When "Shaun of the Dead" seemingly came out of nowhere three years ago to delight horror and comedy fans alike, many asked the same question: Who is this Edgar Wright? OK, perhaps if you were an Anglophile and die-hard fan of the cult BBC comedy "Spaced," you knew, but for the rest of us, Wright's frenzied blend of action and humor, not to mention his mastery behind the camera, took us aback.
Now Wright is returning with "Hot Fuzz," starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and again he's tweaking a beloved genre. Last time it was horror, and this time it's the buddy-cop film and the bombastic works of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay. Wright recently gave MTV a sneak peek at his new film, due April 13, calling us with pals Pegg and Frost nearby.
MTV: I walked out of "Hot Fuzz" laughing over my favorite new phrase: "crusty juggler."
Edgar Wright: Nice. Do you have that phrase in the States, "crusties"? Remember what the Spin Doctors looked like? They were crusties. The white dreadlocks and matted hair — that's the crusty look.
MTV: Speaking of interesting phrases, tell me about the title. Why "Hot Fuzz"?
Wright: In the '80s and '90s the action films always had two-word titles. Sometimes they made sense, like "Lethal Weapon" and "Executive Decision," and then they started to get weirder, like "Cold Heat" and "Maximum Risk" — things that didn't make any sense. We liked the idea of this cool-sounding police film. There's no actual hotness in the film from Simon and Nick.
MTV: When did you come up with the idea for the film?
Wright: I started thinking about it after we released "Shaun." It was partly inspired out of a teenage love of cop films, and of course the film is set where me and Simon grew up. It's very much what people think of as picture-postcard England. The idea of ruining that chocolate-box image with lots of Jerry Bruckheimer violence appealed to us enormously. It was also the fact that there aren't any British cop films.
MTV: Why is that?
Wright: Because up until now international audiences would laugh at British cops. They look cute with their helmets and jumpers. They haven't got any guns. Compared to your Texas Ranger badasses, they don't quite match up. We aim to address the imbalance.
MTV: The film is filled with references to famous buddy-cop movies and action movies in general. What are your favorites in the genre?
Wright: I'm a big sucker for "The Last Boy Scout." I think that's an underrated gem. It's truly funny, and the action is over-the-top. The greatest action film of all time is probably "Hard Boiled." And "Die Hard" is the best English-language action film.
MTV: You lovingly pay tribute to the "Bad Boys" movies in particular. Have you met Michael Bay?
Wright: I have — I met him at the World Stunt Awards a couple years ago. I commended him on the "Bad Boys II" car chase even then. Whether he'll put two and two together when he sees this, I don't know.
MTV: I enjoyed the way the film essentially becomes one of these over-the-top action movies in the last third.
Wright: That was totally the point. When Simon and Nick watch "Point Break" and "Bad Boys II" on DVD, it's like from that point on, those films have entered their subconscious and they've become badass cops. Even the idea of the title only appearing at the end is that they haven't become hot fuzz until the last seconds.
MTV: It's the origin story.
Wright: Exactly. This is just the pre-credit sequence. There's a whole other two hours coming later in the year. [He laughs.]
MTV: Have you talked about what the further adventures of this duo might be?
Wright: Simon just said today that we should do the "Crocodile Dundee II" thing with them going back to the city and call it "Hot Fuzz II: Pigs in the City." Uh oh, Simon's making a face at me! [To Simon] It's OK, it's an American journalist. The British police won't know. Oh no, they're called pigs in the States, too! What do we do? [To MTV] It's OK. You can print that. There are worse things to call police.
MTV: This is a much different Simon than we saw in "Shaun of the Dead." Did you ask him to pattern his performance after anyone?
Wright: At the start of the film he's almost like Mr. Spock or Edward Woodward in "The Wicker Man." He's got this humorless, emotionless level to him. The other performance we were modeling him after was Robert Patrick in "Terminator 2," especially the way he runs. If you look at the foot chases, there's a bit of the T-1000 in there. [He laughs.]
MTV: There's no love interest in the story for Simon this time — except for Nick, I guess.
Wright: In the first draft of the script there was a girlfriend character named Victoria, who worked in the hotel. Then we did a read-through, and someone suggested we cut the character out and concentrate on Simon and Nick. That's exactly what we did. And not only did we cut her out but we gave a lot of her dialogue to Nick. So he has a lot of the girlfriend's lines, which is where we take our homoerotic subtext to the max. It's platonic man-love. It's "Brokeback Precinct."
MTV: With "Shaun" and now this, you, Simon and Nick are forming almost the comedic equivalent of the Scorsese/ De Niro /Pesci collaboration.
Wright: [He laughs.] I don't know. [To Nick] Nick, would you like to be described as Joe Pesci to Simon's De Niro?
Nick Frost: Absolutely not!
Wright: You can just call him the Sammo Hung. That's easy.
MTV: Beyond Nick and Simon, you assembled an amazing cast for this, from Bill Nighy and Martin Freeman to Timothy Dalton.
Wright: I really like the way the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson work, where you get this sense of a repertory of actors. I like the idea of sometimes having Bill Nighy in a big role in one film and in a small role in another.
MTV: So Simon is going to be relegated to a supporting role in the next one?
Wright: He's standing right next to me, so I won't say that. [Simon says something.] I haven't said anything bad!
MTV: The word is that you are directing one of the trailers featured in "Grindhouse" [the double feature by Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez that will include fake trailers in between]. What can you tell us about it?
Wright: At the moment I'm trying to keep the title of mine quiet because essentially it's the punch line. But I'm shooting some of it next week and the rest in two weeks.
MTV: Are Simon and Nick in it?
Wright: They may be. If they are, they will be very unrecognizable. It's going to be scary and weird.
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