Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have always wanted to make an American action film. The problem? They’re pale. Their bellies are a bit too soft, especially in Frost’s case. And, oh yes, they’re British.
No matter. The two, who endeared themselves to American audiences with “Shaun of the Dead,” their spot-on spoof of zombie movies, return with guns blazing in the popular”Hot Fuzz” (No. 7 at the box office this week), an homage to explosive popcorn fare like “Bad Boys” and “Lethal Weapon.” Although Pegg and director Edgar Wright, who co-wrote the script, had long considered the buddy-cop genre ripe for affectionate parody, it also allowed them an easy opportunity to exploitone of their greatest strengths.
“We wanted to amp things up after ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and really play off the relationship between Nick and myself on-screen,” Pegg says. “Nick and I are best mates, and we have been ever since our early 20s, which feels like childhood. … With ‘Hot Fuzz,’ we wanted to put that relationship front and center, and a buddy film seemed like the logical choice.”
Pegg, who met Frost in a short-lived stint as a London stand-up, prepared for “Hot Fuzz” by watching no less than 138 films, from crime procedurals and Agatha Christie mysteries to “Local Hero,” “The Last Boy Scout” and the collected works of Chuck Norris. Frost, for his part, watched just one — “Bad Boys II.”
“That was all I needed to know,” he says. “I’ve seen it four or five times. To be fair, I’ve also seen ‘Exit Wounds’ and ‘Point Break.’”
“Those movies are like ordering wedding cake as a starter for your meal,” Pegg adds. “We watched them because we wanted to quite fluently write in hackneyed dialogue. … And there is a place for mindless entertainment — with all the paranoia about dumbing down the culture, it’s OK as long as there’s some high art somewhere. You have to be clever. But watching a firework display is not going to kill your brain. You can enjoy a firework display without worrying about subtext.”
While “Hot Fuzz” may aspire to be nothing more than a display — laced with the same subversive wit that informed “Shaun of the Dead” — you wouldn’t know it from its cast of celebrated Brits. “Fuzz” boasts the talents of Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan, Jim Broadbent and Timothy Dalton. (Cate Blanchett also appears, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo.) Pegg admits that rounding up such a distinguished bunch was easy after the success of “Shaun of the Dead,” but also attributes their participation to the fact that such firework displays are quite rare in the U.K.
“We love high-octane action films,” hesays. “‘Bad Boys II’ has very little going for it save for the fact that it is spectacular, and completely ridiculous. But America is a great producer of these films.
“We don’t have cop action films in Britain, we just have procedurals, and they’re all televised. We’re known for period dramas and repressed butlers unable to get off with sexy maids. … [But] the cop is a romantic figure in American cinema, and we wanted to drag him, kicking and screaming, across the Atlantic.”
“Maybe by the year 2508, America will have undergone some kind of renaissance,” Frost adds. “And everything will look like ‘Remains of the Day.’ Personally, I’d rather see a movie about a giant, gun-toting M&M in Times Square.”