Q&A: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost of ‘Paul’ may soon need to put their on-screen bromance to rest

"What's so weird about two guys wearing one shirt?"
(Lenny Gilmore/RedEye)
RedEye movie critic

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost may not be as geeky as their sci-fi-loving characters in their new film, “Paul,” but they can relate to their especially close relationship.

“We live in our own little world and we have our own little gags,” says Pegg, who also co-wrote the movie with Frost, “and we can be in a crowd of people and they cannot understand what we’re saying to each other.”

That shorthand bond already has served the long-time, off-screen friends—Pegg says Frost knows him better than his wife does—in cult classics such as the zombiefied “Shaun of the Dead” and action-movie blowout “Hot Fuzz.”

In “Paul,” opening Friday, Pegg is Graeme and Frost is Clive, two comic book fans whose road trip to see famous UFO locations (Area 51; Roswell, N.M.) hits unexpected levels when they’re joined by a laid-back alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). Frost, 38, says the film is the British funnymen’s “love letter to Steven Spielberg.”


At the Peninsula Hotel, Pegg (seen in the previous and upcoming installments of “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek”), 41, and Wright talked about life on other planets, limits to Justin Bieber’s popularity and why they’ll soon have to play characters who hate each other.

When I interviewed you guys about “Hot Fuzz,” you talked about how being action heroes let you look cooler than you really are. Why did you want to look geekier than you really are in “Paul”?
Simon Pegg: That’s a very good question.
Nick Frost: We’re going to our extremes. For you, Nicholas Angel [from “Hot Fuzz”] is like your hardest and most fierce and most athletic and Danny [from “Hot Fuzz”] is my most stupid. I think these two characters, Graeme and Clive, are our nerdiest and our characters in “Shaun of the Dead” were certainly our most stoned and laziest. I think we’ve been all of them at different times, and not necessarily all the ones I’ve played have been me or all [of his characters] have been him. I think you’ve got to bring a bit of yourself, even if it’s 8 percent, for people to believe it.
SP: Also they had to be [geeky] because when we came up with the idea, it was like, “Who would be the funniest people to meet an alien?” And it would be two alien freaks. Two people who were into that [bleep]. Paul even says, “You’re a sci-fi nerd, I’m an alien; we should get on really well.”

They couldn’t be star college quarterbacks.
SP: Exactly. They’d be like (macho voice), “What the [bleep]”
NF: They’d beat him to death.
SP: (redneck voice) “Where the [bleep] is that little [bleep], get him!”

If you woke up and suddenly had an alien pal who wants to hang out, what would you do with him?
NF: Let’s go to Giordano’s! [Ed. Note: They had deep-dish pizza for the first time the night before this interview.] Let’s have a pie!
SP: More pizza. He’d have to have [live exotic birds] on his though. “This is delicious!” The first thing would be just a lot of questions.
NF: I think we’d bring it to one side and we’d say, (whispers), “Just go home.”
SP: “It’s not worth it.”
NF: “Don’t let us pollute you with our filth.”
SP: “It’s a [bleephole] here.”
NF: I’d say go to Sequoia National Park [in California]. Drink it in, then go home.

You always play characters who love each other. Could you ever play people who hated each other? And will you?
NF: Absolutely. I think we have to. If we do the same thing again, I think from a practical point of view and for someone who enjoys cinema, this s*** will get old. People will get tired of a bromance. And the zeitgeisty thing for bromances at the moment is going to pass eventually, and with that so, too, will people’s love of what we do.
SP: I think we’ve said as much about [bromance] as we can anyway. I think hate is actually a similar emotion to love. It’s about obsessing about someone, albeit negatively when love is positively. So to play two characters that hated each other would probably be as easy because …
NF: We have an idea about these two guys who hated each other so much the final scene was them [bleeping]. They just hated each other so much that the only way they could get over it was just to [bleep].
SP: On a burning boat.

