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Simon Pegg on 'Hot Fuzz'

 July 31, 2015 at 7:19 AM PDT

Interviewer: Hi data commando [phonetic] [0:00:05], your resident cinema junkie, this week from the archives I’m pulling out an interview with Simon Pegg Mission Impossible Rogue Nation opens this week and Simon Pegg is playing a bigger role in the film. I’ve been lucky enough to interview him a number of times. I met him for the first time at Comic Con when he was bringing Shaun of the dead there. This interview is from when Hot Fuzz came out. So, take a listen and enjoy. [Commercial] [0:00:28] to [0:01:06] Interviewer: How would you describe Hot Fuzz, it doesn’t seem to fit into a single genre or get described neatly in a single sentence? Interviewee: I guess you sort of call it an action buddy comedy, but I think it’s a little bit more than that. I think because it’s a lot of things really Hot Fuzz is. We’ve kind of, with the absence of any kind of copal action films in the UK, I mean we just don’t have a, a tradition of that in the UK. We’ve sort of crept over the Atlantic and stolen your action movie genre and then snuck it back home and sort of squashed it into a tiny little village and that was the kind of idea was to make a film that was at once very British, but it becomes very, very American towards the end, and so it’s kind of like, it’s kind of like Agatha Christie directed by Tony Scott. That’s the pithiest way I can think off. Interviewer: But, you take those American genre trappings and make them very much your own? Interviewee: We kind of anglify it by putting it in a different context, you are not used to seeing double handed hand gun fighting in a little country pub and that’s the central joke of the film is that. Is that replacing the usual setting, which would be the streets of San Francisco or LA or New York and sticking it in a country lane and immediately you’ve got something there, which is pretty funny, but then you add to that the rest of the humor, although to be honest we kind of really as with Shaun of the dead. We wanted to make an action film we didn’t just want to just spoof one. We wanted to make one and make it funny. You know. Interviewer: What films influenced you when you were writing Hot Fuzz? Simon: We kind of I mean when we were putting in the film together we watched so many cop movies sort of about 138 actually to be exact and the reason we did that was so we could we’re already fans big fans of the genre and already seen most of the films, but we just wanted to get really familiar with the kind of clichés and all the kind of all the beats that occur in these films so we could become fluent in cop dialogue and hackneyed exchanges and ridiculous explosions and it was hell of a kind to have to do. It was quite tiring. Interviewer: You guys pay so much attention to details. I love the way you fill out scenes with the small details like the swear box Interviewee: Yeah you often get it in offices and it’s the swear box where its like a, it’s a way of raising money for charity basically is if you if anyone curses you put a pound or a dollar or whatever into the box and the joke with the swear box was that the list of swear words on the box all the words are, sort of asterisked out so you have F and then star, star, star and then whatever and at the very bottom is the worst most profane swear word of them all and there is no asterisks in it what so ever, it’s just there and it’s a very, very quick joke, but it was one that we sort of came up with on the day and it really made us laugh and that they’d go through such care to sort of be very subtle and tasteful about the swear words and then forget to asterisk, you know what. Interviewer: What I loved about Shaun of the dead and now Hot Fuzz it that your films aren’t just about gags there’s a story and characters that really hook you. Interviewee: What I mean, I’m a huge fan of the sort of early Zucker brothers [phonetic] [0:04:51] brother stuff and particular when they film an airplane or the first naked gun or top secret those films do that very well. They do the parody brilliantly and the reasons the do is pretty much every single joke works and films like that have to work joke to joke and the minute a joke doesn’t work in a film like that the film starts to flat line and we kind of we’re sort of a little bit more interested in doing something that has a story to it as well that you can follow and sometimes you can actually not do some jokes and have the drama take over a little bit and then pick the humor back up again or even, make jokes through being very serious and Edgar and I just, we’re fans of film and we’re lucky enough now to be film makers so we’ll draw all in our sort of love for cinema and the films we like and the sort of films and the kind of films that we like to see and we literally sit opposite each other in office for 18 months and hash it all out. Interviewer: Did you have any favorite films that you were drawing specifically on while you were doing Hot Fuzz? Interviewee: Yeah I have, there are favorites that I have in terms of theirs loads we watched so many different types of films it wasn’t just the actioners I mean the action element is one part of the film, but you also have in there the sort of procedural story and you have the fish out of water story and the buddy story and the serial killer and the conspiracy it’s kind of like every single cop film ever put into there so there are loads of different types of cops films that I love and the more brash ones with the lethal weapon and die hard and point break and then going back to sort of the grittiest 70’s films like Serpica and the French connection and the Agatha Christie films as well, which are always fun like that murder on the orient express or the dead on the Nile. Those films we really enjoy and we kind of wanted to incorporate into the script, but for me I definitely have affection for those kind of, pumped up buddy flicks like lethal weapon and point break is a favorite of mine I think it’s a great film it’s an interesting one as well in that it was directed by