Think comedy is easy? Think again.
Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, star and director, respectively, and cowriters of Hot Fuzz, have been working nose-to-the-grindstone pretty much since the day they wrapped their zombie-movie spoof Shaun of the Dead.
From the office they share in central London, the two men spent hundreds of hours in 2005 poring over materials in preparation for the writing, and filming, of their just-out pic - in which Pegg stars as a London super-cop unhappily transferred to a sleepy English village.
Well, at least they went through a lot of DVDs.
"We watched as much inspirational material as we could, which came out to about 138 films, to reacquaint ourselves with the language of action cinema," says Pegg. "We needed to get really familiar with all the cliches and the conventions - not that we weren't already, but it was a refresher course. Also [they watched] films about small communities, films like Passport to Pimlico and Local Hero and Dead and Buried and The Wicker Man.
"We just wanted to be fluent in the language of the genre, when we started writing."
In Hot Fuzz, Pegg's by-the-book big-city cop gets partnered with a bumbling, pudgy village constable - played by Shaun of the Dead trouper Nick Frost. Over the course of the next two hours (yeah, it's long), Pegg and Frost become a sort of Anglophonic Gibson and Glover, or Lawrence and Smith, Lethal Weapon-ing and Bad Boy-ing across the English countryside.
In addition to wearing out their digits with the DVD remote, Messrs. Pegg and Wright did some actual legwork in preparation for Hot Fuzz.
"There was practical research with the police, which we did in London and in the West Country," Pegg reports. "We were out and about with the Metropolitan Service, seeing how they do things in the city, and then we went down to the countryside for a week . . . and interviewed police officers and tried to get all the procedural background in our heads.
"When we did Shaun of the Dead, we didn't really need to research, rather than watch a few films, because we were already experts in zombies - and also experts in living in an untidy flat playing video games.
"But we had no experience being a police officer, nor knew anything about police procedure. We really were completely in the dark, so we had to get out there and get involved."
Hot Fuzz, which is already a whopping great hit in its homeland ($40 million in box office since mid-February), boasts a bigger, better-known cast than Shaun. Timothy Dalton, once a James Bond, is on board as the village's supermarket proprietor. Jim Broadbent, a fixture of British cinema, is the local police chief. Bill Nighy, Billie Whitelaw, Edward Woodward (a star of the original Wicker Man), Paddy Considine, Patricia Franklin and Anne Reid are all game for the parody.
As for Pegg, in the role of the serious and seriously fit Sgt. Angel, he had to keep a straight face while all about him were losing theirs.
"It was tough for me to be the sort of serious center to the film, even though everything around [Angel] is comic. . . . I found the only way I could cope with it was to pull ridiculously stupid faces after Edgar shouted 'Cut!' I'd have all this tomfoolery bubbling inside me, and I couldn't use it in any way."
Yes, real acting was required.
"He has to be this emotionless robot - that's part of the journey of the film, that he becomes a human being," explains Pegg, who is 37 and has two other films - The Good Night and Run, Fat Boy, Run - due out later in the year.
"In a way, if Shaun of the Dead was about learning how to be responsible," he says, "Hot Fuzz is about a guy who's learning how to get loose, how not to be a robot."
Festival wrap. The 16th Philadelphia Film Festival came to a close Wednesday, leaving in its wake thousands of satisfied but exhausted moviegoers, and a team of tired but triumphant festival organizers and volunteers.
Prizes were handed out, of course, and here are some of the results:
The Archie Award (in memory of Philadelphia cineaste Archie Perlmutter) for best first-time director: Andrea Arnold, for the Scottish police thriller Red Road.
The jury award for best feature film: Tazza: The High-Rollers (director Choi Dong-hoon).
Jury award for best documentary: The Cats of Mirikitani (director Linda Hattendorf).
Jury award for debut feature: Broken English (director Zoe Cassavetes).
Jury award for best director: Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine for War/Dance.
Jury award for American independent: Rocket Science (director Jeffrey Blitz).
And awards voted by the audience:
Best Documentary: Judy Toll: The Funniest Woman You've Never Heard Of (directed by Gary Toll).
Danger After Dark: Severance (directed by Christopher Smith).
Best Feature: La Vie En Rose (directed by Olivier Dahan).
For more info, wrap-ups, photos, Fest Indies prizes and whatnot, log onto: http://phillyfests.com.
Short subjects. The film version of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited - already a much-loved British miniseries (1981, with Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons) - is getting set to roll in Oxfordshire with Matthew Goode, Ben Whishaw, Hayley Atwell, Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon. Miramax (The Queen) is financing and will release next year. . . . Phillip Roth's The Dying Animal is getting filmized. The novella's about a 70-year-old professor and a 24-year-old student who, years after their affair, reunite when she brings him shocking news. (Shocking! I tell you, shocking!) Sir Ben Kingsley will play the prof, Penelope Cruz his student, and Debbie Harry, Dennis Hopper and Peter Sarsgaard will watch from the wings. Directing will be Isabel Coixet, of the 2003 Sarah Polley festival circuit hit, My Life Without Me. . . . Children of Men's very cool Clive Owen is set to star in The International, about an Interpol agent and a corrupt cartel of global bankers. Run Lola Run's Tom Tykwer will direct. The World Bank's Paul Wolfowitz will probably not appear.