From the makers of “Shaun of the Dead” comes “Hot Fuzz.” This time, instead of a British comedy tangling with zombies, it’s a cop action flick with plenty of laughs. I sat down with Edgar Wright (director, writer), Simon Pegg (actor, writer) and Nick Frost (actor) and managed to get a few questions into the general conversation.
It was late afternoon, and they had spent all day doing press. Food and drink was scattered throughout the hotel suite, but really they couldn’t have been nicer. We talked about if these movies are spoofs, if Frost will always be the sidekick and just how Frost got stuck with the name Butterman.
Wright: Our only request at this time in the afternoon is to go straight to the more random questions. We are getting sick of the sound of our own voice.
Bayer: With this movie, and “Shaun of the Dead,” both movies combine genres that don’t normally go together. Wright: “Young Americans” is kind of like the inspiration for this film, because we cannot compete with the States (with action movies). And “Young Americans” came out a year after “Reservoir Dogs,” it was entirely disparaging to see a British film try to be like Tarantino and fail so miserably. So with “Hot Fuzz,” it was more about putting a genre into a location where it didn’t fit, and taking that quaint, picture-perfect setting.
Bayer: Sometimes the films are referred to as spoofs. Are they? Wright: They are supposed to be funny genre films, not spoofs. We like classic spoofs like Mel Brooks, but I think recent movies like “Scary Movie” and “Epic Movie” are contrived. Spoof is about ridicule, and what we do is more about affection … even when we are ripping on things.
Bayer: OK, you wanted random questions ... (to Nick Frost) Was it difficult for Simon to be called Nick in this film? At any point did you get confused? Wright: No one has ever asked that question before. Pegg: We haven’t had a new question for six months. Frost: Ahhh... no. (laughter)
Bayer: And that’s why you don’t get new questions. Pegg: It’s confusing for interviews because sometimes, when people would refer to Nick in the film they would be talking about him. Small amount of confusion, but that’s it. Frost: I was never confused on set. It’s not like I would break character.
Bayer: (to Frost) Your name is Danny Butterman, his name was Nick Angel. Were you upset about this? Did you think you got the shaft? Pegg: He came up with it, it was his choice.
Bayer: It’s just not the coolest sounding name. Frost: You don’t think Danny Butterman is cool? It’s like the ultimate Hobbit name. It’s the grand description of what he is — he’s a “butter” man. Wright: I think it’s got a nice ring to it, like Angel and Butterman. Pegg: It sounds like a company in New York that makes the most amazing fairy cakes. (Speaking of names) one of the more obscure jokes in the film is when they have a night watching movies, they are drinking Cobra Beer. (“Cobra” is a ’80s cop movie starring Sylvester Stallone).
Bayer: For the most part, these types of characters are “might is right,” like Dirty Harry, but Angel isn’t like that. Wright: Angel’s actually very liberal. Pegg: We wanted him to be very morally correct, liberal, completely politically correct and entirely about right and wrong, and those two things are very clearly defined for him. We did base him on a brother’s friend who is a cop. He’s a vegetarian who listened to the radio, he doesn’t watch TV ... Wright: ... cycles to work. Usually the starch shirt character, they are the object of ridicule. We watched “S.W.A.T” with Colin Farrell. And there’s a scene in it where they make fun of a guy who eats a soy dog. He’s our guy.
Bayer: Cop movies are such a huge genre, so when writing how did you focus in on what you were looking for? Wright: It’s like sightseeing through all the permutations of the cop-drama. It starts with corporate satire, then fish-out-of-water, then a procedural film, then satirical, and finally a slam-bang action film. It’s sub-divisions of the genre while amping up the whole time.
Bayer: (to Frost) Two-for-two right now, you have been the sidekick. Are you always going to be the sidekick? Frost: I guess that’s up to them. Pegg: Something (Frost) and I are writing right now, Smokey IS the Bandit. Frost: It’s not about me being the sidekick. It’s about the movie as a whole. I may be the sidekick, but I get all the kickass lines. Pegg: During the writing process, I realized pretty soon that this guy (Nicholas Angel) would almost have to be boring. The comedy of Nicholas Angel is his reaction to things. So the lead character in the film, comically, was one of the least interesting to play. Wright: But he is the glue that holds the whole thing together. Pegg: I think this film is more two-handed than “Shaun of the Dead.” “Shaun” was about trying to win Liz back. This is about Danny and Angel. The thing that we are writing (Pegg and Frost) is very much a two-hander.
Bayer: You have Martin Freeman and Steven Merchant who were both apart of the British “Office” in “Hot Fuzz.” Does Ricky Gervais hate you? Is that why he wasn’t in your film? Pegg: Ricky does everything else; he doesn’t need to be in our film. When I saw “Mission: Impossible: III” as soon as I came on the screen, I said, “Oh hell, I was enjoying this.” Ricky has the same effect. Frost: It’s like he goes for lunchtime and has a wander through the studios and happens to walk through three movies.
Bayer: (to Frost) You were the best man for Simon in his wedding. What was the speech? Pegg: Genius, but private.
Bayer: Last question, “Shaun of the Dead” is a cult favorite around here. What was it like to come back and show “Hot Fuzz” to an audience? Pegg: It’s great to be known before the film started. Frost: You know everyone is there to see you. No one just happened into the movie theater. Wright: Or maybe “Last Mimzy” was full. Pegg: I mean, we’ve seen (this type of thing) before. I met Carrie Fisher at the Comic-Con and told her I kissed her picture every time before I went to bed. And she went, “Do you feel better for telling me that?” And walked away.