If there’s one constant in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s careers then it’s the presence of producer Nira Park, who first brought their show “Spaced” to television, and since has been involved with both their earlier movies. Because of that, it made perfect sense for her to continue on as producer of Paul. At the exact same time, she also was involved in the production of Edgar Wright’s movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in Toronto and having come from there just a few weeks earlier, we were curious how that had been working out for her.
Q: So are you going back and forth between Toronto, where Edgar’s shooting “Scott Pilgrim” and here?
Nira Park: No, I’ve been doing alternate weeks. So I do a nine-hour journey every Sunday with my family because I have a two-year-old. So every Sunday we’ve traveled nine hours for the last twelve weeks. It’s really grueling.
Q: Can you talk about the development of this film and how it came together?
Park: Yeah, it was actually when we were shooting “Shaun of the Dead” and we were shooting the record-throwing scene, and it had been raining for about a month in England, and we had like four days to shoot that sequence and we kept never finishing it because of the rain. Simon and Nick one day were on their lunch, and they drew this cool picture of an alien. I can’t remember what the tagline was at the bottom (“In America, everyone is an alien”), but they gave it to me and they said, “This will be our next film and we’ll film in America where it always is sunny.” When we finished on (“Shaun”) I said, “Were you being serious about that, because it’s a really great idea.” And they said, “No, no. It was a joke on the day.” Then a year later we started talking about it, and I don’t think Simon ever really seriously thought that it was a movie he wanted to make. It was just a funny tagline, a funny little drawing. And then when we finished “Hot Fuzz,” I kept thinking about it and I said, “I really think we should do this. It could be great.” And so we talked about it a bit and Simon wrote the opening scene, and I sent it to Working Title Films and Simon’s actually really annoyed with me that I’d done that and Working Title said they wanted to do it.
Q: Why was he annoyed?
Park: ‘Cause I don’t think it was ever meant to be…
Q: You mean, he realized he actually had to write it.
Park: (laughs) Yeah, exactly.
Q: Can you talk about how Greg Mottola became involved?
Park: I think we started talking about directors about two years ago and it was before “Superbad” had come out and we were all hearing about it and we’d heard great things about him from people on “Superbad.” Simon and I both really loved “The Daytrippers,” so Simon and I flew out to New York to meet him and we just knew immediately that he was the guy. And he stood by it when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen, so he was kind of involved for two years. I know he was offered quite a few other things and he hung on in there because he really believed in it, and we never talked to anyone else, it was just him.
Q: So what did he say that convinced you that he was right?
Park: He just completely “got” the movie that we wanted to make. Then we flew him out to London so that he could meet Nick and the four of us for dinner and he just [got] all the references we knew he’d be fun to work with. For Simon and Nick and for me, it was a big thing not working with Edgar. It was always going to be a real challenge for us working with someone else, but we just got on with him and knew that it would work well.
Q: Can you talk about the different directing styles between Greg and Edgar, and how Nick and Simon have adapted to a different tone?
Park: Yeah, but I think that it’s the tone that they wanted for the film, you know. I mean obviously Edgar would have done a brilliant job and would have done something completely different with it, but probably that’s why Edgar didn’t want to do it. Obviously, we talked to Edgar about it when we first had the idea, and it was never going to be something that Edgar wanted to do, because it’s not really his sensibility as much as “Scott Pilgrim” and other things that he’s developing.
Q: You’ve been filming a lot in the desert, so how has it been working on location?
Park: Well the irony is that the weather has been worse than it was [in England], so we have had more rain than on “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” put together. When we’re on location, every other day we’ve lost a couple of hours because of rainstorms. We had a couple of Universal execs fly out all the way from Los Angeles last week or the week before and we had this massive electrical storm. They saw nothing the entire time apart from lightning dancing on the horizon, and they flew back. We’ve had unbelievable weather: hailstorms, thunder and lightning, rain like you can’t believe it, things washed away…
Q: So maybe it’s just you guys then.
Park: Yeah, maybe.
Q: How prevalent is UFO kitsch in England? I know there are some Roswell elements in this film. We have something in America called the Art Bell Program, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it…
Park: I’m not familiar with it. (laughs)
Q: People call up late at night and talk about their experiences with aliens. There’s a definite subculture of people who are really into the Roswell kitsch.
Park: I think there’s a subculture [in England]. They’re also into the Loch Ness Monster.
Q: I think a lot of people are curious about the sensibilities, because we’re seeing Simon and Nick working with someone they haven’t worked with yet. Also Greg, like with “Superbad” and “Adventureland,” he did very much period type stuff, while seems like it’s a lot more current. Do you know what he’s going to do about the music and stuff?
