They’ve conquered zombie flicks (“Shaun of the Dead”) and action movies (“Hot Fuzz”) on their way to becoming the UK’s comedy darlings, but in their new sci-fi farce “Paul,” Simon Pegg and Nick Frost bring hilarity to the States. Blast sat down with the British funnymen to talk about life in America, meeting their heroes, and why they’re proud to be geeks.
BLAST: Can I ask you right away – there’s a moment in the film where you say, “That was my American accent.” You’ve been traveling so much and working in America, does the American accent just drive you up the wall?
SIMON PEGG: Not at all, I love it. Actually Phyllis, our publicist, has an amazing Boston accent and I love listening to her speak. It’s something that we don’t tire of and you just get really used to it. You look at all of our references, the stuff we allude to in our films and in our sitcom even, it’s almost exclusively American stuff. We grew up on a diet of American culture – you do if you’re from the UK. We’ve got this amazing resource, a country that’s hundreds of times as big as ours that speaks our language. It’s like having a huge “lucky dip” to take stuff from, so I’m used to it.
NICK FROST: For me, personally, what gets slightly tiring is when I’m watching the Food Network. Because I usually just watch the Food Network. The commercials come on and the way cynical marketing people use a thousand words to describe a red pepper, that’s a bit crazy for me. But everything else is great.
BLAST: So how are your accents, specifically? Better than Hugh Laurie’s?
SP: Hugh Laurie’s got a great one. I wouldn’t dare do an accent in front of all you lot.
NF: Go on, do it! Show everyone!
SP: No, no. I’ve played American before – it’s not quite as easy as everyone thinks. It’s quite a gymnastic language. You guys really chew your words. It’s actually deceptive, because it sounds very laidback but it’s actually very muscular…this is what a dialect coach told me once. So no, I won’t do it. But Hugh Laurie does a great job – especially considering that he’s a posh Englishmen
(At this point, the interview devolves into Simon and Nick doing imitations of Hugh Laurie’s “posh” accent)
NF: When you have so many good American actors, why use an English person doing an American accent? As an actor, I always feel a bit weird…
SP: You sound like an American racist – ‘Coming over here, takin’ our jobs.’
BLAST: Can you explain how you work as writers? Do you ever just write stuff to make yourselves laugh?
SP: That’s what “Paul” is. I think everything we write is to make ourselves laugh. We learned very early on that what we find funny is shared by other people as well; it’s not exclusive to us. The first litmus test our writing has it whether or not we find it funny. Some comedy writers try and guess what other people find funny when you should always write what you find funny and just hope to God that someone else does too.
NF: We make films to make Edgar [Wright, the pair’s friend and frequent collaborator] laugh. You know what I mean? If Edgar likes it, it’s probably good enough. Just our mates, you know? We talk sometimes, and obviously this would never happen, but sometimes it would be great to make a really expensive film and then just give it to your mates and not release it.
SP: Not suffer the horror of handing it over to people who don’t care as much as you do about it. There’s joke in the film, one of my favorite jokes, that Nick says. It was just an offhand comment in the writing room that made me fall off my chair laughing. It’s when Paul (Seth Rogan), Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are all walking down the street, holding hands and Graeme says, “We’re trying to look like a family” and Paul says, “Yeah, the fucking Friedmans.” It was such a bizarre reference to a documentary about an abusive family that seemed so out of place, I just thought ‘That’s got to go in the movie.’ It just goes to show that we don’t just reference popular 70s cinema – we’re not opposed to the odd millennial documentary about child abuse.
BLAST: Do you have nicknames for each other, like you do in the film?
NF: We do, yeah. They don’t stick though; it’s whatever we fancy at the time. We’ll answer to anything really.
SP: I called you Pom Pom this morning.
NF: You did call me Pom Pom this morning.
SP: Generally speaking, it’ll be other names like ‘Jim,’ ‘Fred’ – Fred was an old nickname of yours. The first thing that comes to mind when we text each other good morning, which we invariably do.
NF: Double Axe or things that have double names like ‘Crabtree & Evelyn.’
SP: We laugh at each other when we call each other by our real names, because it sounds odd calling him ‘Nick.’
NF: Because we don’t say each other’s names a lot, we’ll say the full name to feel what it’s like in your mouth. Does that sound weird? So I’ll say ‘SI-mon. SI-mon. His name is SI-mon.’
SP: That’s what you texted me that yesterday. You’re really being drawn into our weird world here; this is quite odd.