Interview Date: 06/09/2011
Run Date: 08/09/2011
When we last spoke with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost about their new sci-fi comedy, “Paul,” it was under less-than-desirable circumstances. Not only were we forced to share the time with a handful of other journalists, but we hadn’t even seen the film yet. So when Bullz-Eye was offered the opportunity to speak with the duo again in conjunction with the movie’s August 9th Blu-ray and DVD release, we didn’t hesitate. Though our interview didn’t last as long as we would have liked, talking with Pegg and Frost is always time well spent, as there couldn’t be a nicer pair of guys around. Having already discussed the making of “Paul” in detail during our first interview, we turned our attention to other topics, including the current string of alien movies hitting theaters and what it’s like working with your best friend.
Simon Pegg: Hello buddy, you’re speaking with the creators of the film “Paul.”
Bullz-Eye: How are you guys doing?
SP: Not bad, how are you?
BE: Good. Actually, I had the chance to speak with you guys briefly at SXSW in Austin back in March.
SP: Oh yeah, I remember you.
BE: Yeah, I was the Fulham fan. And again, Nick, I have to quickly express my condolences for West Ham. I thought they’d be able to escape the drop.
Nick Frost: (laughs) That’s a sore subject.
BE: Getting to the movie. Now that it’s been out, I’ve noticed that the industry has been experiencing a bit of an alien resurgence with “Paul,” “Attack of the Block” (which was brilliant, by the way), and now “Super 8.” Do you think there’s a reason for that, or is that just part of the cyclical nature of genre films?
NF: I think partially it’s cyclical, and maybe we’re all bored of each other… as humans, do you know what I mean? Maybe we’re just a bit bored of each other and we kind of hope that there’s someone else out there to come down and make us love one another again.
SP: There are probably some socioeconomic reasons. Generally, what we see in cinema is a reflection of certain subconscious things going on in our collective psyche. I couldn’t pick it out right now – give me an afternoon and maybe I could identify it. But I think a lot of them are aggressive… A lot of it’s about being attacked and invasion, and maybe it’s a sort of cathartic reimaging of our own invading of other countries and try to feel better about it. Sometimes we do that, you know? Sometimes we work through our own transgressions in cinema. Like “Star Wars” is a classic therapy for Vietnam really.
BE: Well, you guys always seem to be ahead of the curve in regards to those genre movements. First, “Shaun of the Dead” was released right when the zombie renaissance hit, and now with “Paul,” you’re pretty much the first film in this long line of alien movies coming to theaters. Do you fancy yourself as trendsetters, or is it just coincidence?
SP: Dumb luck. (laughs) I think it’s – what do they call it? – Synchronicity. Sometimes things are just on everyone’s mind and things tend to emerge at the same time. Maybe we just took a little less time to write our script.
BE: Considering you guys have been friends for so long, what took you so long to finally write something together?
NF: I dunno. I mean, we have written stuff together in the past. We had two sitcoms that we wrote – one of which got commissioned and then we kind of got cold feet and didn’t like the idea anymore so we pulled out – so, for me, it was certainly important that me and Simon could write something and finish something. We were great friends, but we had never written anything of any credibility.
SP: We had more fun just messing around in the writing room then we ever thought we could on set, and “Paul” was just one that we decided, “Let’s finish this.” Plus, it was a bigger project – our heart was in it more than the last things. The things we didn’t finish we weren’t entirely into, and “Paul” was definitely something that was a labor of love for us and became that on set as well.
BE: Is it strange working on a movie with your best friend? I mean, there has to be a hidden fear that this could be the one where you walk away hating each others’ guts.
SP: Yeah, you’ve got to keep an eye on your friendship and make sure that little trivialities don’t end up causing any problems. But basically, we live in different parts of London these days, and we’re both married and have lives that don’t necessarily intersect socially, so we make films so we can hang out more.
BE: Can you talk more about how the idea originated?
NF: We were shooting “Shaun of the Dead”… We were shooting the scene in the garden where we throw records and junk at the Hulk and Mary and we had lost a lot of shooting – two or three days on the trot – with really bad weather. Nira [Park], our producer, said to us jokingly, “Wouldn’t it be good if we could shoot a film somewhere it didn’t rain?” And we kind of laughed, and that was the genesis of the idea.
