and Danny brings to Angel this sort of humility and humanity; he teaches him how to be a person under the machine. I think that's quite sweet, the heart of all the pyrotechnics and the bomb-basters, there's a little romance, which is quite nice.
Did you learn anything?
Simon Pegg: Yeah, it's ok to watch firework displays.
Nick Frost: It's fun to watch Bad Boys II - but then you have to watch Run Lola Run right after.
Simon Pegg: Basically what we're saying is, there's a place for a spectacle - dumb fun is ok. And sometimes, you do have to switch off that big melon of yours and enjoy yourself.
What inspires you guys to write?
Simon Pegg: What does inspire us?
Nick Frost: He inspires me.
Simon Pegg: awwww.
Nick Frost: But yeah, he does inspire me; I know it sounds a bit wanky.
Friendship plays a big part in your movies -
Simon Pegg: It's a bit of a rip-off, isn't it really?
Nick Frost: I'd like us to play enemies.
Would you ever consider having something like that?
Nick Frost: We'd still have that chemistry as enemies.
Simon Pegg: But then, we wouldn't be able to share as much screen time together; it'd only be in the final battle that we come together.
Nick Frost: Well -
Simon Pegg: A red baron. That's the best part of it cause we get to make films and hang out for three months.
Nick Frost: We'd still get to hang out; I'd come down to set.
What was it like getting into that full blown action stuff?
Nick Frost: It was great fun, wasn't it?
Simon Pegg: Oh, it was a joy every day coming into work and jump off things, shooting; it doesn't get more fun than that.
Is it fantasy come to life?
Simon Pegg: Oh, absolutely. Firing off two 'nines' while sleeping through the day.
What music plays through your head?
Simon Pegg: Well, for now, it'll be the theme to Hot Fuzz; it's amazing. David Arnold's music is great.
Nick Frost: Mine is hard house, very hard house.
Simon Pegg: For me, it's sort of John Williams style, big orchestra, dramatic sort of music, that's what I have in my grommets.
What are you doing now?
Simon Pegg: We're writing a film together here for the autumn.
You two are writing?
Simon Pegg: Yeah, and I think Edgar is going to direct, or produce or script supervise.
Can you talk about it?
Simon Pegg: Not really.
Is it comedy?
Simon Pegg: Yeah, but we just don't want to talk about it.
Would you play Americans or British?
Nick Frost: British.
Is that the TV series?
Simon Pegg: No, that's the TV series we shot years ago, but then someone made a story about it in the press, but I don't know why that story got made up.
Nick Frost: It's the oddest story to make up.
Simon Pegg: I know, you might as well I was having an affair with Nick.
Nick Frost: Why is that so odd?
Simon Pegg: That would be more interesting, that could be a sitcom.
You wrote the film across America? Where did you go?
Simon Pegg: We just went across the mid-west America, and the film will probably take on that journey.
Nick Frost: It was an eight day drive.
How was it?
Simon Pegg: It was great, we picked up a very shiny RV here in LA, and we returned it seven days later f*cked up.
Nick Frost: Cause when you hit loads and loads of snow, it was knackered. I think the official diagnosis was that its brain had broken; the on-board computer had gone down. We drove across Nevada and Utah and Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado.
What did you discover?
Nick Frost: That Nevada is big and empty.
Simon Pegg: America is very big.
Nick Frost: There were two days when we drove across Nevada where we actually felt fairly suicidal cause we hadn't seen - it's massive, and you don't see anything. You drive on one two-lane black top for 80 miles and you can see it stretching; you get to the end of it, and you see a little hump and you think, 'Ah, that's it, great. What's next?' And then there's another -
How different is your relationship as writers than as actors?
Nick Frost: We've written together before.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, we have.
Nick Frost: And other than the aborted sitcom. I'm going to say the process is quite organic, which actually means we're a bit lazy. We do what Edgar and Simon do; we just sit there in an office and thrash it out line by line, and it's not always as easy as it looks.
Simon Pegg: We've written two things; we've written La Triviata, the episodes of that which didn't show up because Shaun of the Dead showed up and took us in a different direction. And we also wrote a sitcom called Magnetic Park, which was a lost classic.
Nick Frost: It was too expensive.
Simon Pegg: It was about two park keepers, who took care of a little park in London - but once you walked into the park, it was the size of Snowdonia.
Nick Frost: It was small.
Simon Pegg: There were lots of mythological creatures there, and they had a low-speed chase with a giant tortoise.
When did you write this?
Simon Pegg: Years ago; it was just after Spaced.
Would you ever take it off the shelf?
Nick Frost: It's unmakable. They told it to R&R when we wrote it about firing a rifle at a tortoise, it bounced off into a tree, and a lion falls out of the tree - they didn't know how to stage it. But sometimes we'll go into work and we'll write a cracky joke and we'll take the rest of the day off, watch a film. Edgar and Simon are quite different; Edgar's the real taskmaster in it, and you'll sit and hammer it out all day.
