‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ star Nick Frost talks to Ryan Cullen about being a waiter, and his long lasting friendship with Simon Pegg, thumb being a geek and how Steven Spielberg is a “bloody nice bloke”.
A cult hero in the comedy world from his roles as Mike, the war-obsessive gun fiend in Channel 4’s 1999 slacker sitcom ‘Spaced’, to his infamous roles in ‘Shaun of the Dead’,’ Hot Fuzz’ and the alien comedy ‘Paul’.
In most of his television and film escapades, he played the annoying, stupider but funnier sidekick to his best friend and co-writer, Simon Pegg. From his first appearance on ‘Spaced’ you could arguably tell that he was destined for the big screen. Although he claims to have been an amazing waiter in his time, Nick Frost has undoubtedly come on leaps and bounds since he first was asked to play the part of Mike in ‘Spaced’.
Within a few moments of talking to Nick Frost he has me as giddy as a schoolgirl watching Dawson’s Creek. His character and enthusiasm flows and his voice welcoming. His friendly nature and general air of humour are what has made him a fan favourite in many of the shows and films he has performed in.
His first notable role came in the form of Mike, an intense character who is best friends with Tim (Simon Pegg). The first series revealed that Mike had been thrown out of the Territorial Army because he stole a Chieftain tank and tried to invade Paris with it while on weekend manoeuvres in France.
The likable character made him very popular among the hip sitcom gazers of the late nineties. Nick tells The Siren that acting wasn’t always what he wanted to do: “It was Simon Pegg really, I never wanted to act, I never really wanted to do anything actually, I was happy being a waiter, I was a good waiter, but I met Simon and we became good friends. He and Jessica (Hynes) then got the chance to write the show ‘Spaced’ and that was it really. It was first thing I ever really acted on and even after the first series, I wasn’t sure if it was for me, so I went back to waiting and more and more stuff gradually just came in and eventually I couldn’t keep my job as a waiter anymore.”
Nick Frost has starred alongside his best friend Simon Pegg in many of his on screen antics with director Edgar Wright topping off the magic combination that has drawn many plaudits and endeared fans worldwide.
Nick tells us about starting off with Simon and Edgar and how this was a vital catalyst in his rise to stardom. “ Yeah, on screen and with our many collaborations in the pub, having a laugh and getting pissed, but yeah ‘Spaced’ is when it began.”
The threesome received critical acclaim for their work on ‘Spaced’, ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ plus many other projects in which they all gave their input of talent: “Once you have been friends with people for twenty odd years, it’s kind of a sure hand really. We like hanging out together and to be honest that’s probably the crux of it. We are friends who like making movies and we like hanging out and that is what we do.”
Nick’s first venture into film was the critically acclaimed and commercially successful ‘Shaun of the Dead’ which told the story of Shaun (Pegg), a man attempting to get some kind of focus in his life as he deals with his girlfriend, his mother and stepfather. At the same time, he has to cope with an apocalyptic uprising of zombies. “Well I’m part of the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright/Nick Frost creative process so after two series of ‘Spaced’ it became quite evident that we wanted to do was to make a film. We were massive fans of George Romero and the stuff that he did, and it was just kind of obvious that we should make a zombie movie.” After the success of ‘Shaun of the Dead’, the trio set their eyes on what now often referred to as ‘The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’ that contains Hot Fuzz and another project scheduled for sometime in the future. Like ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Hot Fuzz was also a major success story.
The film raked in the plaudits, gaining critical acclaim, commercial success and firmly placing the trio as frontrunners in British comedy. I asked Nick if it always the plan to go on from Shaun of the Dead and attempt other works: “We always said that we were in it for the long game and we just want to make films, so after ‘Shaun of the Dead’, as successful as it was, that we were going to do something else. Edgar is particular was a big fan of the buddy cop action genre and that’s what we went for next.”
Nick then tells The Siren that the third of the trilogy is in the works at the moment and they are working on a plan.
It seemed like all Nick had to do was break into America. Although ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ were both successes internationally, the films always had that distinctly British feel and perhaps more importantly; a distinctly British sense of humour.