BE: After you hired Greg [Mottola] as the director and he began casting the movie, did you play a big part in that process?
NF: Well, I know we wrote it, and we’re in it and stuff like that, but you have to hand it over to Greg and Nira. You need to trust the people that you’re getting to do the jobs that you’re getting them to do.
SP: We chose Greg because we’re fans of his, and we love the way he handled “Superbad” and “Daytrippers,” and we hadn’t seen “Adventureland” at that point… But, yeah, we got a say in who was our director and who we cast and stuff, but we do it collaboratively with other people to come to those decisions.
BE: With Seth Rogen having already lent his voice to a number of animated films, was there any concern about casting him as Paul?
NF: Not all, no. We knew that this wouldn’t just be a voice, you know? We needed Seth to put a big performance in on this role, and we love him and trust him completely, and we employed him because we wanted him to come and do this. We weren’t frightened by that – that excited us, really.
SP: Also, it’s like saying you won’t hire Brad Pitt because he’s played other characters before, do you know what I mean?
BE: I wasn’t able to comment on it when we spoke in Austin, namely because I don’t think many of the journalists there had even seen the film yet, but I was a little hesitant about how Paul was going to come off, and I was pleasantly surprised. I think it’s probably one of the best CG characters to date.
SP: Yeah. That’s a combination of Seth’s characterization, but also Double Negative’s amazing special effects. They did such a wonderful job, and they saw it as wonderful labor of love for them, because they so rarely get to be the main character. The chance to create something so detailed and that was such an important part of the film was a real draw for them. And they really pushed the most out of it, I think.
BE: Well, you guys also worked together recently on “The Adventures of Tintin.” How was that experience?
NF: It was amazing. You know, we love [Steven] Spielberg, as anyone who watches “Paul” will know, so to kind of be directed by, I’m going to say a hero, was an amazing thing.
BE: And is that how the Spielberg cameo came about?
SP: Yeah, we told him about “Paul.” I mean, I showed him a picture of an alien bust that we’d taken on our most recent trip with us – Greg Nicotero, who’s a special effects friend of ours, he gave us this bust to take away with us to get inspiration – and we took loads of photographs of it next to various points in our trip, one of which was Devil’s Tower. And I showed Steven this picture of this alien by Devil’s Tower, and he was fascinated, because the last time he’d seen an alien by Devil’s Tower was in 1978. And he said, “What the hell’s that?” And we told him that we thought our alien had a hotline to him and had given him some ideas for some of his films, and he was like, “Oh, well maybe I can phone him up in the movie and talk to Paul.” And we went, “Pardon?” (laughs) And then we immediately went and wrote the scene and came back and said, “You remember when you said that? Well, now you have to do it.”
[Editor’s Note: At this point, Simon and Nick’s publicist came on the phone to inform me that my time was up, but thankfully, Simon was gracious enough to ask if I needed a wrap-up question.]
BE: You spoke earlier about the references to Spielberg in the film, and one of the things that people seem to really love about your movies is that there’s a fanboy-like quality to them. Are those homages something you consciously include, or do you think it’s just born out of your own passion for movies and geek culture?
SP: It’s not something we do in a divisive way – it’s just that that’s our frame of reference. We’ve grown up with that kind of cinema and it’s a language that we can speak in. It’s a lexicon we’re fluent in, basically, and it’s never anything we do just for shits and giggles. It’s kind of how we explain things, and I guess that’s because we’re children of that era and that age. It just sort of comes naturally, I suppose.
BE: Is it flattering seeing your own projects being referenced now in pop culture? I just saw an episode of “Cougar Town” a while ago that referenced the gun miming scene from “Spaced.”
SP: Yeah, that was sweet. That was nice. They basically just used the idea and then someone said, “I love ‘Spaced’,” to justify it. I like the way references are now becoming – you know, you just do it again and say, “Yep, hands up, we stole it.” (laughs)
BE: Well, it looks like my time is up, but thanks again for sitting down to talk with me.
SP: Thanks Jason.NF: Thank you, take care, bye.