Hot Fuzz - Simon Pegg and Nick Frost interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
HOT Fuzz duo Simon Pegg and Nick Frost about making British coppers cool in the movies and the fun and pressure of appearing in Michael Bay-style shootouts.
They also reveal why they have to keep pinching themselves about their ongoing success, the pleasure of doing crosswords with Jim Broadbent and why Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have all been in touch.
Q. Director Edgar Wright has said he made Hot Fuzz because of the lack of English cop movies. Why is it that the English cop isn’t considered as cool as his American counterpart?
Simon Fuzz: I think it’s generally a preconception. They’re gunless and they wear sweaters!
Nick Frost: We’ve talked a lot about this over the last couple of days. But traditionally the coolness is the villain because they can get guns, they swear and they don’t care who they hurt. They’ve got big wads of cash. So that kind of eclipsed the British bobby. I guess Edgar and Simon thought it was time for the bobby to look cool.
Simon Pegg: Also, the only way that we’ve been able to step up to the plate in terms of trying to come up with an equivalent to some of the American films is, as Nick said, to exploit the crime fraternity. So it’s all been about gangsters and trying to hone in on that particular sort of parochrial London gangster scene, which Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn have done really well.
But we kind of thought the only way to infuse the British bobby with a bit of cool is to try and drag him kicking and screaming into the American context. That was the idea, to create a little jumper wearing caterpillar and turn him into a big, bad-ass, gun fighting butterfly and a classic American action cop.
Q. And it clearly can be done because both you and Nick look very cool with the guns…
Simon Pegg: I defy anybody to not look cool doing that. My granny could look cool doing that!
Q. How much fun was filming the shootout sequence at the end?
Simon Pegg: That was the final reward. The final action sequence took about 10 days and that’s just the stuff in the town square, not the supermarket or anything like that. But those days were just joyous. Every morning we’d wake up and all day all we’d have to do is fire guns.
Nick Frost: It was great when you’d hear the director say: “We’re going to go again.” It was like, “yes”!
Simon Pegg: Saying that, it is actually nerve-wracking using arms on set just because the safety procedure is very rigorous. You trust the armourer completely but he still comes up to you every single time he hands you the weapon and shows you that the barrel is clear before he gives it to you. You have to go through all that in order to not have Stuart Wilson shooting you in the face with a shotgun! You have to concentrate so hard when you’re doing it. You want to look cool but all you can think about is what you’re doing.
Nick Frost: It’s also a natural human thing that when you fire a gun you blink and pull away from it. So as you’re diving through the air and firing you have a blanket expression. You have to look comfortable with what you’re doing.
Q. How much training did you do?
Simon Pegg: Not much. We had a day of going over stuff. We were familiarised with our own weapons.
Q. Did you hang out with real-life police officers as part of your research?
Simon Pegg: Yeah, we did a lot of that at separate times. Myself and Edgar hung out with some Met cops in Lambeth and Kenntish Town and then we went down to Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. We hung out with a whole bunch of police down there and went out on runs with them and got them to tell us as many stories as they possibly could, which was really interesting.
Nick Frost: It’s a real eye-opener. Even though it’s still very rural I don’t know how they do it.
Simon Pegg: You’d be surprised at how crazy some of the stuff they do is. The swan story and the policeman having to give out chocolate cake as a punishment are both real. A lot of the minutia of the film concerning police procedure is all real. The stories they told us were stranger than anything we could have written. It was shocking.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit more about the swan…
Simon Pegg: [Laughs] The swan rings the bell at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells and one day it got away. But we liked the idea of having the swan throughout the whole film as sort of this phantom menace, if you pardon the expression.
Q. How did the people of Wells take to you?
Nick Frost: Considering how many of us there were and what we did to their village and for how long we did it… there was a week when we all rolled in and the circus had come to town. Everyone came and looked, said hello, told us they loved Shaun Of The Dead, and after a week it went back to normal.
People who we’d bonded with, locals, would come at lunchtime and give us a little thumbs up, or bring their kids so that we could have photos with their kids and stuff.
Simon Pegg: Sometimes we’d be shooting something and a crowd would form right in the eyeline, so we’d have to ask to move people along so it wasn’t distracting. There was a scene we shot in the police car where there was maybe 150 people around us and we had to get polyboards positioned around the car so we weren’t distracted.
But considering the amount of disruption we caused them, such as closing off roads and making lots of noise firing off guns at 7am, they were very, very welcoming. In fact, as a result we’re going to have a big premiere there, a special Wells premiere. The city fathers have decided that they’re going to change all the street signs to read Sanford.
Q. You mentioned Shaun of the Dead. It really has been a wonderful ride for you since the success of that film. Are there still moments when you have to pinch yourself?
Simon Pegg: Always, every day.
Nick Frost: When you’re sitting there waiting to go on set and you’re doing a crossword with Jim Broadbent – it’s like “f**king hell, that’s Jim Broadbent, he’s one an Oscar!” I’m talking for Simon now as well but I think we do what we’ve always done and that’s work hard and be nice. For Simon and Edgar it’s to write great scripts and for us it’s to do our best every single day. I think that’s something that’s happened around us while we’ve done what we’ve always done since Spaced.
Simon Pegg: It’s nice to have those kind of people who want to come and work with us. I hope – and I’m fairly sure that it will be the case – that I’ll be pinching myself forever. It’s always nice when you find yourself working with great people, or you’re given the opportunity to do something like this, or you walk out of the house and your face is on the back of a bus. That’s weird. But I guess you kind of adapt a bit and try and take it in your stride.
Nick Frost: We were walking through New York recently and we saw Mike Myers and got really excited. But he was turning around looking at us!
Simon Pegg: Now, if we go into a newsagent and see yourself on the front cover of a magazine, instead of jumping up and down and screaming you understand that it’s part of the process and it happens. You stop collecting your cuttings…
Nick Frost: That’s for dad to do!
Q. The film is packed with references to Point Break and Bad Boys II. Are you big fans of both?
Simon Pegg: Absolutely. Point Break because it’s genuinely a great film. It’s a different entry into the action genre because it’s directed by a woman and it’s just a really good film. It’s a heist movie. And Bad Boys II because it’s the absolute pinnacle of overblown joyous fun. It’s the sweetest, sweetest candy and a guilty pleasure. So we’re fans.
Actually, Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze all signed little bits of paper to allow us to use their names in the film.