Simon Pegg & Nick Frost’s Guide To Road Movies

Put your pedal to the metal and your foot to the floor as the Paul duo salute classic movie road trips…

Dusty Texan sunsets. White hot wheels. Parched, soulful yearnings. Road movies and America go together like Bonnie and Clyde, like Thelma and Louise… like, say, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. “One of the reasons America is so big on road movies is because it facilitates that,” says Pegg. “It’s a big country. You can’t do it in England – here you can get from one end of the country to the other in a day.” Which is exactly why he and Frost set their very own road movie, Paul, in the wilds of America – the kind of sprawling, untameable landscape where two blokes trundling along in an RV can result in all sorts of mishaps. Like, for example, meeting a strange little foul-mouthed alien.

Now that they’re experts on the matter of movies that take to the tarmac, Total Film asked Pegg and Frost to join us on a journey through the land of opportunity. Just what is it that drives road movies? “Incidents, peril, friendship,” muses Frost. “And also vista, geographical location. I think in every good road movie there’s that montage where the laughter and the talking stops, and you hear some Bluegrass and you see the Deep South…”

1. Sideways (2004)Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County, Californoa (130 miles)
Wine snob schlubb (Paul Giamatti) and TV actor fool (Thomas Hayden Church) putter up the coast to sup their way round the winery region for a two-hander stag do. DUIs and rages against Merlot inevitable.
Nick: Fantastic! Lots of nice geographical fodder to gaze at. I love the way a road trip seems to suspend everything that happens in your proper life back home. It’s all put on hold while you’re on the road.
Simon: I love that it’s about the need to discover and for something else in life. It’s a great metaphor for the trials and tribulations of life. It’s about what’s around the next bend; the bumps in the road, the corners, that kind of stuff.

2. Thelma & Louise (1991)Arkansas to the Grand Canyon, Arizona (1685 miles)
A ditzy housewife (Geena Davis) and a hardbitten waitress (Susan Sarandon) roadtrip from Arkansas to Oklahoma, shoot a guy and go on the lam. They’re heading for Mexico (avoiding Texas) but end it all in Arizona’s greatest tourist attraction.
Simon: “It’s a journey of self-discovery and physical journey, and it has this terminal end as well, which is brilliant. They can literally go no further in every way, geographically and in terms of themselves as people.”

3. Little Miss Sunshine (2006) Albuquerque, New Mexico to Redondo Beach, California (812 miles)
When Olive (Abigail Breslin) qualifies for a kiddie beauty pageant her whole fucked-up family climb into a VW camper can for a sweaty, sweary voyage of discovery. Everyone just pretend to be normal…
Simon: When we pitched Paul we said it was like Little Miss Sunshine but with Gollum instead of Alan Arkin. Everyone in that van goes on a sort of a journey and it’s a cracking soundtrack too.
Nick: Steve Carrell has a great beard in that.

4. Easy Rider (1969)Los Angeles, California to New Orleans, Louisiana (2206 miles)
Two bikers (Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper) flog drugs to fund their Route 66 journey to Mardi Gras in ‘Nawlins’. On the trip (in every way) they run into bigots, hippies and Jack Nicholson. Far out.
Simon: That’s a road movie that goes to nowhere but doom. It’s kind of heartbreaking. The campfire scene in Paul is a tribute to the campfire scene in Easy Rider.
Nick: We filmed in Las Vegas, New Mexico where Easy Rider was shot. It’s on at the cinema in Prospect, where Paul disguises himself as a cowboy. And the street that we are walking down is where Jack Nicholson and Henry Fonda meet for the first time.

5. Two Lane Black Top (1971)Needles to East Tennessee (1517 miles)
A pair of unnamed petrolheads race their ’55 Chevy coast to coast against a souped-up GTO. After burning rubber through California, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas the film burns out during a bone-jangling drag race near Memphis.
Nick: I saw that when I was 18, it’s in my DVD collection.
Simon: We went on a lot of two lane blacktops on our road trip. They’re amazing rides because the one in Nevada goes in a straight line to the horizon, so it disappears out of sight, it looks like it goes into a hair-width point in the sky.

6. Vanishing Point (1971)Denver, Colorado to San Francisco, California (1277 miles)
A delivery driver (Barry Newman) is assigned to drive a new Dodge Challenger from Denver to ’Frisco and bets he can do it in record time. Pill popping, cop baiting and wheel spinning through Colorado and Utah, he delivers the car straight into a police roadblock in California. (Inspired the car-fawning in Death Proof.)
Simon: In Vanishing Point it’s a road movie where something’s got to be done but I see road movies as being it’s the journey that’s important, not the destination.

7. Trains, Planes and Automobiles (1987) Wichita, Kansas to Chicago, Illinois (714 miles)
Uptight guy (Steve Martin) and annoying fool (John Candy) take a plane (diverted from Chicago to Wichita due to weather), train (to Missouri), truck (to Jefferson City), bus (to St Louis), rental car (to Illinois) and milk float (Chicago) to get home for Thanksgiving. Those aren’t pillows…
Simon: It’s heart-warming and even though the end is sugary sweet you buy it, you allow it. You can earn that kind of sentimentality.

