A German transcript of this interview can be found here.
Mike from Spaced, Ed from Shaun of the Dead and now Danny from Hot Fuzz - these are the most prominent roles, Nick Frost has played so far. For the german cinema-release of Hot Fuzz, we met Nick Frost and talked about Spaced, Shaun, Hot Fuzz and the fate of a british waiter who is recognized as the mustachioed gun-fanatic Mike.
Peter Clausen: How do you feel about the movie's German subtitle?
Nick Frost: What is the film's German subtitle?
Peter Clausen: Basically, it translates as "Two Tough Bastards", however the title has also a slightly sleazy, sexual meaning.
Nick Frost: (laughs) Perfect! Absolutely perfect!
Peter Clausen: How important is naturalism in comedy?
Nick Frost: Personally, I think it's very important. There is a place for the Jim Carrey / Robin Williams side of things in comedy, but I always try to play as natural as possible, and the comedy will come from there. I think more people can idenity with that, rather than the goonery of Jim Carrey. I always look at him and think it's too big. Even classic British comedy like "Some Mothers do 'ave em", a seventies sitcom, have this problem. People loved that series, it was really massive, but it's just too big. It's that kind of comedy where you see a man with a big ladder stumbling around and you just think "You know what? Stop it! Just knock on the door. You don't have to go through a window."
Peter Clausen: So you are not a friend of goofy comedy voices and similar stuff?
Nick Frost: Well, there is a place for that, but it's not for me. Not how I am acting anyway. If I am in the pub, that's a different matter.
Peter Clausen: Danny is the first character you have played by Simon's side, who wasn't a lifelong friend of Simon's character. They only just meet in the movie. Did that have any bearing on your approach to the role?
Nick Frost: Not really. It was nice to see it like that. You never got to see how Tim and Mike started out in Spaced, or how Shaun and Ed's friendship began in Shaun of the Dead. But you did get to see that here. And I think that's quite important. And my acting choices? No, it didn't really inform any of them.
Peter Clausen: And it didn't feel any different?
Nick Frost: No, absolutely not, because it soon becomes quite clear that Danny is all over Angel...
Peter Clausen: ... In every sense of the word...
Nick Frost: Yeah. Totally!
Peter Clausen: What I was wondering about: Did Danny really not know about his father's acitivities? That's what the movie tells us, but some things made me suspect that he might not be quite as innocent, as the film leads us to believe.
Nick Frost: Well, I don't wanna give too much away. You'll have to wait for the DVD, because there everything will be explained.
Peter Clausen: The character of Mike in Spaced was based on a real person, right?
Nick Frost: He was. He was based on two people I knew. One of them was a guy called "Flea". He loved the millitary. He loved the second World War almost unhealthily. I don't know if you know this kind of person, but sometimes you have to forget what they like, because as persons they are really nice. It was partly him, and partly a guy called John who was an ex-soldier turned security guard in this restaurant I used to work in. He was a bit weird and violent, so it was perfect.
Peter Clausen: And Ed was based on yourself, right?
Nick Frost: Yes, absolutely. Simon and I have been friends for fifteen years, and so our first ten years were spent like Shaun and Ed. Sadly.
Peter Clausen: So what about Danny? Was he based on any real person?
Nick Frost: No, he wasn't. If anything he was based on a police dog. I tried to play him like a Labrador or a German Shepard. He's a police dog. He's faithful, he doesn't question, he wants to please.
Peter Clausen: Since Spaced you have often been cast in what one could call "manchild-roles". Do you ever feel typecast?
Nick Frost: No. I have been acting for seven years, so I don't feel typecast at all. I have done a lot of TV in England which you probably haven't seen.
Peter Clausen: I suppose, I have seen most of it?
Nick Frost: Really? Cool. In Hyperdrive for example I don't play this kind of role. But I think, the main character does not always have to be a tough bastard. It's nice to be tough on the one hand, but also have a vulnerable side. I like that. I find it quite compelling to watch. Someone who is big and brave, but also quite childlike.
Peter Clausen: So could you see yourself playing villain roles?
Nick Frost: Yeah, totally. I'd like to do anything. If it's a good script, and I like the director, certainly. I love comdey, I have always been funny, Simon has always been the funny one too. We come from a gang of comedians, and comedy has always been our first love. But when something serious comes along, that I am interested in, I would do it. Absolutely.
Peter Clausen: What about yours and Simons TV-project La Triviata? According to IMDB that's on again...
Nick Frost: No, it's totally off. For the last two months we have been trying to get it off IMDB.
Peter Clausen: But it pops up there again and again?
Nick Frost: And we can't get it off. Sadly.
Peter Clausen: It's the project that won't die.
Nick Frost: "It just won't die". Come to think of it, that would be a great title for the project.
Peter Clausen: You and Simon basically grew up admiring genre movies. Has anything changed now that you have actually become part of the phenomenon, or is it still great?
