Exclusive Interview : Edgar Wright


Clint Morris talks to some “Hot Fuzz”

With the success of his amusing monster movie “Shaun of the Dead”, U.K-based writer/director Edgar Wright found himself in a pretty plum position: Suddenly he didn’t have to fight tooth and nails to get a film made anymore… he could essentially ‘tell’ the studio what he’d be doing next. Appropriately, having spoofed the horror genre in his first film, Wright decided he’d like to take the Mickey out of the action movie this time around – and thus, “Hot Fuzz” was born. Over a cup of green tea, Wright discusses the films conception – and the legacy of the modern-day action hero – to CLINT MORRIS.

I was just reading an interview with you; in which you were discussing the next “Die Hard” movie. You said, because of the fact that Bruce Willis is completely bald in the new sequel (“Die Hard 4.0”) that it doesn’t feel the same. You know what? I totally agree. It’s just plain wrong that he hasn’t got the receding hairline in this one.
Yeah! Couldn’t they have CGI’d the receding hairline in!? Bruce Willis is good bald, but it kinda feels like you’re watching Butch Coolidge (from “Pulp Fiction”) or “Hostage” running around. He doesn’t even have his vest on; it’s a leather jacket. They nailed it in “Die Hard: With a Vengeance” – the first two thirds of that film were great.

If they’d wanted to do this – have Bruce Willis play a guy that’s kinda-but-not-exactly-like John McClane – they should’ve just called “Hostage”, “Die Hard 4”.
Well even “Die Hard” – certainly the second one – started out as something else. All of the “Die Hard” movies were other novels, weren’t they?

They were, yeah. That’s always the way, though. It happens the other way around too, though: for instance, they were going to make an “Under Siege 3”, but now it’s been re-written as a stand-alone action vehicle.
That’s funny. Better that it’s not “Under Siege 3”, probably. I was never a big [Steven] Seagal fan actually – I’d never actually seen any of his films, until I started writing this [“Hot Fuzz”], and then I watched a couple of his films. I watched “Out for Justice”, which is actually quite entertaining – about 80 minutes long; William Forsythe as the baddie – who was brilliant in it, but how could he be the opponent? How could he be the big boss at the end of it? He was so out of shape! [Laughs]

The films that you spoofed in “Hot Fuzz” – even your “Point Break”s – just don’t exist anymore.
Except, of course, your “Bad Boys” movies.

Speaking of which, it’d seem you’re a bigger fan of “Bad Boys II” than you are “Bad Boys”. Really?
I’m not really a massive fan of either, though I do prefer the second one judge on the strength of the carnage. You could criticise the film til the cows come home, but its like a noughtie’s “Freebie and the Bean” – really enormous, extravagant, car-chases and wrecks; lots of banter – some of it funny, some of it really unfunny…. But you can’t say you didn’t get your moneys worth with it. It’s 120 million dollars of carnage. So, I appreciated it on that level. I think what you mean though is that all those 80s B-movies and direct-to-video actioners seem to be disappearing – all of the action films now are much bigger, and are like the “Mission: Impossible” movies and the “Bourne Supremacy”.
I tell ya who is flying the flag for that genre though is Jason Statham. Some of his films I don’t like so much – though I did like “Crank”; I thought that was good – but he’s totally great within his range. He’s kinda like the new Charles Bronson. I’m sure if Jason Statham were around in the 60s he would’ve been in a Sergio Leone film. He does two things well – he glowers and he swims.

And he knows how to pick up Aussie women.
What’s that? Really?

Yeah, he’s with Sophie Monk – the Australian girl; she was the chick with the big jugs in “Date Movie”.
I’m going to have to watch “Date Movie” now.

Nah you don’t.
Listen, you said Big Jugs… that’s all I needed to hear. [Laughs]

So who do you think are the big action stars of today, then?
Well, I quickly retracted it, but when the first “Pitch Black” came out I thought it was great, and I thought Vin Diesel was great. I just haven’t enjoyed much of his stuff lately. I think the problem with Diesel is that if he had stayed stationary, doing those types of movies, he would’ve fared better. Clint Eastwood branched out, sure, but he stayed in that genre for ten years before he started to branch out.

Yeah, he broke out too early.
Yeah, or, like, that “Chronicles of Riddick” movie was just too, well . . .pretentious. I didn’t wanna see “Dune”, I wanted to see “Pitch Black”.

I think if there’s one sequel he should have done at the time it was the follow-up to “XXX”, because that’s the one that could’ve done something for him – he owned that first movie – not to mention been a nice payday for him. Instead, he went and did “The Pacifier”.
Oh, I haven’t seen “The Pacifier”.

Anyway, lets get onto “Point Break” – what’s the appeal there?
I showed it the other day to a theatre audience in London – we had a little festival of cop films I like – and the thing with that film is that it’s a very silly script, with amazing direction. Kathryn Bigelow’s direction – and the camera work – is so brilliant, but yet the story is so implausible, and the dialogue is so silly…. You can watch it as a good action film, or you can watch it as a camp classic. Watching it with an audience the other day … it was great, it was hilarious. One of my favourite action scenes of all time is the chase!

So you had to put that in your movie, “Hot Fuzz”?
There’s lots of good chase scenes in action movies anyway – “French Connection”, “Bustin’” etc – and I’m a big fan of them, but “Point Break” has one of the great ones. “Narc” has a great one, too.

How did you come up with the title? I know some people down here think it has to do with ‘sweaty moustaches’?
Well, “Fuzz” means ‘Cops’.