8. Dumb And Dumber (1994)Providence, Rhode Island to Aspen, Colorado (3539 miles)
Simple chauffeur Lloyd (Jim Carrey) convinces his equally dim friend Harry (Jeff Daniels) to drive a dog van across country to return a lost suitcase to the object of his affection. They accidentally go to Nebraska and complete last leg is completed on tiny scooter with frozen snot.
Nick: That film is so soundtracked! That film has got so much music in it.
Simon: It’s almost like a mix tape. There are so many great moments in that film. The snowball fight. And “You just go man”, and then they get frozen. What’s great about that is they actually go back halfway across America ! It’s great, I love that film.

9. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)Parchman Farm Penitentiary, Tennessee to Arkabutla Lake, Tennessee (102 miles)
Three Depression-era convicts (George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson) escape the chain gang at a Memphis clink and begin a wandering journey via radio fame to find a $1.2million stash in a valley about to flooded by water for a new power station. Get into some darn tight spots…
Nick: I love the Coen Brothers, they’re perfectly suited to doing an American road movie. Their take is old America as well, so it’s pre-vehicle.

10. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)Chicago, Illinois to Walley World, California (2037 miles)
Clark Griswald (Chevy Chase) insists on driving his family across seven states to ‘America’s favourite fun park’ so he can spend some quality time with them. Thanks for the memories of desert breakdowns, dead grandmas and SWAT team stand-offs, Dad…
Nick: Love a bit of Chevy Chase.
Simon: The Griswalds are a kind of bizarrely American family in a structural sense. And to have the whole family on the road together… funny.

Via Total Film

Alien express

Some actors prepare for a film by reading a book or changing their hair colour. For Paul, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost decided to drive across America in an RV. “We did a road trip,” says Pegg. “We did the journey that’s in the film from California down to Miami and had an incredible adventure. A lot of what happened in that trip is included in the film – including meeting an alien.”

Back up, alien? That’s right. Having clashed with zombies and corrupt coppers, Pegg and Frost figured it was high time they took on the universe. Sort of. Like all their other ballistic buddy-ups, Paul – the first film script the pair have pot roasted together – promises a sandstorm of gags, guffaws and gripping drama.

Unlike their other films, this one has a filthy little alien (that’ll be Paul), who’s voiced by Seth Rogen and rendered on-screen by CGI.

“I studied with Andy Serkis for years,” jokes Rogen. “I was thrilled by how funny it was. Then I was told I would be wearing a spandex costume for a week. I was excited to take this technology that many very smart people have taken a very long time developing and pretend to jack-off with it.”

Discovered by Pegg and Frost’s characters when they embark on a Stateside road trip, Paul – a diminutive ‘grey’ who’s sort of a cross between American Dad’s Roger and a fratboy stoner – causes chaos for our intrepid fanboys. Chaos that’s helmed by none other than Superbad director Greg Mottola.

“If I could ever make a movie as good as Shaun Of The Dead I’d retire,” Mottola sighs. With Paul’s cast featuring the likes of Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Jeffrey Tambor and first lady of sci-fi Sigourney Weaver, he may have just made that movie.

Nick Frost Q&A
Pegg’s right-hand man talks road trips and being a thug…

Is Paul the first time you’ve written with Simon Pegg?
We’ve written lots of weird sketches and sitcoms together. But this was the first thing that we saw through to the end. To the climax, if you will.

How was the road trip?
The thing about doing a road trip in America is you draw the route on a big map, and it doesn’t look that far. Then after you’ve been driving for 10 hours the first day you realise you’ve gone a centimetre. It takes so long.

What got you into films?
Meeting Simon when I was 21 years old. Before meeting Simon I was a bit of a thick thug. Now I’m a slightly smarter thug.

Would you ever work with Jessica Stevenson again?
[joking, we think] I’ll say no.

Via Total Film

Review of the Year 2007

It’s that time of year again. A time for reflection and rumination – another 365 days are drawing to a close, another year of triumphs, of changes and challenges. And, naturally, there are lists every which way you turn – lists collecting the best and worst of 2007; who committed the most fashion disasters?, who was the breakthrough act?, what was the stand-out film? Now, I’m not one to follow the crowd (unless it’s going somewhere like Chocolate Land), but I thought I might as well pitch in with my two cents. So here’s my (entirely biased) countdown of what I will remember 2007 for…

1. Heroes
Predictably, this hybrid sci-fi/soap tops the list. Drawing on everything from The X-Files, X-Men, Lost and innumerable comic book publications, Heroes’ ensemble super-hero dramatics managed to re-ignite interest in sci-fi TV just when things were looking their bleakest. With its slick production values, killer casting and adrenaline-junkie pacing, Heroes’ riveting first season was a powerhouse exercise in serialised storytelling. Show me anybody in the Earth’s western terrain who hasn’t heard the phrase, “Save the cheerleader, save the world”, and I’ll eat my own hat.* As Bionic Woman struggles toward inevitable cancellation, Heroes is still head of the pack.

