Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the guys we trust to reference all our favorite movies. Paul premiered at South by Southwest so the word should be out. They’ve got homages to Star Wars, E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and even lines from those popular movies. Spoiler alert, but if you want to know who treats Sigourney Weaver like the alien queen, read on.
CraveOnline: Writing the script, what was your approach to references?
Simon Pegg: I think that we wanted them to be seamless. Because it’s never planned, we don’t have a checklist of things to reference. Basically our frame of reference is popular culture, so whenever we liken something to something else, all of our metaphors and similes come from popular culture. So we’ll go into a bar and it’s a little bit scary and we’ll go, “Oh, it’s like the cantina.” Or I was running away from the guys, it was like The Matrix. We sort of immediately go to those touchstones to create our reference palette. So that’s why the references are there. There are more probably than I realize in there. It’s because we’re making a film which has obvious progenitors and we don’t want to pretend that we’re somehow being completely original. This film owes a lot to other films.
Nick Frost: So Graeme and Clive live in that world too. They live in a world where they are big fans of Star Wars and Close Encounters. In many ways, their points of reference are ours.
Simon Pegg: Our stuff is often like it’s the characters in the film explaining to you, telling you the story, that’s how they saw it. Oh my god, it was like this, it was like that. We wanted to acknowledge that this film is in many ways a tribute to our own love of this kind of cinema, as such saying yes, we know those films exist.
CraveOnline: Was “Boring conversation anyway” and “Get away from her, you bitch” a given?
Simon Pegg: Well, when someone shoots a radio, which we had Zoil do before we wanted to put that line it, it’s like well, come on. The last time someone shot a communicator with that amount of pinache, the last time an effortlessly handsome actor with good hair shot a communicator it was Harrison Ford. So we had to give Jason that line and we had this idea that he was kind of a Harrison Ford-ish character anyway. He refers to Paul as short round later on as well. Sigourney’s line, the voice had always been a male, for a long time in the writing process was a guy. We were just kicking stuff around one day and said, “What would it be like if it was a matriarch controlling the shots.” As soon as that became a woman, Sigourney was the first person we thought of. Then there was this fight and it got down to Tara was the last person standing and of course, what else is she going to say? We had to contrive it so Ruth was the second to last person so Tara could say, “Get away from HER, you bitch.” We took the day off when we thought of that, didn’t we? It’s lunchtime, let’s break.
Nick Frost: Also, being on set and me and Greg and Simon and Blythe [Danner] and Sigourney are standing around, and Sigourney’s giving Blythe a line reading, the three of us are kind of looking at each other, “This is amazing.”
Simon Pegg: Sigourney said that James Cameron only gave her one take of that line. They only ever did it once, as if she wanted to do it a different way because she was saying to Blythe, “You’ve got to kind of go up at the end, it kind of goes, ‘Get away from her YOU BITCH.’” We just sat there going, “Are we here? Is this a dream that we’re watching Sigourney Weaver talk about [this]?” I remember going up to her and saying, “Are you honestly all right that we’re going to use your most iconic line against you.” She’s like, “Hell yeah.” She was into it so it’s cool.
CraveOnline: Was working with the Paul effect a lot like doing the big movies like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible?
Simon Pegg: Movies are movies. It doesn’t feel that different for Shaun of the Dead or Star Trek. It’s the same production structure. You’re still working with a director and a first AD and a cinematographer. The catering gets better but generally speaking, I did more CG work on Paul than I did on Star Trek. I only acted with Deep’s eyes. My little friend in Star Trek, he had CG eyes and the viewscreen on the ship and some elements of the bridge were CG but otherwise we were acting with each other. With Paul we genuinely had to act with something that wasn’t there. But I don’t make that distinction. There’s only movies. There’s scope and scale and budget and time, day to day. I’ve just done Mission: Impossible, we’ve been on it for six months but it still feels like we’re just making a film. It’s not like everyone has gold microphones.