Nick Frost: It's still great. It has been demystified, but not in a way that I can never watch a film again. Now I pay attention to the camera moves, the lighting, and the sound as well as the acting and the story. If there is a story.
Peter Clausen: So, you haven't grown more cynical?
Nick Frost: A little. But it has nothing to do with acting. I think my cynicism stems from the fact, that I pay too much tax.
Peter Clausen: You have also done a lot of physical stuff. In the TV-series Danger, 50.000 volts for example you researched dangerous activities, survival techniques and similar stuff. Has there ever been a time where you went to far?
Nick Frost: Yeah, I have been hospitalised a couple of times doing stupid things that perhaps one woudn't be allowed to do. But it's good to do stunts, because you get that weird nevous feeling, and than you do them and all the girls clap, because you look pretty cool.
Peter Clausen: Can you give me an example, of when you went too far?
Nick Frost: Well, I was in Florida on a hovercraft, and I had never driven one before. And they said: "Here it is, go and have a go. No crash helmet, no life jacket." And I hit a tree, and I fell out and it hit me in the head.. I spent a while in hospital then, and I'll never do it again.
Group: A lot of people expected another Shaun of the Dead, another horror movie as your next film. Why did you decide to make an action movie?
Nick Frost: We love action films. Shaun of the Dead did so well, that they came to us, and asked us what we wanted to do next. It was the kind of opportunity where you think: "I could spend three months fyling around, smashing cars up, and firing shotguns.". So we had to go for it.
Peter Clausen: So have you found your niche now? Everybody expects you to do another film that's partly spoof and partly a good story that can stand on it's own. Will you do something similar next time around, or go for something completely different?
Nick Frost: Well, we are the same people. If you watch Wes Anderson films, they are all different but they are also essentially the same. It will be similar, but it will also be a different film. We don't like the word spoof as well. It's kind of like a dirty word. They are not spoofs. Shaun of the Dead was a zombie film, and it had to be one because we love Zombie films, we love George Romero. So it had to be a Zombie film, and it also had to be funny.
Peter Clausen: So it had to be a good story first and foremost, while the humour comes organically from the characters?
Nick Frost: Definitely. And the script as well. You could take the comedy out of Hot Fuzz, and it would still work as an action film. And you could take the comedy out of Shaun of the Dead, and it would work as a hombie-film... did I just say "Hombie-film"? That's a new genre right there.
Peter Clausen: Sounds like a film about homeless zombies.
Nick Frost: Yeah, why not?
Group: Which film do you like more? Hot Fuzz, or Shaun of the Dead?
Nick Frost: I think I like Hot Fuzz more.
Group: Why is that?
Nick Frost: Why is that? I think I like the character I play in Hot Fuzz more. He's a nicer person than Ed was in Shaun. At the moment I prefer Hot Fuzz, but if you ask me in five years, who knows? At the moment I prefer Hot Fuzz, but I haven't really watched Shaun in two years, so maybe it's time I went back and watched it objectively.
Group: Did the Danny-character emerge from Mike in Spaced?
Nick Frost: Yeah. There's definitely some of Mike in Danny. They both want to kill with guns. But there's a bit of Ed in there as well, because they are both kind of lazy. But there is probably more of me in all of them, as they are in one another.
Group: If this film makes enough money, you might want to consider a big budget science fiction movie.
Nick Frost: Well, we are definitely allowed to make another movie. Simon and I are going to write and star in our next movie. Edgar is not gonna direct, but he's gonna produce and script-edit, because he' has been working on a number of other projects for the last few years, and we are now at a position where we can make these things. Once Simon and I make our film, which starts shooting, if not this year then certainly in January, in the states, and then we will look at that together and make a third movie in our trilogy.
Peter Clausen: So let's squash the rumour right here and now: It won't be La Triviata.
Nick Frost: Absolutely not!
Peter Clausen: Has your worldview changed in any way since making Spaced? Spaced was a series about aimless twentysomethings, but now you have all grown a bit older and more mature...
Nick Frost: (laughs) Well, maybe.
Peter Clausen: So, does your current perspective on life impact your movies in any way?
Nick Frost: Yeah! It has to, doesn't it? Spaced was about where we were, and that's the people we were back then. But people always ask us if there is going to be third series of Spaced all the time. And there isn't gonna be, because we are not those people anymore.
Peter Clausen: On the other hand, some classic British TV-series like The Likely Lads and Auf Wiedersehen, Pet got sequels many years later, and they acknowledged the passage of time, and made it work.
Nick Frost: I think, they had the time to do it, as well. They had the time to hang out for five or six years, and just make this. But we are very ambitious as gang of people making films, we have been bitten by the celluloid-bug, and we like making films.
Peter Clausen: But if you were to ever bring back Spaced, it would probably make more sense to bring it back a couple of years down the road.
Nick Frost: You'd have to, yeah.
Peter Clausen: Right, so you could say: We are at a completely different point now, let's see how these characters have changed, instead of revisiting them now, knowing that things will still be quite similar to how they were.