a woman so she was able to kind of be less uptight about fore branding the kind of romance between Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves and, which is kind of the unspoken. Interviewer: That was really just the start of these bromance movies these ‘80’s or ‘90’s action films were really about being buddy films and is that one of the things you want to draw in for Hot Fuzz? Interviewee: Well I mean we kind of set at to do a buddy film because a lot of people have commented after Shaun of the dead that they enjoyed that on screen relationship and is; entirely the fact that Nick and I are buddies you know. We’re friends before we worked together and are friendship always comes first and we just happened to work together well so I think, we all feel slightly fraudulent when people talk about the so called the on screen chemistry because it’s not something where we’re sort of creating it through skill it’s just something that exists, it’s there as we’re friends and so it’s a great thing to be able to go and work with your best mate on a job that you really like. It’s kind of a reason why we do it in a way everything else my perfect sort of set would be you get to make the films with all the resources that you would have and at the end you get a little DVD with it on and you can show your friends and family and then you get to make another one. Interviewer: Shaun of the dead had a lot of gore, which was fitting for a film, which was paying homage to a zombie movies, but also hot fuzz also has some violence in it that’s pretty gory, but what surprising is how funny it is and I felt a little guilty laughing at some of it. Interviewee: Yeah that was I think that comes because of what’s behind it, I mean, the film is a comedy so the violence is sort of mantled in a comic way even though it is pretty bloody and the point of that is a lot of the high concepts of actions films of the late 80’s early 90’s films like Robocop and last boy scout, die hard and even Beverly hills cop, were actually pretty violent and it kind of almost was slightly jarringly so at times. The film that Robocop is actually quite funny it becomes more, cartoony like it becomes in Hot Fuzz and we did want to go for to make it more funny than harrowing, but it’s always great to get a big old woof from the crowd when something suddenly happens of screen that they didn’t expect to see and the special effects people will show you a version with some blood and they’ll show you a version with a bit more blood and then they’ll show you a vision with the most blood and that’s that one you pick because it’s the funniest. So, and also I think coming out from Shaun of the dead we got a lot of fans from that film who were, horror aficionados and we kind of felt like we didn’t want to short change them either. So, it was fun to enjoy including that element of cop and action films because it really does exist if you look at a film like seven that’s really gory. Interviewer: I hesitate to call your film a parody or a spoof because it seems like there is a lot more going on and there is a real sense of affection and sweetness in your comedy for what you’re paying homage to. Interviewee: No I agree I think that’s because it without sounding sort of drippy the films are made with love and we kind of really have a lot of affection for the source material we’re not making fun of action movies or cop movies we certainly weren’t making fun of zombie movies we wanted to make a movie zombie film with Shaun of the dead because we love zombie films similarly with the cop kind of genre we absolutely love those films and because we live in a country where, we’re never going to get to do that because we don’t have a tradition of it we just ahead and made one ourselves and set it in, in our back garden. The film is actually shot in the area where Edgar and myself grew up as well so yeah I’d agree with you I think there is a sweetness there they are quite warm and fluffy despite the viscera. Interviewer: You guys did a brilliant job of applying those Michael Bay action style technics to things that don’t seem really suited to it like a foot chase. Interviewee: Well I mean actually perhaps more key are the paper work sequences in the film are shot like an action sequence and that was something that Edgar and I always intended to do and Edgar pulled it off brilliantly I think in his direction one of the other things that we were talking about to the police before we shot the movie we asked them, what was the part of their job that they never ever saw? And they all said the paper work and so we thought let’s put paper work in the fil and make it really, really exciting. So, there are scenes in the film for Angel is literally filling in forms where it’s been hand cranked and double exposures and great big flashes and loud rock music and it was a joke in a way to just to try and sax up paper work and that goes for like you said the foot chase, British policing perhaps isn’t as cinematic and American policing might be. Obviously the police aren’t armed and maybe the way particularly in the countryside society isn’t as lawless as the city’s and we thought it would be funny at least at the beginning of the film when it is still very British to start creeping in with the American influences by having it during the really boring bits you know. So, chasing a little spotty shop lifter through the streets of a village becomes like, point break or whatever. Interviewer: I love the way you have the climax of the film takes place in the model village the miniature of the whole town and it made me think of Godzilla stomping Tokyo was that one of the things that influenced you? Interviewee: Well it made us laugh when we thought of it because the model village is it was such a perfect place to have the climax of the movie because they’re quite common in the UK you get them in these little villages that you go and walk around and it’s kind of sort of a day out and you go and literally walk around a miniature village and I guess that’s it and that Stanford in the film is the model village that’s what it is it says it