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A Q&A with the minds behind Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead

An online exclusive interview

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in Hot Fuzz (Rogue Pictures)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

By Rusty Nails

Shaun of the Dead might not have been the first zombie-romantic-comedy. But it may have been the first romantic comedy with zombies. Shaun was a valentine to the master of zombie movies, George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Martin, Creepshow). The film went on to land the director, Edgar Wright, and the film’s two stars, Simon Pegg (who also co-wrote the screenplay) and Nick Frost, good box office, great reviews and a bit of acclaim. Their new feature, Hot Fuzz, is another film filled with cinematic homages. This time the nods are directed to cop buddy-movies, action films and, surprisingly, a little English cult horror classic: Wicker Man. I had a chance to catch up with Simon, Edgar and Nick as they breezed through Chicago to promote Hot Fuzz.

Stop Smiling: It seems that Hot Fuzz pays tribute to Robin Hardy’s classic 1972 horror film Wicker Man, one of the greatest horror films of all time.

Edgar Wright: Absolutely. That’s great you got that. That’s one of the only films that really shows English cops at all. Really, it’s one of the only films that really portrayed an English policeman in the last 30 years. England has a glut of gangster films and we were just so sick of seeing gangster films. We figured it was time to make the second film about an English cop in 30 years. [Laughs]

Simon Pegg: We watched 138 action films and Wicker Man was the first film we put in the DVD player. Wicker Man is a fantastic film, with so much going on in it. One of the greats. It’s a bit of curio and a brilliant movie. It’s very lyrical and musical in a way. There’s a wonderful central performance from Edward Woodward, who is the grandfather of Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg’s character in Hot Fuzz). Angel is this fastidious, uptight, absolutely by-the-book, humorous, blowhard spoilsport, almost.

Nick Frost: Unfortunately they made that dreadful remake of Wicker Man. Hopefully people will get around to seeing the original.

EW: What’s interesting about Woodward’s character is that he’s the villain in the film. That’s the thing the remake completely fucking missed the point of. What we loved about the original Wicker Man, and this is true to some extent in Hot Fuzz, is that the cult — they’re kind of in the right. Within their religion, they are entirely justified, as far as they’re concerned. They aren’t portrayed as particularly evil. Even though it’s the quintessential creepy village film, from their point of view, they’re right and Edward Woodward is wrong, and he dies for that. I love that about the original Wicker Man. But there are many things to love about Wicker Man. It’s a film that seems to have had many lives, and will hopefully continue to do so.

Stop Smiling: Some of the violence in Hot Fuzz is graphic, but it’s gory, in more of a horror vein. Did you want there to be a bit of horror in there? Was that intentional?

EW: Yes. We wanted a bit of a horror aspect in the piece — something that would be nice for horror fans and action fans. Keep something like we would want to see in this film. But if you check out a film like Seven, which is like the king of cop horror movies, there’s a lot of graphic violence there and it’s quite good. But there’s a lot of violence in a movie like Freebie and the Bean.

SS: Did you have any problems with the censors in England in relation to the violence?

SP: Actually, we only got a 14, which really surprised us. A 14 is sort of like a low "R" in England. We were sort of shocked ourselves. The English sensors aren’t like they were in the early Eighties with the whole "Video Nasty" period. That was basically a witch-hunt in England, in which the censors were out to snip and clip any violence from any film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Dawn of the Dead.

EW: Thank god that’s over. I had a copy of Dawn of the Dead I got at a video store, which took me a while to track down. When I finally got it home, most of the beautiful gore sequences had been cut out. I had heard all these wonderful things about all of the terrific sequences in Dawn of the Dead, but I didn’t see any of them on my copy.

Stop Smiling: There’s also a bit of a political commentary in Hot Fuzz which isn’t commonplace in the action genre.

EW: The area of the country where this is set is where both Simon and I are from. The idea of taking this kind of idyllic, quaint, twee kind of picture-postcard England that you usually see in Richard Curtis films — Bridget Jones’ Diary, Notting Hill — and injecting a bit of violence and mayhem, amused us. There is this very twisted-conformist-fascistic way about these people who will do anything to create the perfect town. None of what they’re worried about is very important in the big picture, but they’ve taken their pride and blown it to ridiculous proportions.

SP: In the end, they’ll do anything to keep their standards up, including murder people who have strayed from their idea of perfection.

Stop Smiling: I noticed something that runs throughout both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz — a sweet, platonic love story between men.

SP: Yeah, that’s really important to me as a writer, because you don’t get to see a whole lot of that in films nowadays.

NF: It’s almost taboo. It’s like people are afraid to show that men can love each other and get along proper as human beings.

SP: I just thought it would be nice in both films to show this friendship between these two guys that really need and appreciate each other. With Hot Fuzz, the relationship is a bit more fostering and healthy, of course. Initially, the film had a part written for a female romantic lead. But it just didn’t really seem to work within the story, so I switched all of the girlfriend’s scenes to Nick’s character. Suprisingly, it all seemed to mesh rather well.

NF: It’s nice to see these two guys having a hug on the couch. They’re good friends. It’s definitely rare in action films, which almost seem to prefer this bizarre and cruel homoeroticism over men loving each other as friends. They’d rather have their characters frown at each other, writhing and wrestling in the mud than say “I love you” as human beings to one another. I actually went to a mate’s wedding recently and wore a black suit and put on some pink socks, because I thought they went well together. When I got there a number of people looked at me like I was a Martian. People were talking amongst themselves. I thought to myself,”Sod off! What’s the big deal? It’s just a pair of socks! Grow up! [Laughs]

EW: [Laughs] And I’m sure they went quite well with the suit.

NF: Well of course. I’m very stylish like that.

SP: In the end, Hot Fuzz is about friendship and how these guys figure out a lot of things about themselves from one another. I think with Shaun of the Dead you had a story of a man who was learning how to take responsibility and getting himself together, and in Hot Fuzz it’s a man learning how to let go. I think it’s a very sweet relationship in the heart of it, and Danny and Angel sort of complete each other in a way. Angel brings to Danny the sort of adventure and excitement that he wants, and Danny brings to Angel a bit of humility and a bit of humanity. He teaches him how to be a person rather than a machine. I think that’s quite sweet. At the heart of all the pyrotechnics is a little romance, which is quite nice.

EW: [Laughs] And there’s a lot of big fucking explosions.


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