Last year, we got a chance to face Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, two of the men behind 2007’s funniest (on purpose) action film, Hot Fuzz. Of course, they had first come together working on a cult sitcom for British television, Spaced. Last year, it looked like there’d be little hope to have it on a U.S. DVD release, but there was definitely demand. The ultimate fanboy sitcom, you may have heard the controversy surrounding a potential U.S. remake which thankfully got scuttled. Because now we have the real thing. Besides, the U.S. has sort of answered Spaced with The Big Bang Theory.
This year, Wright returned to Comic-Con with the creators of Spaced, Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes nee Stevenson. They’ve been on a tour of the U.S. showing favorite Spaced episodes, surprised and gratified to discover that American fans had found the show despite its lack of legal distribution here — and this tour helps promote it as a legitimate DVD.
In addition to showing their favorite episodes at a theater in San Diego, the three faced fans at a panel Friday afternoon. Thanks to the BBC, Derek and other reporters, including Lyz Reblin from RealMovieNews, got to have an intimate roundtable chat with Hynes, Pegg and Wright.
How has the United States Spaced tour been going?
Edgar Wright: It’s good. We’ve done New York and L.A. so far. It was amazing. We had a fantastic screening in New York at the Village East. It had a line around the block and we had to turn away over a hundred people. We did another one in the Arclight in Los Angeles with Kevin Smith moderating. That was really funny.
Last year in London, we did a Spaced marathon screening at the National Film Theater. It was the first time we’d seen all of the episodes on the big screen. It was amazing, and it was amazing watching them at the Arclight with that huge screen with that stereo sound.
It’s great to be seven years later, eight years later, sitting there with a packed house, watching something that was originally intended for the small screen. It’s amazing.
You did it seven years ago. Did you move on and now it’s kind of coming back into your lives?
Edgar Wright: I don’t think it’s ever gone away, has it, really?
Simon Pegg: No. It’s always been our first thing that we did. For me, and I’m sure for Jess as well, it has such significance for our lives. It was such a passion project. I look back at how it got made and how we did it. We were just feeling our way a lot of the time.
The whole thing was incredibly serendipitous in that it actually got done. Jess and I, when we were writing the first series, we’d just hang around at each other’s houses writing a TV show, get some food, maybe, and then the next thing we knew we’d walked onto the set. We were in this apartment building that we’d written about, vaguely, and that the production team had put together. It was happening.
Jessica Hynes: We realized the bathroom door opened onto wood and tack. Simon Pegg: That’s the little spatial anomaly…seeing all those boards as well, it was like, wow, this is going to happen. And that feeling’s never gone away.
Did you just keep writing it even though it didn’t have a green light? Was that even a term you use in Britain?
Simon Pegg: We didn’t even f***ing know what a green light was! I just thought that here, yeah, it’s going to be on and it was on! The notion of a green light, I didn’t know what the term meant, but I assumed we had it.
Edgar Wright: It was at the time a lot more laid back. In terms of hearing about how a network television show gets made over here….there are so many stages…
Simon Pegg: It’s a lot more ruthless here.
Edgar Wright: I don’t know what — It might have changed. Maybe it’s changed now in the UK, but certainly then…we look back at it and realize how lucky we were. I mean, it was a low-budget show, so the fact that we were slightly under the radar in terms of the cost meant that we kind of had carte blanche within the budget and schedule to do what we wanted. We never really had interference.
It’s one of those experiences where you look back and realize how fortunate you were, that we were that age and had this show where we could kind of do anything within reason. Reason being time and money, but still really didn’t have any scrutiny in terms of content.
Jessica Hynes: I do remember one producer questioning my use of fifties-style horn-rimmed glasses without the glass in them.
I said we were going to be fine.
Simon Pegg: Yet no one said a thing about an episode where everybody’s clearly off their head on Ecstasy.
A lot of the time, we were talking about things that were very specific to the age group. Things just went over their heads. In the clubbing episode of Spaced, it was very much a love letter to the fact that you could go out, take drugs, and come back and not die. In every TV show, there had to be some moral message, some punitive action.
Edgar Wright: There is a special episode…
Jessica Hynes: In every group, it just kind of happened that you went out together as friends, and you came back, and that was the night. Many people only have one or two nights like that ever. And that was the point of that. It doesn’t suddenly become a show about hard-core drug users. That happened. And it was great.
Simon Pegg: It wasn’t about saying, do this, it’s great. This happens. The whole show is about “this happens.” People do smoke a couple of joints in the afternoon sometimes and don’t crash their car and kill some children.
You know what I mean? It was important to just show things how it was.
Edgar Wright: Certainly there’s never been another TV show that started more frequently with the main characters being hung over. Every single episode starts with them walking out of the bedrooms going “muhhhhhh…last night….” (laughs)
For the U.S. DVD release, you got a lot of commentary with some really big names. How did it feel to get those?
Edgar Wright: It was amazing.