When it was announced that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were to star in Alien comedy film in America, the mouths of fans worldwide watered. “After Edgar and Simon had written ‘Shaun of the Dead’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ I think that I wanted it to be my turn and I wanted to write something. Simon and I had this idea on the set of ‘Shaun of the Dead’ about six years beforehand about this normal alien who was probably more human than possible but he is an alien from the far reaches of the galaxy. It was a chance to have an alien and a road movie all at the same time.” Although comical in almost all of his works, he did give off the impression that he takes his job seriously and the fact the he travelled across America first to get into the mind-set for the film, only confirms it: “We hired an RV and we drove the route that the guys drive in the film, we started off in Los Angeles we they started off in San Diego. Yea so travelled across, up through Nevada, across into Utah, and then in from Wyoming into Delaware. It took around eight days straight.”
Although iconic movie stars now, Nick tells me how he and Pegg are still very much down to earth and how their creative process involves no fancy gimmicks as one would believe on a Hollywood set: “Yeah there is no big secret to the creative process, it’s very much a case of sitting down, sitting across from one another, we do actually work hard, we work all day. Yeah of course sometimes we don’t work hard enough, I mean sometimes we will come in and we will write an amazing joke which will make us laugh for half an hour and then we would just fuck off home. It won’t get any better than that today so lets just knock it on the head and go see a film.”
Nick also had a role to play in Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn’ where Nick Frost and Simon Pegg were casted as Thomson and Thompson, bumbling detectives who are almost identical. Along with some writing by Edgar Wright, it was clear to see that the lads were on top of their game. Nick tells The Siren about working with one of the greatest film directors ever to grace our screens. “Unlike Simon and Edgar, I wasn’t a massive film geek growing up, with Steven Spielberg and his films being the one exception to that rule. ‘Close Encounters’ was one of the first films I ever really remember watching and having a dramatic affect on me. He just kept on coming with ‘Jaws’ and ‘Indiana Jones’ and his films just were the films of my childhood, so to get a chance to work with him now and to find out that he was as enthusiastic as he was in the seventies and eighties is just amazing, he’s a bloody lovely bloke and a genius when it comes to directing and he is always beautifully dressed all the time which was a real revelation.”
‘Attack the Block’ was one of the first major films that Nick did without Simon and Edgar, showing that he isn’t just Simon’s buddy on and off screen. “Joe Cornish who was a good friend of mine for fifteen years now set up the film through Big Talk Production Company. We are like family so we wanted to make the film, Joe came to me and said that he had written this part for me and would I like to be in it. It was a pleasure and a treat for me to be in it because it’s always nice as an actor that someone thought of you during the writing process. It’s flattering and it’s nice. Absolutely I wanted to do it”.
Simon and Nick have always struck a chord with geeks and their cult status as geeks isn’t hard to see.
Their constant pop culture referencing during Spaced, to their zombie and buddy cop movies and topping it off with an Alien film, the comparisons were always going to be made.
When I gathered myself from Laughing at Nick pausing me to finish off his sandwich, I asked did he ever consider himself a geek? “ Yeah, I think I do, Simon says it quite well, he says that a geek is someone who knows an awful lot about something. Then that simply what it is. Yeah in that definition I suppose I am, I’m a sci-fi geek; I’m also a food geek. I cook a lot so I’m a bit of a cooking geek too, I always seem to get more star struck with famous chefs than I do with actors, so yeah I think I am a geek”.
Nick, particularly in Shaun of the Dead can be seen as a couch potato and I always wondered did he watch a lot of television. “I do yeah but I do have a baby, eight months so I haven’t a lot of time to do things other than with the baby. Certainly before that I try and watch every film and I try and get on that back of good sci-fi series, especially from America; they get a lot of money for television so they do it nicely. I love telly. I always think I’m one of those weird working class people who if I come in or I come downstairs and the television is off, it always meant that something bad had happened”.
His persona is always come across as the dumb, lazy best friend who messes things up for Simon and when I put it to Nick about which character was he most like in real life, he said that “I did a BBC series called ‘Money’ with was a remake of a novel and unfortunately the main character is more like me than any other part I have played.”
Although already hinting at the third instalment of the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’, Nick is not done with Hollywood yet, he tells The Siren “I can’t wait because ‘Ice Age’ is out in July, I do a voice in that and that should be great.”
‘Ice Age: Continental Drift’ will be released in cinemas on July 13th.