What is the rehearsal process like for you two?
Simon Pegg: We read the scenes out; we rehearse the scenes, and if anything comes to mind, like for instance when Angel is pursuing the shoplifter. I asked Danny why he didn't tell me he knew him, and he tells me he couldn't see his face - he added, 'Well, I'm not made of eyes.' Which Nick said, and we all sat around and laughed at; that happens a few times. The whole Danny doing the (spitting) thing; that was written in the script, but Nick came up with the 'Jog on' line to kind of - west country expression to kind of, politely say, 'go away.'
Did you think Shaun of the Dead would become so popular?
Simon Pegg: I don't know what we thought when we were shooting it; we just wanted to get it made. There's a lot of heart in that film, and made by people who know what they're talking about, in terms of the genre. As I've said, we make films for ourselves, and it just happens there are a lot of people like us everywhere who just love film and love detail, and get a kick out of comedy. I guess it kind of struck a cord with people.
Nick Frost: There's a lot of people who like Shaun out there, and when you go to University or you're this 20-year-old man, there's a lot of exports to be made. And there's a lot of people who liked Shaun who are nothing like autors and stuff; we hear that most - 'It really touched us because I know someone who's a bit like Ed.'
Do you want to work in the States?
Nick Frost: Yeah, I like LA, and I like the States. But, as an actor, you don't have to live in the States to come make films, cause not as many films are made here in LA. Chances are if you move here, you'll have to move somewhere else to make another one. But at our core, we're British filmmakers and we're doing ok so far making films. We're going to shoot this movie here in the fall.
Is there a studio behind it?
Simon Pegg: It's Working Title again and Universal?
Any word from Kathryn Bigelow or Michael Bay about what they think about the movie?
Simon Pegg: I'd like Kathryn Bigelow to see it and Michael Bay; we've heard from Shane Black, who really loved it. He's one of the guys who inspired us, and he's a great writer.
Nick Frost: I want Will Smith to see it.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, I love Will Smith. Keanu -
They all had to sign permission.
Nick Frost: Yeah, they did.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, they had to sign their likenesses away.
Nick Frost: Good on them!
Simon Pegg: Absolutely. Yeah, I'd love those people to see it. I can't say I'm as much a Michael Bay fan as I am a George Romero fan by any means, so getting George's nod for Shaun of the Dead was an enormous thrill.
Nick Frost: It was like being honored by the zombie pope.
Simon Pegg: Exactly, and then being there it was fun.
Do you want Danny and Angel dolls?
Simon Pegg: I think there's a lot of potential for it
Nick Frost: Hell yeah!
Simon Pegg: The falling through the glass with the guns, the arsenal.
How was it to get on the set with the other character actors?
Simon Pegg: It was great, just amazing people. Jim Broadbent approached us after Shaun of the Dead, as did Paddy Considine, who's a brilliant actor. Everyone else, we just got the script out to; Timothy Dalton and his son had seen Shaun of the Dead here in LA and really liked it. He's amazing in it. Billie Whitelaw's son, we used his flat in Shaun of the Dead, so the script came to his mom, he said, 'You should do this one.'
Even though she's retired.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, she came out of retirement, bless her. Edward Woodward, he's great; he just read it and loved it.
Didn't know he was still working.
Simon Pegg: He's not really, he works a lot less than he used to.
Nick Frost: I don't think he'll do many more.
Simon Pegg: He said, 'This will probably be the last thing I ever do.' And then he cropped up on a massive BBC TV series a few weeks later. But he's amazing, he's hilarious in this, unrelenting.
What about Edward Woodward?
Simon Pegg: He's just a star; what he turned down, we would read him. He turned down a role in The Wicker Man remake - probably the right thing to do. But he did Hot Fuzz, which is essentially, at the heart of it, inspired by that film. The Wicker Man was the last film that had a British officer at its center.
So no naked women?
Simon Pegg: There was no room for naked women in Hot Fuzz; it says it. We did have a kind of love story; obviously, Angel has his ex-girlfriend and she says, 'Until you find someone you care about more than your job, you won't be able to switch off.' And then he does, but it's Danny. We did have a female actress.
So it's gay subtext.
Simon Pegg: Oh yeah, totally. There was a character called Vicky, who we excised in the end because we realized the real romance was here. Not only did we lose the female character, but we gave Danny all her lines.
Did you actually go on ride-alongs with the cops?
Simon Pegg: Yeah, we did. Nick, you were involved in a low-speed tractor chase.
Nick Frost: Yeah, some junkie nicked a tractor and got behind the wheel - never got more than 8 mile an hour, pretty thrilling. It's odd when you're with a cop and he pulls over a suspected burglar, cause you think, and you're standing next to him and you're talking to him. You're thinking, 'If he runs now, than I have to get a hold of him.' It's odd, you get an odd flutter; it may be a man thing.
You can see as all the hilarity ensues in Hot Fuzz, opening in theaters April 20th; it's rated R.