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Attack The Block - Nick Frost interview

Attack The Block

Interview by Rob Carnevale

NICK Frost talks about playing Ron in Attack The Block and creating a back story for his character.

He also talks about the pleasure of having a role written for him and why cooking trumped a phone call from Steven Spielberg when he got the part for Tintin.

Q. I guess you didn’t have to audition for Attack The Block?
Nick Frost: No, it was great. I like that. I think this is where my lack of training comes in as an actor. I have no audition skill or techniques at all. I think a lot of people learn the lines that they have to do at an audition but I’m just lazy! I can never be bothered! So, I just go in and read and look at the camera and say: “Thanks!” So, if I have to audition for something I would never get it. So, this was great. Even though Joe [Cornish] wrote this for me, if I had had to audition I still wouldn’t have got it.

Q. So, how flattering is it to be in a position where people are now writing roles with you in mind?
Nick Frost: I love it. I like Joe [Cornish], we’ve been mates for years. I wanted to read the script and he came down and said: “There’s a part written for you.” You think, ‘great, thank you so much’. But when you read it as well, I can read me saying it and that helps. But we’ve known each other for so long that he can write it with my voice coming out of Ron. So, it kind of makes my job easy as an actor. You know what you’ve got to do, you know you’re going to like it straight away because you know what to expect.

Q. And I’ve heard he’s very collaborative and open to ideas about your character?
Nick Frost: Absolutely. For me, I think this comes down to the fact that I’m a bit of a control freak and I like to stick my nose in, so we sat down and spent a lot of time talking about who Ron was. I mean, Ron’s only in it for a bit, so you’d have forgiven Joe if he’d just been working on the kids more and working out what their back stories were. But we spent a lot of time thinking about how he got to being in this room on this council estate only ever wearing slippers. What I saw was that life has destroyed him so that is it, essentially. He never leaves that room. And it’s interesting, the audience would never know that but it helps make Ron a person, and not just a caricature of a character.

Q. In the production notes you describe Ron as a little bit like the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Nick Frost: I don’t think I did say that [laughs]. It’s creepy! I think he’s more like Fagin. I think there are two sides to Ron. There’s a side that he shows the boys and that is a kind of nice Fagin-style character who lets them skin up and smoke in his house, but for that they have to bring them back food. If one of them goes shopping, he rings one of them up and asks them to bring some tea round. But they also have to sell his gear.

And the other side to Ron is you see him with High Hats, who is essentially his boss, and he’s very submissive and you feel a bit sorry for him. You know High Hats doesn’t really give a shit about him. I think Joe and I imagined that at one point Ron just had his flat, which is half of what you see. We always imagined the weed room was something they’d knocked through when the people next door had moved out. So, Ron just had his flat initially, which maybe had four or five plants in, which he cultivated, and he got the kids to sell that. But then High Hats moved in, tasted the weed and kind of made Ron an offer he couldn’t refuse. So, rather than being shot or chased out of the flat, he wanted an easy life, so he said: “Yeah, OK, I’ll turn it into an industrial process and tend it for you but just let me stay here.” I think what you see is also not necessarily his house now. He might have a flat two floors down but that’s like his business premises.

Q. What was it like working with the kids? Did watching them bring back memories of your first time on a movie set with Shaun of the Dead?
Nick Frost: Yeah. I was a lot older than these kids. I was 29. It was quite funny, I was at the premiere last Wednesday with my wife and I said to her: “I’ve kind of felt like I’ve gone full circle, in a way, because I knew exactly how those kids would be feeling.” They’d be at home, they’d feel a little sick, they wouldn’t want to go and it was quite nice going to a premiere, for me, and being the one who didn’t feel sick and nervous and frightened about what was going to happen.

But in terms of them day-to-day on-set it was great. They have such an energy. I hate using that term, but they’re just a force unto themselves but that doesn’t mean they’re exclusive. We all hung around and had a laugh. It wasn’t them talking a language that I didn’t understand and they’d laugh, look at me and I’d feel weird and move into another room. We were all actors and mates on set and there was no lack of technique just because none of them had ever acted before. They knew exactly what was what, they listened to everyone, they respected the crew and it was a great place to come and work for four weeks.

Q. You got the call from Joe for this because you’re friends, so conversely what’s it like to receive a phone call from Steven Spielberg to ask you to be in Tintin?
Nick Frost: [Laughs] It’s weird, it’s amazing. I let it go to voice-mail at first! Someone phoned up to say that Steven was going to call me in a bit. I said: “OK, fine.” I was nervous. But then I was cooking sometr5hing which was so delicate and had to be watched so carefully that when the phone started ringing I couldn’t answer it for fear of… I think it was a pie, a meringue or a soufflé. But if I had left it unattended it would have become ruined. So, it rang and it went to voice mail and I had to ring back and say: “Look, I’m so sorry, I was cooking this thing…” It just sounded like I was a lunatic. But it was fine. I got the job and it was amazing working on Tintin. I was with Peter Jackson too, you know, so you got to work with them both in one go and it was my dream really.

Read our review of Attack The Block

Read our interview with Jodie Whittaker and Luke Treadaway