Do you believe in life on other planets?
SP: I would bet everything I own that there is life on other planets. Because there surely must be. But I don’t believe in them visiting. I don’t believe that they’d land in spaceships and stick their fingers up our asses. I think the distance between our planets is just too great to traverse. We think we’re capable of anything and we’re not. We’re just flesh and blood and we can’t make those distances and we probably never will unless we somehow figure out teleporting.
NF: Even then, where are you going to teleport to?
SP: Exactly.
NF: Even bacteria on a rock somewhere is alien life. It doesn’t have to come down here and stick its fingers up our asses.
SP: It can if it wants.
NF: It can if it wants, you know.
SP: If I came to Nick and said, “Nick, I got abducted my aliens,” it would really freak Nick out ‘cause he’d have to believe me ‘cause he knows I always tell him the truth.
NF: I know he’s not crazy. I know he tells me the truth. I know he’s not f***ing around.

In the film your characters’ strong bond is mistaken for them being gay lovers. How much do you think Americans mistake Britishness for being gay?
SP: [Laughs.]
NF: We talked about that earlier, actually. Someone said, “What do you think Americans on the road trip thought about you guys being English?” We said, “They probably thought we were gay.”
SP: As Sacha Baron Cohen highlighted in “Borat” and particularly “Bruno,” there is a vein of male heterosexuality here which is extremely uptight and extremely homophobic. And Europe is just a lot more laid-back when it comes to physicality between guys. Personally, I would worry if I was frightened of being able to, if I felt weird when I hugged Nick.
NF: I’d be frightened too, by the way.
SP: it would be like, “Maybe there’s something I’m worried about.” Whereas we’re just really at ease with ourselves. I have no confusion about who I am and what my sexuality is.
NF: Are you asking us or telling us?
SP: I’m trying to tell myself. If I was gay and Nick was gay, then we’d definitely be married.
NF: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
SP: But sadly we’re not.

So far “Paul” has taken off a lot more in Europe than the Justin Bieber film. Why do you think that is?
SP: (whispers) It’s better.
NF: Maybe people don’t care as much about him. You know what I mean? I think it’s fine for the media to whip up this giant storm, but who’s watching it? That’s fine but if no one’s watching that or no one cares or thinks, “Well, I’m a bit over it,” that storm blows out.
SP: Also, because you dominate a specific medium doesn’t mean you’ll dominate all of them. If Nick and I released a single, Justin Bieber would piss all over it because no one gives a [bleep] about [us singing].
NF: If I released a new haircut, no young kids would have it.
SP: Cinema’s a different animal to music. Maybe the fans, the millions of girls that love Justin, who consume his stuff, or got pictures of him on their wall, aren’t inclined to go to the cinema. Also, I don’t know anything about Justin Bieber …
NF: Wasn’t he hatched from a big egg?
SP: Yeah that’s right. He was laid. I mean …
NF: No.


What was on their Giordano’s pizzas:
SP—Jalapenos and black olives
NF—Ground beef, pineapple and Canadian ham
On what they want to do in Chicago:
NF— “I think I’d maybe go see the Cubs play. Or just go into Wrigley Field.”
SP— “I think I’d get into a little bit of the history of Chicago. As not a sports fan, I would get into the Al Capones of it all and have a little look around [the] history of Chicago, ‘cause it’s a fascinating town.”
On sending a message into space during a radio event:
SP— “I started to apologize for humanity. I was like, ‘We’re a promising bunch; we might not have it all worked out but by the time you get here maybe we’ll be up to the challenge. Or dead.’”
On Frost never having a love interest in their movies:
SP—“With ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ it was a love triangle between Shaun, Ed and Liz. ‘Hot Fuzz,’ neither of them had a love interest other than each other; it was very much a romance between Danny and Angel, albeit in a homoerotic, action-movie kind of way. With ‘Paul,’ Clive … has a propensity to lust after small women dressed in furry costumes. So we hadn’t really gotten to the point when it’s like, ‘Oh, Nick never gets the girl.’”
Sympathizing with Justin Bieber when people make negative comments about him on Twitter:
NF—“Who wouldn’t get upset reading [bleep] on Twitter about you? It must be upsetting. He’s a kid, too. I’m [almost] 39 years old and I get pissed off and I’ve got thick skin. Imagine being 17, 18 and having 45-year-old men from Leeds in England saying, (in thick accent), ‘Yeah, you [bleeping] little prick, I’m gonna kill ya.’”
Exclusive new information about Pegg’s role in “Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol”: “I wear a pair of black shoes at one point.”