Park: Listen, you know, we’ve only just started talking about that. I think the big difference, performance-wise, between this and “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz” is that they’re kind of improvising around this scripted material. It sort of feels more kind of fluid. There was a lot of improvisation on both “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz” that all happened in the rehearsal, and on “Spaced,” we did eight weeks rehearsal. On “Shaun” we did nine weeks rehearsal with all of the actors. At that point we get into the rehearsal room and then we rehearse with everyone so people would improvise around their lines, but then all of that goes into the script. On the day, nothing changes. But here, it’s been a lot more fluid, so it just feels slightly more improvised than “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz.”
Q: We spoke with Bob Graf, the executive producer, and he said that Seth Rogen had pre-recorded his lines, so there’s a certain template you have to adhere to, but it sounds like not necessarily.
Park: Well…ish. But, you know, obviously we have to re-record all of his dialogue so a lot of that can change. And also because we only had four days with Seth, it didn’t feel that he was able to really bring what he might be able to bring when he gets to see the film and really it gets in his head and he can do his thing with it at a later date. I think he’ll have to change quite a bit of it anyway.
Q: I’m curious, with a movie that has a CGI and special effects alien…
Park: Never again! (laughs)
Q: Could you talk about having a finite budget and filming around that budget and trying to make the most of it?
Park: Yeah, I think that’s been the hardest thing on this and on “Scott Pilgrim,” and like I said, I’ll never do another visual effects movie again. But that’s been the hardest thing because you only have a finite amount of money and a big chunk of that is dedicated to the alien, and that’s set in stone. You have to preserve that going into the post. Once that’s taken away, we haven’t had that much money to make this movie. I mean it’s still obviously a big budget, but it then just becomes a road trip with not that many actors.
Q: Sometimes we hear stories of studios, after they see the dailies or after they see the rough cut, that all of a sudden a little more money goes into to post. Is that one of those things you’re kind of hoping for?
Park: Yes. (laughs) Yeah, of course.
Q: How similar is the final alien to that sketch Nick and Simon did that day?
Park: Similar. Very similar.
Q: Including the three boobs?
Park: Well our alien doesn’t have three boobs. (laughs)
Q: I was curious about whether or nor you might have to do reshoots later once Seth does his rerecording.
Park: No, I don’t think so… You’re not trying to fit whatever Seth does. We have nothing, we just have an empty space to put our alien into.
Q: It starts off in San Diego at the Comic-Con. Does it explain how they got to the United States? Do they live here or are they just visiting?
Park: They’re visiting. They’re on a holiday. It’s never explained, it doesn’t need to be. They’re on a vacation traveling to Area 51. The whole film basically kind of kicks off their second night here.
Q: In “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz,” Simon plays a particular character and Nick plays a particular character. In this film, are they sort of switching who they play?
Park: No, not really. Simon is not as dominant in the relationship as he was in “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz.” I suppose they’re more equal, but they haven’t completely switched. I think that was probably the original idea, but it hasn’t panned out that way.
Q: Simon’s character in “Spaced” was a comic book illustrator…
Park: Yeah, and we used the same guy, Jim Murray, who did the “Spaced” DVD covers, the “Paul” cover, and Jason Murray, who did all of Tim Bisley’s (Simon’s character on “Spaced”) illustrations, did all of the “Shadowchild” (Jeffrey Tambor’s character in “Paul”), and he’s done all of Graham–Simon Pegg’s character’s–illustrations that we see throughout the film. So that’s quite nice, actually.
Q: How different is Graham from Tim in “Spaced”?
Park: He’s different, he’s just not as cool.
Q: I’m curious as to what kind of Easter eggs might be in this film that you guys have sort of nodded to “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz”, and are there any Easter eggs for “Scott Pilgrim” in this?
Park: I still don’t get the references in “Spaced.” (laughs).
Q: There were “Hot Fuzz” costumes on the floor.
Park: Yeah, but we didn’t know about that. We didn’t ask for that, and Shaun,” Did you see the “Shaun”? There’s a “Shaun” as well.
Q: With Edgar now sort of doing his own thing and Simon and Nick sort of in demand on their own also, where does that place the third film in the “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy”? Are you guys developing that? How’s that going?
Park: Yeah, well the plan is that when we all get back in a couple of weeks, we get stuck into the post, the plan is that Simon and Edgar are going to write the first draft. I think it’s been good to have a break.
Q: Is it like a battery recharging kind of thing and finding new experiences?
Park: I think for Simon and Edgar as well, it’s such an intense relationship, that writing relationship. You are stuck in a room with the same person. For Simon and Edgar it’s been years and years and I think it’s really good to go off and do your thing with other people and remember why you have such a good relationship in the first place. I think they’re both really looking forward to getting back together and working together again. And for Edgar, I mean obviously with Michael Cera, he couldn’t have hoped for a nicer star, but still, you know, I think he’s really looking forward to working with Simon and Nick again.