is it’s in the other sense of the word it is a model village and so the miniature version of the village up on the hill just seemed to be a wonderful place to see Angel and his opponent battling it man-o-man among these tiny houses. It literally was like they were fighting for supremacy in this village and it also, led to the line that we really like that race Paul delivers, which is says to Sergeant Angel if you want to be a big cop in a small town then you get off the model village and so he does and yeah it was very much a sort of clash of the titans going on there in the village it was very much Godzilla verses Mortar and we shot it like that we shot it from underneath so it looked more and there’s a wonderful shot when the battles over and Angel’s walking through the village and you can see two feet sticking out from a collapsed house and yeah we were very pleased with ourselves on the day we thought of that idea. We took the rest of the day off. Interviewer: What I love about your films that they are incredibly funny, but the characters that are often playing it straight they are taking things seriously as to what is going on in the scenes and we’re never laughing at the characters. Interviewee: Oh, absolutely yeah because we the great thing was is that by that point in the film we’re not we’re talking it completely seriously that there might be little jokes in terms of us using the clichés that you often see like, managing to stay in the air for longer than one second and having a never ending supply of bullets and, but ultimately we were going for it, we did it with completely straight faces albeit after cut we were jumping up and down laughing like little boys, but it was great it was really good fun all that stuff running through the town with a shot gun and riding a horse and it was just wish fulfillment in a way, I’m sure there was an element of that when we were writing it thinking Aw we’re going to be able to do this in six months you know. [Commercial] [0:14:24] to [0:14:54] Interviewer: You make a lot of references to American action films and you even use some clips in the film from point break and from bad boys and bad boys two was it difficult to get access to those clips? Interviewee: Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze and Martin Lawrence and Will Smith all signed off on the on the give their permission for us to use clips from the film and use their, their lines so I thought it was very generous of them as well because they didn’t, I don’t think they knew at that point how fraction of the film is about those films I mean, that too it’s quite an odd choice using those two films, but the fact is it’s Nick Frost Character Danny’s they’re his favorite films and they’re not the best cop films ever made, but they’re really great examples of really dumb fun, of kind of two films that you absolutely have a thrill ride and that’s kind of what Hot Fuzz is saying it’s okay to do that sometimes, it’s not a bad thing that these films exist you don’t walk away from a firework display and complain there was no subtext. You know sometimes it’s great to just switch off your brain and have some fun and that is kind of what the film does. Interviewer: You guys pay a lot of attention to detail and there is a lot of things that you set up in the beginning that really pay off in the end so for the viewer it’s great because each time you see it feels like you get more out of it and you find more jokes and humor. Interviewee: Yeah I’m just getting a last question here, but sorry I feel rude having to tell you that. Yeah absolutely we never do everything by halves and I don’t see the point doing anything if you are not going to commit yourself fully to it and try and make the best thing that you possibility can. I don’t really believe in just pumping stuff out and hoping people like it or doing something for the money or whatever. We have enormous fun just turning up for work every day and writing the film and then shooting the film and we kind of write and produce the films that we want to see the kind of films that we would leave the theatre afterwards feeling excited and kind of challenged and like we had a really good time and talk about it for ages afterwards and we want to make people leave the theater and just want to talk about the film and then go see it again even, because there are lots of things in the film you won’t get until you see it a second time. I think in the age of DVD, you really owe it to the film going public to make films worth watching more than once because, because it’s so easy to do so now. In the old days the film was on in the theatre and you didn’t see it again until it was on TV unless it had a second run even then you couldn’t tape it now you can actually own the film, you can stop it, wind it back and watch it again and watch all the extras and I think, we took real care with hot fuzz to make it a film you can watch, five or six times and still be seeing new things in it. Interviewer: You, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost seem to be big fans of pop culture and it seems like if you go back to your old TV shows spaced you can find you can find the seeds to each of your films in some of those episodes. Interviewee: Yeah because I mean in that series it as about, people living their lives through popular culture that their lives were sort of mirroring movies and games and TV programs and stuff whereas now, what we’re doing we’re actually making movies, what I mean so it’s no longer about mirroring that. It’s not people living their lives through popular culture now we’re making popular culture, so yeah very much so you can see that the beginnings of what we’re interested in spaced and possibly may be even evidence of what we might do in the future, but now we’re actually working within the medium than now we don’t have to be, now we can do it for real kind of thing. Interviewer: I’m Data Commando your resident cinema junkie [phonetic] [0:18:32] thanks for listening to my interview and please go to iTunes to subscribe to the podcast and give it a rating. Thanks very much.

