By Jeffrey M. Anderson
Writer/director Edgar Wright, 32, writer/actor Simon Pegg, 37, and actor Nick Frost, 35, first put their friendship to the professional test on the British TV series "Spaced," and came out shining. The show was a hit and their friendship was intact. Their feature debut, Shaun of the Dead (2004), brought them a cult following in the U.S., and their eagerly awaited follow-up, Hot Fuzz, could bring them even bigger success.
In a kind of homage/parody to every cop movie ever made, Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a straight-arrow supercop transferred from London (he makes all the other cops look bad) to a small town. Once there, he befriends the lumpen, dreamy Danny (Frost) and attempts to solve a series of "accidental" murders, with the greatest amount of firepower available. The film never gives up on its adoration for classic cop cinema, however, and at one point, Nicholas and Danny sit down to a DVD double-bill of Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break (1991) and Michael Bay's Bad Boys II (2003). Recently, the trio came to San Francisco for a frank (maybe too frank) chat with Greencine.
The movie is a really clever blend of spoof, but also affectionate homage, and it's very good at both things. That's gotta be a hard thing to do.
Simon: I think you've got to never, never look down on your source material. Always hold it in high regard, because then you won't be tempted to make fun of it. With Hot Fuzz we're kind of saying a little about the genre, with Shaun we were just employing the genre. We took the genre and stuck it in the UK. We're not saying it's comic to do that, because obviously a zombie outbreak can happen anywhere. It wasn't funny in 28 Days Later when you saw it happening in London, and the comedy in Shaun of the Dead wasn't because there were zombies in London. There were other things at work. With Hot Fuzz, we're drawing attention to the formal quality of action movies by sticking it in a different context, so there is a gentle ribbing, but it's all done with a complete reverence.
There was a long list of movies you looked at to prepare for this, and a lot of them were good, like John Woo's films and Infernal Affairs , Oldboy, Lethal Weapon and Point Break, but some of them were terrible. How did you avoid looking down on the terrible ones?
Edgar: What were the terrible ones?
Super Fuzz is one...
Edgar: Super Fuzz is terrible, but I don't think it was on the list. We had Super Cops, which was a mid-1970s film by Gordon Parks, who did Shaft. That is brilliant. Super Fuzz was never on that list -- and shouldn't be.
Then you mentioned a bunch of Steven Seagal movies and Chuck Norris movies, some of which are good and some of which are really not.
Simon: It would be easy to make fun of those.
Did you ignore the bad movies altogether and just focus on the good ones?
Edgar: No, it was kind of fun. The thing is, even with some of the Steven Seagal films... we watched Out for Justice (1991).
Is that the one that takes place on Oscar night?
One of them takes place on Academy award night, which I thought was really funny. Everywhere he goes, if he goes into a shop, people are watching the Oscars on TV. It's a theme throughout the movie. It's really strange.
Simon: Oh my God.
Nick: I think you're thinking of Out for Oscars. [Note: it's actually Marked for Death, released in 1990.]
Edgar: No, but watching Out for Justice was actually quite fun. It was 80 minutes long, and I remember someone said, 'that was #1 at the box office.' And they really are like B-movies. There are so many things that are terrible about it, but then there's the odd flashes of things... it's like fast food. It's shit, but occasionally it tastes good. There's little moments in there. It's always funny to watch films. There's that Chuck Norris film Code of Silence (1985). Which is pretty good up until -- although its worse aspect is also its best bit -- his robot partner at the end, the Prowler. Which is so bizarre.
Edgar: It was pre-Robocop. One year before Robocop [Note: Actually two years before Robocop.] He has one of those, kind of like one of those Japanese dogs, like a bomb disposal code with guns. So watching those films is fun. There were very few films that were a chore. The worse crime for a film is to be bland. If a film is bad and entertaining, it's still entertaining.