Simon Pegg: Quentin Tarantino’s become a friend of ours recently, and he and Edgar are such firm pals now. To be commenting on the episode where we do the Pulp Fiction thing where David finds the gun and it’s Mike in the toilet, with him in the room talking about it, it was the most incredible moment of circularity in my entire life. To have done that in honor of him, and then to have him come in and speak in honor of it, it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Edgar Wright: With the people who are on the DVD, I’d say that most of them had seen the show after Shaun of the Dead came out. A couple of them, Patton Oswalt and Bill Hader being uber-geeks already knew of Spaced before Shaun of the Dead and had seen it. We’d meet and greet people over the last couple of years, and realize who the big fans are. So we thought we’d get them all in to do this commentary track and it was a lot of fun doing it.
What finally greased the wheels to get an American release? It took a long time.
Edgar Wright: It was just some music licensing stuff. That’s a lot of hard work by our producers like Nira Park and Karen Beever and the distributors to get it happening. Ironically, one of the people who helped with a crucial bit of getting the music cleared up was the real Nicholas Angel. Nick Angel is a music supervisor who works at Working Title (Films).
…whose name you stole…
Edgar Wright: Highly ironic that the real Nick Angel came to our rescue.
Jessica Hynes: I love the fact that they had to clear my Elvis impersonation with the Elvis estate. They approved it.
Simon Pegg: Also the whole thing is that obviously, the demand has grown for it since the success of the two movies. It’s created an awareness in people who kind of wanted to go back and see…it’s like when you discover a band and you go, I wonder what they were doing before I found them…
It just took a long time for all the right conditions to arise, and now here we are.
Edgar Wright: It’s much like if you were a fan of Aerosmith through “Walk This Way,” and then you discovered “Toys in the Attic.”
You brought some Spaced footage to Comic-Con with Shaun of the Dead…
Edgar Wright: I remember that. When we were here four years ago, we did a panel in which we showed some and when we got to the end, it got such an amazing reaction that both Simon and I started crying (laughs).
Simon Pegg: Getting through the panel going (exaggerated sobs)…
Edgar Wright: It was incredible, showing it in front of a big audience.
Jessica Hynes: What did you show?
Simon Pegg; it was a montage.
Edgar Wright: About ten minutes of clips. You weren’t in it. (laughs)
Obviously, it has a lot of fans. Is this something you want to revisit, or do you think, we did it, we like it, we don’t want to touch it again?
Simon Pegg: There’s a bit of that. Our fear is that if we went back to it now, we wouldn’t be qualified to do it.
Jessica Hynes: I’d like to.
Simon Pegg: Me, too, but it would have to be different.
Jessica Hynes: We’d have to deal with the fact that we were older. But I think Daisy’s still living in that flat. I think most definitely Tim might have moved out…
Simon Pegg: He’s here somewhere down at Comic-Con…he’s got a book out…he’s doing a panel later, we can ask him what happened.
Simon, a couple of years ago, you gave an interview in which you said that your new popularity wasn’t going to change your career much. It wasn’t like you were going to be in Mission Impossible III.
Simon Pegg: (smiles) I did say that, yeah.
Is there any role that you’d like to predict that you won’t be in so that you’ll immediately land it?
Jessica Hynes: Somebody said you’re supposed to be in Batman.
Simon Pegg: It’s funny. I keep eating my words. You know, this is another classic example…there’s a line in Spaced when I say, “As sure as eggs is eggs, as sure as day follows night, and as sure as every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is shit…”
I can obviously say that the rule has obviously been re-set now.
Edgar Wright: What about Robin?
Simon Pegg: I’m too old to play Robin. (protests inarticulately to Edgar and Jessica, then gives up) Cut to me, in my little green shorts…
I don’t know. I’ve had a fanboy’s dream really, in that I’ve been able to be in shows and films that I loved. Jess and I were both in Doctor Who, which we both loved as kids, and then to do Star Trek…
Edgar Wright: I’d like to announce now that I am actually playing Doctor Who in the next series.
Simon, there was just a rumor that you were denying that you were playing Doctor Who…
Simon Pegg: There was a poll, and I was like number two. I don’t want to ruin that show. I mean, when I saw Mission Impossible III I was enjoying it so much and then suddenly there’s my big potato face.
Jessica Hynes: Who was number one?
Simon Pegg: Jimmy Nesbitt (of the BBC’s Jekyll).
You could always play Ant-Man…
Simon Pegg: Too old. (gives a sideways longing glance) Edgar’s not talked to me about that film, anyway.
(Edgar looks guilty)
You’ve explored so many fan things with your films, have you ever thought of exploring the comics?
Simon Pegg: Funnily enough, Nick (Frost) and I have written a film called Paul, which is going to shoot next year. And it starts here. So that element continues…
We look forward to that shoot, and hope we get to talk with them next summer, too. Thanks, gang. In the meantime, people, if you haven’t already, get SPACED!