With Simon Pegg returning in "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation," I decided to reach into the archives for a 2007 interview with Pegg about "Hot Fuzz."

Here come the fuzz! Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the comic geniuses behind 2004's “Shaun of the Dead,” take on the American cop film to deliver “Hot Fuzz.”

While Tarantino and Rodriguez are sending bloody valentines to the grindhouse pictures they love, Wright and Pegg reveal their affection for the American action films of the 80s. Three years ago Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg decided to make a romantic zombie comedy, and their first thought was to call it “Teatime for the Dead.” That perfectly summed up their cheery British take on the American cult horror classic “Night of the Living Dead.” Then, the pair decided to take on the American cop movie. But Edgar Wright says he and his partner faced some problems: In the U.K. there really aren’t any action films and there’s really not many cop films at all. There’s far too many gangster films so we felt that it was time to redress the balance and do a British cop film. And also address the fact that not really a lot of crime happens in the U.K. and so how can we make that interesting for a two hour running time. And that wasn't easy says co-writer Simon Pegg, British policing is not as cinematic as American policing might be, obviously the police aren't armed.

Pegg stars in “Hot Fuzz” as London cop Nick Angel. Angel's stellar record stirs jealousy among his colleagues and prompts his superiors to reassign him to the sleepy country town of Sandford where there hasn't been a murder in twenty years. Now not only is Angel a fish out of water but so too is the action genre. And that's where the film finds much of its humor, in the collision of genres and cultures.