B. McLovin
“I am McLovin,” declares dorky high-schooler Fogell as he flourishes a Hawaii driving license replete with that very moniker. A sly allegory for the grow-up-fast society in which we now live, perhaps? Nah, more like one of the many outrageously funny inventions of Superbad, the first teen comedy since American Pie to break genuinely entertaining ground to side-splitting ends.

C. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
We loved them in Spaced. We loved them in Shaun of the Dead. And this year, we loved them in Hot Fuzz. The Golden Couple-Who-Aren’t-Actually-A-Couple Of Comedy, Pegg and Frost do the buddy cop thing with all the banter, choppy edits and quotable one-liners we’d expect of them. “Is it true that there’s a point on a man’s head where if you shoot it, it will blow up?” asks Frost’s Danny. Dynamite stuff.

4. Blockbusters that began with S
Sunshine, Spider-Man 3, Stardust, Southland Tales. All of varying quality, but all memorable in their own way. Top dog is Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, with its old school thrills and remarkable visuals. Spider-Man 3 got a bad rep for its crowded storyline, but as the final act in a trilogy it worked brilliantly. Comic book fans bemoaned the treatment of villain Venom – personally I thought he/it made an interesting and worthwhile adversary. And then there’s Stardust, a fantasy love story brought to life with sparkling wit and touching sentiment. Oh, and Michelle Pfeiffer rocks.

5. Blade Runner: Final Cut (at last!)
So many cuts and editions and “Special” this and “Director’s” that. It’s with a sigh of relief that Blade Runner has finally been put to bed after 25 years of alterations and differing editions. The Final Cut is dazzling in its visual clarity, while the tweaks in special effects are barely noticeable and only deepen the sense of realism that was always Blade Runner’s calling card. So is Deckard a Replicant? The debate continues, and long may it do so.

F. Shia LaBeouf
Who’da thunk that funny-lookin fella of Holes fame would become venerable Man of the Year 2007? Possessed of an easy, boy-next-door-if-you-live-in-Hollywood charm, LaBeouf proved invaluable to the likes of Transformers and Disturbia. Charismatic without being smarmy, hysterical without even trying, LaBeouf deserves every second of his success. Bring on Indie 4.

7. Studio Ghibli
For shame, yes, this was the year that I finally discovered Ghibli. Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke, how did I ever live without these flicks in my life? Delightfully imaginative and beautifully animated, their nearest rival is Pixar. Only this year’s Tales From Earthsea was a letdown.

H. Travolta in drag
Because I’m lazy, an excerpt from my TF review… “Like its stage-to-screen cousin Dreamgirls, Hairspray tackles serious notions with a twinkly-eyed flamboyance. Moments of sentiment bring gravitas to the whimsical premise, while catchy tunes are grounded by wry, knowing lyrics that cut at the bigger issues. A flashy, breathless audio-visual banquet, Hairspray ensures that any musical hereafter has mighty stilettos to fill.”

9. Cinema-size Simpsons
Eighteen years in the making, countless plot changes and sky high expectations, finally Homer and jaundiced co made it to the big screen. Critics were split right down the middle – some called it nothing more than an extended TV episode, others praised it for being on-par with the classic stories of yester-year. “Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig, doing whatever a Spider-Pig does…”. Brilliant.

J. Tarantino’s Death Proof
Sliced away from its Grindhouse sibling, the Tarantino half of his and Rodriguez’s homage to ‘70s exploitation flicks is the T-Man’s most unusual to date. Typically dialogue-stuffed, it’s a good 45 minutes before the chatter ceases and a shock of truly epic proportions leaps from the screen. The final elaborate car chase will go down in history.

11. Amy Adams as Disney princess
For kiddies, Enchanted was probably their first glimpse of Adams. Aside from her critically-lauded performance in Junebug, the eagle-eyed viewer will have spotted her in everything from mockumentary Drop Dead Gorgeous and Leo DiCaprio vehicle Catch Me If You Can, to guest spotting in a plethora of prime-time shows (Smallville and Charmed to name a few). As Enchanted‘s Princess Giselle, Adams is pitch perfect – she can act, she can sing, she can dance. We really should hate her. Someone give this girl a prize. Go on.

Also: Joss Whedon departed Wonder Woman (sob!) Transformers ruled. ‘Nuff saidAmy Macdonald released her excellent debut albumIndiana Jones 4 was awarded a title: Kingdom of the Crystal SkullRay Winstone and Angelina Jolie received CGI makeovers in better-than-expected BeowulfAND David Lynch ascended to new levels of nuts with Laura Dern and human-sized bunnies in Inland Empire.

*My hat is, of course, invisible.