When we last visited with Brits Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, they were touring the U.S. to promote their first film, “Shaun of the Dead,” a mixture of romantic comedy and zombie movie that they hoped would find an audience on this side of the Atlantic (see https://www.oneguysopinion.com/InterviewsResults.php?ID=263). It did, in spades, becoming not only a financial winner but a cult favorite. And now they were visiting Dallas again, this time to discuss their new picture, “Hot Fuzz,” which was about to have a sold-out pre-screening in the AFI Dallas Film Festival. Like its predecessor, it also combines two very different genres—the echt-British tight-little-village murder mystery and the Hollywood buddy-movie action extravaganza. And they’re hoping that lightning will strike a second time.
“We’ve taken a staple of American cinema—the kind of brash action film—and transplanted it into a different context,” star and co-writer Pegg explained. “The idea of taking the kind of idyllic, quaint, twee kind of picture-postcard we’re used to seeing in Richard Curtis’ films, and injecting a bit of violence and mayhem, amused me,” co-writer and director Wright added. And as to the likelihood that American audiences will respond with the enthusiasm British ones have already shown to “Fuzz,” Pegg added, “In a way the audiences here are better equipped to understand the jokes, because you’re seeing a version of your own culture through a different culture.”
Pegg pointed to the success of “Shaun” in the United States as evidence: “We gambled that people would get it. We didn’t make any concessions to the American audience in terms of trying to make it more accessible, removing the Britishness. We figured that the audience here is very intelligent, that they get stuff. You don’t have to talk down to people—they’re capable of knowing that there are cultural differences and making the connections themselves. We specifically didn’t pander. And that risk paid off. And we’ve done the same thing with ‘Hot Fuzz.’”
Pegg and Wright emphasized their affection for both the kinds of films they’re parodying in “Fuzz.” Wright called the “Bad Boys” movies of Michael Bay, to which the characters specifically make reference in their movie, “supremely entertaining in terms of dumb spectacle, and unpretentious. They’re proud to be big and dumb. And that’s why we picked those two. And ‘Point Break’”—another movie cited in “Fuzz”—“is a cult classic.” Pegg added, “’Bad Boys 2’ is very much a display, an absurd display of machismo and fire. But that’s not saying there’s anything wrong with that. Artistically it’s hard to defend, but…” Wright interjected: “If you’re given a hundred and thirty million dollars and can do anything with it, why not smash up a load of cars?”
Similarly, Wright sang the praises of the British mystery. “I remember growing up watching the Joan Hickson Miss Marples on TV, and we re-watched all the Hercule Poirot films. I marvel at Agatha Christie. She’s one of those authors who’s been ripped off so many times, she’s probably the most influential author of all time, if you think about the number of things that come from Agatha Christie. And I marvel at the crazy, hair-pin logic. It’s like Wile E. Coyote.”
The makers’ affection for the British genre movies they watched in their younger days is also evident in their casting of “Hot Fuzz,” which includes appearances by such stalwarts as Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward, Billie Whitelaw, and Paul Freeman. “We always had people in mind that we were writing for,” Pegg said. “And we were fortunate enough to get a majority of them. Certain people—Jim Broadbent being one of them—came to us. At the BAFTA Awards in the UK, at the party afterwards in 2004, he came up to Edgar and me and said he’d really enjoyed ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ and the next time you do a film if you’d consider using me. And then when we started writing the character of Frank Butterman, we said, ‘That’s Jim’s part.’ And we were hoping he’d feel the same way when we offered him the part.
“And with Timothy Dalton, we always shaped the character to be this Timothy Dalton type, and it didn’t really occur to us until quite late to actually ask the real man himself. And thrilled when he said yes, and even more thrilled when he came to rehearsal the first day and said his lines for the first time, because he nailed it with his first breath. And we really wanted to get Edward Woodward and Billie Whitelaw…we were so keen to work with people that had actually been in genre films that we’d enjoyed growing up.”
Both Wright and Pegg joked with Nick Frost, who plays Danny, the bumbling, childish partner to Pegg’s supremely straight-laced Sergeant Angel, about his relationship with Broadbent, who plays Danny’s father. They insisted that Broadbent enjoyed Nick enormously, but Frost opined, “I think the way Jim looked at me is the way a scientist looks at an ape they’re about to fire into space. I’m the ape that knows when the bar’s electrified.”
But of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” Frost made a simple point: “The films make us laugh. We’re trying to make films that make our friends laugh. And we’re finding more and more that there are lots and lots of people like us!”