How are you gonna top the first one, then? That might be the question tripping off the tongues of Shaun of the Dead cultists upon learning that movie scribes Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, also the director and star, respectively, of that 2004 hit zombie flick, have a new film in the can. But with their action-comedy Hot Fuzz, the two had no time to worry about a sophomore slump. That's because during the 10 months that Wright and Pegg spent conjuring the first draft of their second movie together, they were simultaneously promoting Shaun. At that point, the zombies had just started lurching across U.K. screens, were yet to be released upon an unsuspecting North American audience, and the jury was still out.
In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight to discuss Hot Fuzz (which opens Friday [April 20]), Wright notably eschewed saying “I”, instead sharing credit with Pegg, with whom he's been friends since they met at a stand-up show in 1995. Wright said that although they felt unburdened as far as Fuzz beating Shaun, the onus was still on them to make a good film.
“We always feel pressure,” he explained. “It's healthy to feel pressure because it forces us to work harder.”
Hot Fuzz is a cop-heavy parody of the British rural mentality that escalates into a bloody riff on Hollywood gun porn. Pegg stars as stickler London cop Nicholas Angel, who is transferred to Sandford, an “accident”-prone English village, because his policing excellence puts his colleagues to shame. Pegg's portly Shaun sidekick, Nick Frost, costars as Angel's new partner. Asked how their writing process facilitated the unrelenting action of a flick that England's Independent newspaper described as a “witches' brew of influences and references that keeps the level of outlandishness promisingly high”, Wright acknowledged that he and Pegg simply worked really, really hard. “Even tougher than on Shaun of the Dead. Literally, three weeks after we finished it, it was out.
“It's pretty much a total collaboration, between us typing it out and writing dialogue and stage directions. It isn't like Elton [John] and Bernie [Taupin],” he continued with a laugh. “You try and have some rules to the comedy, in terms of we know kind of what the tone is going to be. We don't like to think of them as spoofs. They're more comedies within a genre. We never do too many jokes about effects or bodily fluids at all. We always knew where we wanted to end up. If anything, we knew what the third act was going to be, and then it was a question of how to get there.”
An avowed action-movie buff, the 33-year-old Wright cites John Woo's Hard-Boiled as a personal favourite, and he points to Robert Rodriguez—for whom he recently directed a fake trailer within Grindhouse—along with Michael Mann (Miami Vice) and Tony Scott (The Last Boy Scout) as directors he admires. Favourite action screenwriter? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lethal Weapon scribe Shane Black. Naturally, Wright's unabashed passion for the thrill-a-minute genre extended to dreaming up the perfect title.
“All late-'80s, early-'90s action films have two-word titles, seemingly chosen by random-word generator: Lethal Weapon. Die Hard. Executive Decision. Maximum Risk. Sudden Death. Under Siege. And then fuzz, that's slang for the police. I always thought that fuzz was the coolest term for the police. If I was a policeman, I wouldn't like to get called ”˜pigs' or ”˜filth'.”
During preproduction, Wright watched umpteen fuzz films to reimmerse himself in the genre. He spoke with police in both London and rural England to mirror the journey taken by Sgt. Angel and to render the film authentic. Consequently, Wright stressed, the first half of the film, although comical and broad, is realistic in its depiction of police stations and the easy-peasy approach to crime-fighting taken by small-town cops.
“It's been fun getting to know police whilst researching it,” Wright admitted. “All the police in the U.K. that I've spoken to absolutely loved it, which is great.” He hasn't had much personal experience with the law—“No, I didn't have any run-ins with the police when I was a kid at all”—and he laughs when asked if the film seeks to give the men and women in blue a comeuppance or if it intends to humanize, mock, or celebrate them.
“You know, I think all four of what you just said! It mocks. It humanizes. And at the end, it's a celebration.”
As for what, exactly, he wanted to give the world with Hot Fuzz, Wright makes a declaration with the authority of a voice-over in a film trailer: “We wanted to give them the first film where the British bobby goes bad-ass.” The Queen Mother would turn in her grave at the notion. Given his filmography, Wright probably wouldn't mind in the least if she did.