Taking aim at cop movies with ‘Hot Fuzz’

[19 April 2007]

By Jeff Strickler

Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)

Most filmmakers hate the city-a-day promotion tours that inevitably end up producing a lot more sitting around—in airports, airplanes, taxis, hotel rooms and restaurants—than promoting. At best, filmmakers tolerate the two- and three-week marathons as a necessary part of marketing.

But not Simon Pegg and his associates. Were it not for the publicity tour they did for Shaun of the Dead in 2004, their new movie, Hot Fuzz, might not be opening in theaters Friday.

“We came up with the whole movie while we were on the road promoting Shaun of the Dead,” said Pegg, who again gets star billing and shares the writing credit with director Edgar Wright. “It’s a great time to do it because you spend so much of your time sitting and talking. In fact, we’ve come up with the idea for our third movie while we’ve been on this tour.”

He won’t say what that idea is, however. That’s different from their Shaun of the Dead tour, when they openly talked about their plans to make a cops-and-robbers satire.

Talking about it that early turned out to be a mistake, Pegg said. “In a way, we painted ourselves into a corner. We’re not going to say anything (about their plans) this time.”

Not that he regrets anything connected with the making of Hot Fuzz, including the research it required.

“We watched 138 films in preparation for writing the script,” he said. “We wanted to touch on all kinds of cop movies, so we watched everything from action movies to procedurals to movies like Point Break, which was understandably maligned by many critics but was admirably over the top.”

Pegg plays an over-achieving cop who is determined to singlehandedly wipe out crime. It’s no coincidence that the character is about as far removed as possible from the unmotivated slacker he played last time around.

“I didn’t want to be known as Shaun for the rest of my life,” he said. “This was a challenging role because the entire thing is played deadpan. I couldn’t draw on my comedic skills at all.”

As a result, Nick Frost, who costars again, gets most of the funny lines. But that’s fine with Pegg.

“When I’m writing, I think of the project as a whole,” he said. “It’s not just a vehicle for me.”

Pegg, Frost and Wright first teamed on the TV series Spaced, a skit-oriented show that poked fun at British culture. Although their movies reach an international audience, they have resisted pressure to make their humor less British.

“I think audiences are underestimated by the industry,” Pegg said. “I think most people are capable of understanding jokes that are not written in their language. Look at The Simpsons. A lot of that humor is specifically based on American culture. And, sure, I probably don’t pick up all of the inferences, but I still think that it’s funny.”

Whatever pressure the filmmakers were under because of their wider exposure was offset by the increases in visibility and clout. For instance, Jim Broadbent contacted Pegg to tell him how much he enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and said he’d like to work with him some day.

“So, here I am writing for an Oscar winner,” Pegg said of Broadbent, who won an Academy Award for Iris and has a major supporting role in Hot Fuzz.

“And then there’s Timothy Dalton,” Pegg added. “The whole time we were writing the script, we kept calling one of the characters `a Timothy Dalton type.’ But it didn’t occur to us until much later on to actually ask him if he’d be interested in playing it. Much to our surprise, he’d said that he had seen Shaun of the Dead and that he’d love to do it.”

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/article/taking-aim-at-cop-movies-with-hot-fuzz/