“We've stolen your American action movie genre and snuck it back home and squashed it into a tiny little village,” Simon Pegg said, “The idea was to make a film that was at once very British but it becomes very American at end. It's kind of like Agatha Christie directed by Tony Scott. We thought it would be funny at least in the beginning of the film when it's still very British to start creeping in with the American influence but have it during the really boring bits.

Boring bits like a foot chase to catch a petty shoplifter. According to “Ain't It Cool News’” Harry Knowles, Wright and Pegg turn this chase into a thrilling action scene.

“There's no high octane car chase but they edit it like it was that,” Knowles said, “Instead of showing someone shifting gears they show them dart their eyes. They cut the foot chase like it is a car chase and they really amp up the music and the sound effects so its delivered perfectly. That's what these guys do, they deliver the mundane and make it feel like its full throttle."

The attention to the craft of editing, cinematography and sound design is what makes “Hot Fuzz”special. Unlike other films that send up a genre in obvious ways, Wright and Pegg are looking to the details -- like how a sequence is cut and paced, or how it's framed -- to find humor. By paying attention to such details, Pegg says that even police paperwork can feel full throttle.

"We thought,” Pegg said, “let's put paperwork in the film but make it really, really exciting. So there are scenes of Angel filling in forms where it's being hand-cranked and double exposed and great big flashes, loud rock music and its a joke in a way to just try and sex up the paperwork."

But still maintaining a small town British feel. So there's a swear box in the station, and when Angel finally works himself up into a rage he has to drop a coin in the box for every F bomb he drops. It's a hilarious way to call attention to the crude language that mindlessly fills American action films. Plus, the punishment for a cop who's been drunk is to buy cake and ice cream for the whole station. And a big case involves a swan that's escaped. But since Angel is a top-notch cop, he tackles the case with the same intensity that an American cop might devote to tracking down a serial killer.

Pegg said that he and Edgar Wright watched more than a hundred cop movies before writing their script because "we wanted to get really familiar with the kind of clichés and the beats that occur in these films so we could become fluent in cop dialogue and hackneyed exchanges and ridiculous explosions."

They play off of everything from mainstream hits like “Point Break” and “Bad Boys II” to Jackie Chan's “Police Story,” Chuck Norris' “Silent Rage,” and even the obscure Electra Glide in Blue.” But as with “Shaun of the Dead,” what they craft is not exactly a spoof. Calling something a spoof brings to mind “Scary Movie” or “Airplane,” films which exist only in reference to what they are making fun of. What Wright and Pegg do is so much more. They create films that stand on their own even if you know nothing about what they’re referencing. Plus they are not really making fun of the genre they are working in. That may be something they learned from “Star Wars.” You have to play it straight to a certain degree in order for the humor to flow more naturally.

“Shaun of the Dead” was a zombie film but a very funny and sweetly romantic one. “Hot Fuzz” is a cop film -- a very funny cop film. “Hot Fuzz” also delivers on everything you expect from a cop actioner -- gunplay, explosions, snappy one-liners, male bonding. Yet they deliver all the familiar elements with a fresh, clever spin. It's not an easy thing to pull off but Wright and Pegg manage with ease.

But then anyone familiar with their British TV series “Spaced,” shouldn't be surprised. That show managed to make sharp, witty pop culture references in every episode. The show is a delight to watch because each time you see it, you find something new. That's because the references aren't always obvious, it might just be that the way a shot is framed is like “Star Wars” or a turn of phrase plays off of “GoodFellas.”

The germ of the idea for “Shaun” was laid out in “Spaced,” and so too was the one for

“Hot Fuzz.”

That series was about people living their lives through pop culture, said Pegg, “Their lives were mirroring movies and TV shows whereas now were making movies. So it’s no longer about mirroring, it’s no longer about people living their lives through pop culture. We are making pop culture. So you can see the beginnings of what were interested in in ‘Spaced,’ and possibly evidence of what we might do in the future. So now we are actually working within the medium now we can do it for real.”