Nick Frost: But then, that wouldn't be Spaced. It wouldn't be the same series. You might as well call it something else, and put six other people in it.
Group: But on the other hand, Spaced was well known in the UK, but not so well known in the rest of Europe. So it would actually work to make a new series, where people don't have to know, what went on before.
Nick Frost: Yeah, that would probably work.
Group: Do you think, Hot Fuzz might be too British?
Nick Frost: No, I don't. After Shaun of the Dead we found out, that people liked it because it was British. And it wasn't the Lpndon you see in films, where the main protagonist opens his curtains, and there is Big Ben and the London Eye. There is lot of London, you know? There is not just the Queen. And we like to the parts of London that aren't usually shown. Back streets, and places where people actually live.
Group: How is it work with your friends? For example, does Edgar Wright ever criticize you?
Nick Frost: Yeah! That's his job. I am never happier, than when I am on set with Simon, and Edgar, and Nira the Producer, and Karen. We turn up at eight o'clock and we finish at eight, ten at night and we work constantly and solidly throughout. And the closeness allows a freehand in conversation. So I know what Edgar wants. He doesn't have to say it. I know how he wants me to do it, and where he wants me to it.
Group: But how do you prepare for your roles? Do you just turn up on set, and say: "I am acting".
Nick Frost: Yeah (laughs). No, I found it much easier to play this role, than I found it in Shaun, the first film i had ever made. Being close friends also gives you a certain amount of comfort. You can turn up on set, and feel completely confident. You are in the right forum, to do your best work. But we worked hard to prepare. We got in shape, we got our stamina up, and we spent lots of time with real police officers. We never had to do research before, because we knew all there was to know about zombies. But we spent a lot of time at the police, and that was an eye-opener to say the least.
Group: How has your life changed, after the success of Shaun of the Dead?
Nick Frost: Not much, to be honest. I can get into nice restaurants now. Simon, the Prodcucer, the lady who does our wardrobe and many others have all been close friends for many years. Nothing changes too much. I mean, it does, but in our group of friends it doesn't. It's all like it was ten years ago. But you can't really go and get milk, or go down to the pub to have a beer anymore.
Group: But everyone recognizes you on the street now?
Nick Frost: Yeah, they do. It's nice, but coming from a working class-backround as I do, it's always strange. If you are in the street, and men stare at you, you have a response. Your spider-sense tingles. So you have to get to a point, where you don't feel threatened by it, and you don't feel it's gonna escalate into physical violence. It's just the fact, that they know you.
Group: Did that already happen, when you did Spaced?
Nick Frost: No, no. The first time it ever happened, was after I had finished making the first series of Spaced. I had been working as a waiter for ten years, and after I had finished shooting I quit. I had made a television show. I didn't need to work there anymore. And within five weeks, I had spent all my money, so I had to go back to the restaurant. And there I was recognized for the first time, by someone who was asking for the bill. He looked at me, and went "Aren't you Mike from Spaced?". Most of the times people are really nice, but sometimes they come up in pubs, and they are drunk, and I don't really know what to say.
Group: So how was shooting in Edgar's hometown?
Nick Frost: Oh, it was great. It's a tiny little place. It's not really a village, but they call it the countrie's smallest city. Film is a big thing, with hundreds of different people, and big trucks and so on. And so, the first week it was almos like a circus, and everybody brought their children, and took photos with Simon and I, and said hello. And then, that was it. After the first week, it was like we belonged there. It got to a point, where we were like locals. Sometimes we were up at 5am, shooting guns all day. Noone ever complained. And good on them. There were a few places, that wouldn't have let us do it.
Group: Explain the Cornetto joke.
Nick Frost: That was a joke in the beginning of Shaun of the Dead. And we decided to do it again, because we did a massive press tour in America. And England, it always got a huge reaction, because Ed wanted ice cream at half past seven in the morning. But in America, as soon as you said Cornette - silence. Nobody knew, what the fuck a Cornetto was. So with Hot Fuzz we said: "Okay, now you know what a Cornetto is. Here is the joke again". And maybe it's not over yet. Maybe it's a setup for the third film.
Peter Clausen: Is it true, that you wanted to be a writer, originally?
Nick Frost: Yeah. I didn't wanna be anything, to be honest. I hadn't given it any thought whatsoever. I left school af fifteen, and kicked around for a couple of years. Then I went away, I left the country for a couple of years. After that I fell in love and went back, and she was a waiter, and so I followed her there. And I had never given it any thought. I enjoyed working there, and that was that. But while I was waiter, I had also written a novel, that never got published. But I always felt, that I wanted to write. I wanted to kind of have that internal angst and pain which would allow me to write. But I like writing. Performing in front of a camera af first was very alien and wrong to me, and I would blush when I acted. But the more I do it, the more I really like it. I am writing a film with Simon right now, so I am at a point where I can do it both now, which is great.
Peter Clausen: Thank you very much for this interview.
Text Copyright Peter Clausen 2007
Screenshots Universal / Channel 4