Edgar Wright talks Hot Fuzz with Total Film

Edgar Wright strides into the room with a wide smile, compliments Total Film’s T-shirt (vintage Texas Chain Saw Massacre, if you’re interested) and settles down for something he clearly enjoys: shooting the shit about movies, action or otherwise...

There’s a packed cast, but no grandstanding, everyone fits their characters...
Even though there are lots of brilliant actors in the cast, it’s very important to us that it has an ensemble feel. And certainly directing it, that was the thing that was really exciting for me. Not just working with some of these living legends, but also to put them in scenes with younger actors and people with different backgrounds, so to do a scene with Simon and Billy Whitelaw, or Nick Frost and Jim Broadbent, or Paddy Considine and Timothy Dalton, it was really exciting and fun.

Did anyone get star-struck?
There were moments when different actors would be star-struck within scenes with each other. There was one scene in Timothy Dalton’s office where Alice Lowe who is playing Tina, Dalton’s moll so to speak, was thinking, ‘Oh my God, it’s Paddy Considine,’ and he was thinking, ‘Oh my God, it’s the girl from Dark Place’. And when some of the younger actors were having their first scenes, thinking ‘I’m playing opposite Edward Woodward, this is crazy.’

Did you joke about anyone’s career?
Occasionally I’d make the same joke - every time Timothy walked past, I’d do that line out of View To A Kill: “You know who that was? That was James Bond!” which is the worst line in any Bond film, ‘cause it doesn’t make any sense. How would the police chief know who James Bond was?! He’s not famous in the reality of the film!

How did you and Paddy Considine hook up?
Dead Man’s Shoes came out at around the same time as Shaun Of The Dead and he was very, very sweet to send a note to my agent to say how much he enjoyed Shaun Of The Dead and then I went to the Dead Man’s Shoes premiere and met him for the first time and we got on like a house on fire. Then we were nominated for some of the same awards, and we kept seeing each other and Shane Meadows was there, and he kept saying, half-jokingly, ‘is there a part for Paddy in the next one?’ And we were thinking, ‘Oh yeah, there might be.’

In some cases you write with actors you’ve never met that you have no connection with and you hope that you can just send them the script and maybe they’ll have seen the previous film and that will be that. And then there are other people like Jim Broadbent and Paddy Considine who both came up to us and said how much they liked the last one and it certainly gets your mind ticking. Paddy’s part was written with him in mind, and Jim’s as well.

Paddy reminds me of someone doing a Robert De Niro spoof...
He does! He does a really good De Niro impression, so I got him to do it in the film, there’s one scene in particular when he does the [Edgar does an impressive De Niro mug], and I told him to do it! I said ‘do your De Niro, when he says that line, do your Midnight Run face’ and he kept cracking up, it set him off. Probably on the outtakes you’ll see him not being able to quite get through that bit.

He’s hilarious in it...
Some people maybe thought ‘oh that’s a surprising choice’ because you don’t think of Paddy as a comedic actor, but in reality, not only is he really funny in real life, but also, even his first part in Room For Romeo Brass, even though that’s a film that goes very dark at the end and it’s very much a black comedy, he’s still really funny in it. He’s got that kind of energy about him.

I interviewed Eli Roth for Hostel last year, and he brought you up...
We have the same birthday!

He didn’t say that, but he did say that Quentin Tarantino holds movie nights for you two! Did Quentin show you anything that influenced Hot Fuzz?
Quentin does host movie nights, and he’s earnt his place on the thanks list for the simple fact that when I was in LA, not last year, but the year before, he said ‘Hey, I’m going to put on some cop films for you for Hot Fuzz’. He put on The Laughing Policemen, Stuart Rosenberg’s film with Walther Matthau which I’d never seen, then the plan was to go and watch Sin City at 12 o’clock, ‘cause it had just come out. I was really jetlagged, so I said ‘If I fall asleep, don’t be offended.’ And he said ‘No, I understand, you just got off the plane. Don’t worry, I’ll wake you up when it’s my bit.’ I did fall asleep and he did nudge me when it came up to his sequence (laughs). I have seen it properly since.

It sounds like fun...
It’s always great when he puts something on. He’s very thoughtful and generous, like the sort of person who makes lots of compilations for other people. He likes programming for people’s moods, almost like he’s a movie chef. He’s like ‘Hey, I’ve got some British films to show you, you won’t have seen these, they’re really obscure.’

There’s one other thing I want to say, this isn’t in the production notes, or on the credits yet, but Robert Rodriguez does two bits of music in the film which, as is his way, he did for a pound.

That’s more than Quentin...
Quentin Tarantino paid him a dollar, I paid him a quid, which means I paid him double what Quentin did. He got two dollars.

The film’s very violent, especially in the context of a comedy. What was the thinking behind that?
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, action films suddenly amped up the violence. I think it goes along with my memories of the first 18 videos that I watched and when you watch things like Die Hard and specifically Robocop or Last Boy Scout, where suddenly the violence gets really violent and it’s graphic and it’s the kind of thing that’s designed to make 14-year-old boys go, ‘Wow! A man’s head just went kersplat!’

Was Tarantino himself an influence?
A lot of people sometimes say, ‘Oh it’s a great cop spoof’ and I think it’s not really a spoof, what both Shaun and Hot Fuzz are is celebrations of the genre and we’re making the film because we love those films, we’re not making the film because we hate them or we think they’re stupid. Even the clichés, it’s totally a festival of thriller conventions and clichés, and that’s what makes it so fun to write, so we’re kind of revelling in it. In the same way that Quentin approaches his films, like Kill Bill is his revenge film, Jackie Brown is his Blaxploitation film, I’m not comparing myself to him, at all, on record, but I’d like to think we’re slightly more in that vein than the Zucker brothers or something.

Have you thought about your next project?
No, not yet. Both of these things came about because they’re both the genres that are very dear to me, and also it felt like Shaun was a film set in North London, which is where we live now, and Hot Fuzz is set in the West Country which is where Simon and I grew up, on an organic level that was the inspiration.

And of course, doing the cop genre is born out of growing up in a sleepy town where nothing happens and watching a lot of those films as a teenager and having those crazy escapist daydreams of wreaking carnage and destruction, and the amateur films that I used to make as a teenager would all be about that. There’d be no attempt at social realism or naturalism, it would all be about things that would not happen in my home town and this is no different.

So, if Hot Fuzz had a message what would it be?
Halfway through the film, Nick Frost’s character shows Simon’s character a double-bill of Point Break and Bad Boys 2 in answer to the fact that Simon’s character is job drunk - completely obsessed with the job - he finds it unable to switch off his brain, and it’s affected his social life, it’s affected his relationship. Danny’s prescription for that is to show him Point Break and Bad Boys 2, so essentially the message of the film is, you know what? Sometimes it’s nice to just switch off your brain and enjoy some dumb fun.

Sam Ashurst is a London-based film maker, journalist, and podcast host. He's the director of Frankenstein's Creature, A Little More Flesh + A Little More Flesh 2, and co-hosts the Arrow Podcast. His words have appeared on HuffPost, MSN, The Independent, Yahoo, Cosmopolitan, and many more, as well as of course for us here at GamesRadar+.