Doing it for real meant that Pegg and co-star Nick Frost got to play super cops and fire two guns while jumping through the air like John Woo's Hong Kong action heroes. When Pegg and Frost talk about the experience they sound like little kids living out a fantasy.

"After cuts we were jumping up and down laughing like little boys,” Pegg said, “It was great fun and wish fulfillment."

"It's not often that you get paid to work with your best mates,” Frost added.

The fun the actors are having comes through. The supporting cast also boasts some stellar actors who don't often get to do comedy: Timothy Dalton (a former Bond), Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Billie Whitelaw, and Edward Woodward. These supporting players seem to be having a delicious time, especially Dalton as the oily supermarket operator, and it's great fun to watch them.

There's also rich satisfaction in the way director Edgar Wright and his star Simon Pegg revel in their nostalgia for American cop films.

"’Point Break’ and ‘Bad Boys II’ are not the best cop films,” Pegg explained, “but they are great examples of really dumb fun films where you absolutely have a thrill ride and that's kind of what ‘Hot Fuzz’ is saying. It's okay to do that, it's not a bad thing that they exist. You don't walk away from a fireworks display and complain that there's no subtext. Sometimes it's okay to switch off your brain and have some fun."

Wright agrees and considers “Hot Fuzz” a love letter to the American cop film.

"There was a particular kind of like time when the ‘Lethal Weapon’ trailer music would like send tingles down my neck,” Wright said, “So there's definitely a sort of late 80s to early 90s vibe, ‘Point Break’ would be like a set text."

“Point Break,” the surf's up cop actioner with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, is one of the films that is quoted in the film. Scenes from the film are even played during the course of “Hot Fuzz.” In one scene, Frost's character of Danny Butterman tries to explain the appeal of “Point Break” to Angel who has no interest in his cinematic counterpart.

Danny Butterman: "Amazing scene in ‘Point Break,’ Patrick Swayze has just robbed this bank and Keanu Reeves is chasing him through these yards and he tries to shoot Swayze but he can't because he loves him so much and hes firing his gun up in the air and going Aaargh!"

Simon Pegg said he especially likes the references to “Point Break” because “it’s directed by a woman [Kathryn Bigelow]. So she was kind of able to be less uptight about foregrounding the romance behind between Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves.”

“Hot Fuzz” zeroes in on the homoerotic element that American cop buddy films always wallowed in but tended to deny. So “Hot Fuzz” eliminates any female romantic interest and lets the love story in the film develop between Pegg's Angel and Frost's Butterman.

"The nice thing in this one was not being afraid to be slightly sentimental and schmaltzy," Frost said.

Wright and Pegg are also grateful to the fans who turned “Shaun” into a cult favorite and a big hit on DVD. So there are some hilarious gore sequences that will delight those horror fans. They are also thinking about those fans and the life their film will have on DVD.

"I think in age of DVD you really owe it to the filmgoing public to make films worth watching more than once,” Pegg said, “We took real care with ‘Hot Fuzz’ to make sure you can find new things each time you watch.”

I have to confess to already seeing the film three times and enjoying it thoroughly at each screening, and being prompted to laughter by different elements each time. Even watching the clips or seeing the trailer can put a smile on my face.

“Hot Fuzz” (rated R for language and gore) is a high octane, sweetly appealing, absolutely hilarious cop actioner. I never thought all those elements could be rolled together so brilliantly but Wright and Pegg are proving to be a filmmaking team that pays close attention to details as they meticulously craft their films. They take care with every element from the sound design to the set dressings, yet they make it all seem so effortless and fun.

Companion viewing: "Shaun of the Dead," “Spaced,” “Point Break,” “Bad Boys II,” “Silent Rage”

Simon Pegg on 'Hot Fuzz'