Several weeks before Hot Fuzz's now-successful launch, Edgar Wright seemedremarkably relaxed for someone on the verge of unleashing the much-anticipated follow-up to 2004's Shaun Of The Dead. It is not only fans, but also the industry waiting to see if the new film can match the runaway success of the low-budget British zombie comedy Shaun, which cost only $7.8m (£4m) to make but raked in more than $30m at the worldwide box office. The stakes are higher with cop comedy Hot Fuzz, which had a budget more than double Shaun's.
'The only way to deal with that kind of pressure is to kind of ignore it and try to just plow on with what you feel in your gut,' Wright says. 'You can only work as hard as you can on making the film and doing the press. You can't (worry about the box-office performance). I never worked as hard at anything as I did on this one.'
Hot Fuzz starts as a smaller, very British, story of an overachieving London cop (Simon Pegg, who co-wrote both films) who is reassigned to a sleepy countryside village where he is paired with a hapless partner (Nick Frost, another Shaun veteran). But more sinister activities emerge, and by the end of the film, as Wright quips, 'we're in full-on Bruckheimer mode for the last 30 minutes' with American-style chases and shootouts.
A long time in the making
Pegg and Wright had the idea for this cop concept before Shaun was released, and they spent 18 months on-and-off working on the script. As with Shaun, Working Title Films produced with Nira Park at Big Talk Productions, which also produced Wright and Pegg's cult hit TV show Spaced.
Pegg and Wright wanted to study the cop-thriller and murder-mystery cliches they were parodying (and/or celebrating), so they watched hundreds of films - from Dirty Harry to The Blue Lamp to The Big Sleep. They also did research with police. 'We spoke to a lot of police officers, hung out with police in London and went to the countryside to do a tour of 15 stations,' Wright remembers. 'That was fascinating. We wanted (genuine) stories to give the plot validity. The escaped swan is a true story, for example.'
Wright is hopeful that Shaun fans will find something to connect with when Universal launches the film in the UK on February 14 (followed by an April 13 launch in the US through Universal/Focus genre arm Rogue). 'You do feel that pressure to come up with new ideas but still keep what people liked the last time,' he says. 'Although there are stylistic similarities with Shaun and the sense of humour is similar, the characters are different.'
Working with the higher budget did not feel more luxurious because the film was ambitious for its 11 weeks of mostly location shooting. 'In terms of schedule and ambition, and shot list and achieving it, it was constantly at breaking point. That's a good kind of pressure to have,' Wright says. 'When I show it to director or producer friends, they think it looks like it cost more than its budget, which is great.'
The star power also helps the film feel larger - in addition to Pegg and Frost, the cast includes Jim Broadbent, Steve Coogan, Edward Woodward, Timothy Dalton and Paddy Considine, as well as an Oscar-winning actress in an uncredited (and unrecognisable) cameo.
Retaining the British essence
The Britishness of the project was important to Wright and Pegg. 'We don't try to edit ourselves to think about what would travel ... what was encouraging was that the international market just got it with Shaun,' Wright says.
Working Title gave the film-makers the freedom to make the project what they wanted. 'The (Working Title) team is very hands-off in terms of the shoot, but in a good way,' Wright says. 'They're there for you when you need them: if there's a crisis or you need back-up then they get involved. It's a relationship that may continue in the future, although the two-picture deal is now completed. 'Eric (Fellner) is very keen to do something with us and I would love to do something else with Working Title if it was the right project,' Wright says.
Wright and Pegg have both been in demand since Shaun took off. They've been able to pick and choose projects - for instance turning down a lucrative Hollywood rewrite job to concentrate on the Hot Fuzz script instead. 'There have been very tempting approaches, but they haven't felt right in my gut,' Wright says.
Wright has a slew of future projects. This month, he is working with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse project to shoot a trailer for a non-existent film. He is also developing two projects for Universal - the first is Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which he will direct after developing a script with Michael Bacall, adapted from Bryan Lee O'Malley's book about a rock musician who battles his girlfriend's ex-boyfriends. 'It has elements of romance, deadpan comedy and huge fights,' Wright says excitedly.
Also for Universal, he will direct Them, which Mike White is adapting, based on Jon Ronson's non-fiction book. There's also Ant-Man to co-write and direct for Marvel. And the Shaun and Fuzz team plans to reunite. 'I'd like to do another project with Simon,' Wright says, adding with a laugh: 'A third part of whatever kind of trilogy this is!'
WRIGHT'S NEXT PROJECTS
- Trailer for non-existent film for Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse project
- Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, romantic comedy-meets-action film for Universal
- Them, paranoid thriller scripted by Mike White, also for Universal
- Ant-Man, bigger-budget comic book adaptation for Marvel.