BLAST: Was it difficult to get Stephan Spielberg to appear in the film?
SP: It was his idea!
NF: We said ‘no’ originally.
SP: We were telling him about “Paul” on the set of “Tintin.” I said, ‘We’re going to do this movie about this alien, and the idea is that he’s been a cultural influence for 60 years, not least with you – he’s given you certain ideas about “ET” and “Close Encounters”.’ His eyes sort of lit up and he goes ‘This is great, I love it, I love it.’ And then he said ‘Maybe I should be in it.’ And we’re like ‘Hmm?’
NF: Turn my hearing aid up. Say what?
SP: Speak into the mic?
NF: You want me to go and get you a Diet…Coke?
SP: We went away, wrote that scene, came back and said ‘Look, are you going to do it or what?’ We loved the idea of him literally phoning in a cameo. The irony was beautiful.
BLAST: What was it like working with all these American actors in the US? Is it a different sensibility from your more British comedies of the past?
NF: I don’t think we registered that they were American actors. They were just out mates that we were making a film with, you know? For the short answer. I’m sure Simon has a longer one.
SP: Thanks. We’re massive fans of those guys. We always wanted to do a coming together of our lot and their lot – the sort of ‘Apatow Crowd,’ for lack of a better unification, and me and Nick, the British contingent.
NF: It says a lot that our crowd is just you and me.
SP: For me and Nick, we wanted to work with these people and we found them to be kindred spirits. The reason the sensibility isn’t as British is because the film isn’t a resolutely British. We’re not saying anything about Britain in this film – we were in the other two. The aliens in this film are Graeme and Clive – they’re two British guys in America, and the film as such is about America.
We find the same things funny – Kristen Wiig was like a wind-up toy for us. You just sit back and watch her just bedazzle us with her insane talent. Jason Bateman, Joe [Lo Truglio], Bill [Hader] – they’re all just phenomenally funny people. It was a real treat, like an exchange program.
BLAST: Kristen Wiig’s swearing in the film was absolutely hysterical – was that ab lib or did you write that all out?
SP: A lot of ad libs. We had many conversations as to whether ‘tit burgers’ was funnier than ‘dick milk.’
BLAST: What has the experience been like, meeting so many of your idols in the Hollywood scene?
SP: Someone said something today that sparked us thinking: perhaps “Paul” itself is a metaphor for our own incursion into the United States and meeting our idols, because something fabulous steps out of the dark and turns out to be this really ordinary, normal person.
And we’ve found, again and again, when we meet our heroes, they’ve been the most delightful, normal people who love their jobs. Everyone that we’ve really wanted to meet has never disappointed us, in that they’ve not been a dick.
NF: To us, at least.
SP: All of these people – massive stars, great directors – they all seem to have a good knowledge of who they are and what their place in the universe is. It seems to be everyone around them that elevate them to this ridiculous status, this crazy notion of celebrity that everyone’s so obsessed with these days.
NF: I always imagine that everyone is flawed anyway, to a certain extent. If you go in with that in mind, you’re never going to be disappointed. That includes everyone here, me, my family – if you idolize someone that much, you’ll always been disappointed. They will eventually have to go off to do a poo. I never imagine my idols pooing.
BLAST: The film, at times, goes a little hard on Americans, particularly our sort of ‘born again’ culture in Wiig’s character. Is that something you find unique to this country?
SP: I think Europe’s probably a more secular place…
NF: Sorry to interrupt you, darling. I think it’s a view of that person, not America.
SP: I think it’s us as well – Nick was raised a Catholic, I was went to a cathedral school. We felt okay in having fun in that arena because everyone we grew up around who was religious had a good sense of humor.
NF: It’s so interesting that Christians wouldn’t have a sense of humor.
SP: I love the idea that in some respects, to the very extreme of Christianity, or any religion, any film featuring an alien is blasphemous because it acknowledges that something exists beyond our world. It just felt like an interesting idea to play out comically, mainly so we could say silly swear words.
BLAST: In terms of future projects, any plans to work with Edgar Wright again?
SP: It’s weird when people ask that because it’s like we don’t speak Edgar every day. I mean, we all met in our early 20s and the idea of us not working together again is bizarre. When Edgar went off to make “Scott Pilgrim” and we did “Paul,” we kind of had this funny back-and-forth: ‘Alright?’ ‘Alright’ ‘How’s your film doing?’
NF: ‘How’s Michael Cera? How’s your young, nubile cast?’
SP: ‘We’ve got two members of the “Arrested Development” cast and the director, so screw you.’ But, you know, we’ve always planned to do a third film in our ‘Blood and Ice Cream’ series, that’s always been on the cards. The only reason we haven’t done it sooner is because we had other things we wanted to do first.
Now, me and Edgar are having very, very passionate email exchanges with ideas for our new thing, which I think we’re going to write perhaps this year to shoot next year, with a bit of luck. We’ve already decided that it’s going to be the greatest thing we’ve ever written. That’s in the box. In terms of what it’s about, I can’t really tell you, but we’re very excited about it. We’ve really hit the ground running. We’re in the sort of ‘genesis’ period, when all the ideas start to bubble.
BLAST: Final question, and this is the big one Simon, seeing as you’re up to reprise your role as Scotty in the next film: Star Wars or Star Trek?
SP: I…I can’t answer that.