Yeah, and believe it or not, I’ve even had to tell a couple of people that.
What’s funny is that a couple of people in the states thought it was a British thing – its actually an American expression; it’s a thirties American expression. It got popular in the U.K because of things like “The Sweeney” and “Supergrass”. Nobody actually seems to know the exact reasoning behind the name “Fuzz”, but one of the theories is that in the thirties the cops use to have beards and moustaches – face “Fuzz” – so people would say, “Here come the Fuzz”. But the reason its called that is because a lot of the action films of that era – that late 80s ones – were of the two word type; a few of them made since – “Under Siege” makes sense, “Die Hard” kinda makes sense, “Lethal Weapon” is referred to in the script – but then there’s others – like “Cold Heat”, “Silent Rage” – that don’t. So, it was always a two-word title and it always had to sound cool… but not necessarily mean anything.

Unlike Seagal, who always had the three-word title: “Marked For Death”, “Out for Justice”…
My favourite one – granted, I’ve never seen the film – is “Half Past Dead” – what a title that is! I’d love to make a sequel to that called “Quarter to Dead”!

You’re too late. They’ve already done it. It’s got Bill Goldberg in it.
“Half Past Dead 2”?

Don’t know what it’s called actually.
It should be “Quarter to Dead” – “Five to Dead”…. Maybe “Ten Past Dead”? I like it, it’s a prequel. “Half Past Dead” is probably one of the best titles of all time… what the hell does it mean? Are there any references to clocks in the film?

Hey, didn’t they shoot “Tom Yum Goong” here?

That was shot in Sydney, I believe.
“Mr Nice Guy” was shot here, though, right?

Yep. It was.
There ya go – I recognize it. I liked that film actually. Back to Seagal, I was just thinking, I like the fact that he’s now taking parts from the titles of his old movies and making new titles out of them… isn’t there one called “Out for a Kill”?

I think he should make one called “Hard for Justice”. There are quite a few [Seagal movies] that I need to catch up on, what would you recommend?

Anything between 1990 and 1994 – “Hard to Kill” and so on…
Cool. Is it a weight thing? Is that why his films aren’t that good today?

Multitude of things – check out his latest “Flight of Fury”, and you’ll see what I mean. Maybe go for something like “Marked for Death”… one of the earlier ones.
I watched quite a lot of the Chuck Norris ones, too. I watched “Code of Silence”. I watched “Silent Rage”. That’s quite an odd film that. You can tell that the director tried really hard with the shots, but I reckon what happened was the producer came down and said ‘What kind of shit is this?! Just shoot it! Keep it wide!’ It’s funny when you see a movie like that, and there’s an amazing shot somewhere in the film that just seems out of place. Its like that film, “Death Line”, the horror film – there’s this amazing shot in the middle of the film, and I’d love to ask the director whether that shot was done right at the start of the schedule or right at the end, cos everything else is shot in a sort of non-specific fashion and then all of a sudden you’ve got this amazing shot. “Invasion U.S.A” we also watched – in fact Joseph Zito, the director, gets a mention in our film. “Hero and the Terror” was Norris’s worst one… the baddie was Jack O’Halloran from “Superman II” [Laughs].

Because “Shaun of the Dead” was a success, was “Hot Fuzz” easier to get up?
Yeah it was. We were with the same company, Working Title, and they were very keen to do another film [with us]. Just as difficult, if not more difficult, to write though – just because we decided we wanted to do some proper research [this time]. Unlike “Shaun” and “Spaced”, where it’s just about slackers in their twenties-early thirties, we’re not police officers, so we actually did a lot of research with the real cops. It was great. It was really fascinating. I can really recommend, to any writer, to get out there and do the method stuff. I mean, people probably see some of the stuff in the film as silly stuff… but they’re actually derived from real anecdotes; like the escaped Swan. We also got to ask Cops about movies, and whether they thought Hollywood did things accurately or inaccurately. We actually gave the cops a questionnaire, and one of the questions was “Which part of your job do you never see on screen?” and they all said ‘Paper Work’; it’s fifty-percent of the job. I’m going to continue to do that – research stuff, more.

Researching “Ant-Man”?
Obviously I can’t interview anyone that’s got shrinking serum, [but] in terms of who the characters are though – yeah. Nanotechnology and all that. We have done a bit of research on it, yeah – and will continue to do so. It’s great. It’s really fascinating.

Were you a fan of the “Ant-Man” stuff?
I did read a bit of “The Avengers” as a kid, and I especially liked the Scott Lang character – by David Michelinie and John Byrne – and, of course, the imagery. I think “Ant Man” is one of those characters that the writers got bored with after about ten or fifteen issues so they’d go “What do we do now? – Hey, lets make him Giant-Man!” Then he became Yellowjacket… and the character changed… its interesting, he seems sort of like the runt-of-the-litter in the comics world, and that’s exactly what appeals to me [about it]. On top of that, the visuals of him could be absolutely extraordinary. I really like the idea of doing an action film with a miniature element to it. Most ‘Shrinking’ films are about people being scared of Shrinking – “Incredible Shrinking Man”, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” – this is a film about how ‘Cool’ it would be to have that power, ya know?

Where’s it at at the moment?
It’s very early days; that’s something that I was involved with even before “Shaun of the Dead”.

Is it a solo thing for you?
Well, I’m not writing with Simon [Pegg] – whether Simon or Nick [Frost] end up being in it, I don’t know – but it’s something I’m writing alone, yeah. I first got involved with this, just after “Spaced”, when I visited a company who had all the Marvel proxies – they mentioned it then. I then saw the Marvel guys again later on, and it came up again. I told them ‘there’s something about [Ant-Man] that really intrigues me’.

And you’re doing “Them”?
Yeah, Mike White is writing it. That’s a really interesting idea. We’re developing it together – he just went off and did a film, “The Year of the Dog”, and so did I, obviously, so we’ve both been busy – we’re ready to start it up again.

HOT FUZZ is now showing.