After making a splash with the zom-com Shaun of the Dead in 2004, Edgar Wright teamed up again with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to make another send-up of a beloved genre. Hot Fuzz deconstructed the buddy cop action film genre with a hilarious and fresh perspective.
Only after the production did Wright and Pegg, who co-wrote the film together, stumble on the Cornetto connection, which paved the way for the production of the eventual finale The World’s End.
Upon the release of Hot Fuzz, Wright and Pegg sat down to record a commentary track, which is available on both the DVD and Blu-ray. There are other commentaries available on the film, depending on which release you get, but this is the most common one, and the most contained.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Commentators: Edgar Wright (director and co-writer) and Simon Pegg (actor and co-writer)
1. The police sirens heard over the studio logos is a retrospective of the different police sirens used throughout history.
2. Hot Fuzz is crammed with cameos, often in crowd scenes or flashbacks. During the opening montage showing Nicholas Angel’s (Pegg) career, we see director Garth Jennings as a crack dealer who is shot and Peter Jackson as a Father Christmas stabbing Nicholas in the hand with a knife. Later, the part of Nicholas’ masked girlfriend Janine (or rather Janine’s eyes) is played by Cate Blanchett, who gave her fee to charity and remained uncredited in the film. Pegg, who has a thing for masks describes acting to a masked Blanchett as “like reverse molestation.”
3. The scenes for Sandford were shot in Wright’s hometown of Wells, which boasts being the “smallest city in England.”
4. The pub in Sandford is the Royal Standard in Beaconsfield, which is Britain’s oldest free house (which, according to Pegg, is a pub not attached to a brewery).
5. The word “Bypass” is misspelled in the paper Nicholas reads at the pub. This was done deliberately and was not a mistake “to annoy people,” according to Wright.
6. The many scenes of Nicholas doing paperwork were inspired by the editing style Tony Scott used in Domino because all the police officers interviewed for the film said they never saw the paperwork process dramatized in movies.
7. Because many critics say that movie villains are so obviously evil and that you might as well put a neon sign on them, Wright wanted to have a scene in which Timothy Dalton stood next to a neon sign that said “Bad Guy.” However, he could not find a way to fit it into the film.
8. Essential research material that Wright and Pegg used to develop the film included Point Break, Bad Boys II, and Roger Ebert’s The Little Book of Hollywood Cliches.
9. Jim Broadbent approached Wright and Pegg at the BAFTAs in 2004, requesting to be in one of their movies, they tailored the role of Insp. Frank Butterman specifically for him.
10. Wright was worried the film would get a 15 rating in the UK because of all the blood and the pervasive use of the word “cunt” (including a 5-second shot of the word written uncensored on the swear box).
11. Wright cast the NWA with respected British actors who have a history of playing villains so the audience could figure out they’d be the bad guys in the end. Of course, most of this casting went over the heads of big, dumb Americans like myself.
12. Wright has his own cameo as a shelf-stacker at the Somerfield’s supermarket. He chose this for himself because he worked as a shelf-stacker at a Somerfield’s for five years when he was younger. During that day on set, he kept his costume on even after he was wrapped for the camera. (Wright also worked as a projectionist at a movie theater, but he was “sacked” because he was “rubbish.”)
13. In light of the release of The World’s End, there’s some interesting history to the sight gag in which Nicholas runs around the corner during a foot chase and says, “You mothers,” only to reveal a group of mothers with baby strollers. Wright said that he wrote that joke for “a film that never got made about a pub crawl.” We can assume that he’s talking about what has become The World’s End.
14. To differentiate the Sergeants Turner, both played by Bill Bailey, Wright had one of them read Iain Banks and the other read Iain M. Banks. This joke was lost on most Americans.
15. Nicholas doesn’t smile until 47 minutes into the film.
16. When Skinner (Timothy Dalton) raises his wine glass to drink to the memory/demise of Martin (David Threlfall) and Eve (Lucy Punch), he quickly looks at the camera. Wright considered digitally removing the look in post but instead decided to add the sound of a cash register during it in the background to call attention to it.
17. Wright claims that Polanski’s Repulsion was the first film to use the reflection of the killer in the bathroom mirror (not An American Werewolf in London, as some believe). He says, “We ripped off John Landis without realizing we’d already ripped off Roman Polanski.”
18. Danny’s DVD collection is an accumulation of the personal collections of Wright, Wright’s brother Oscar, and Joe Cornish. During the production, Wright claims quite a few of the titles were stolen, including his own 1976 version of King Kong.
19. Wright uses a zoom instead of a dolly push-in on Ann Reid’s monologue before she is murdered to make the scene look more like it was from a ’70s movie rather than a modern one.
20. The flashback sequence during which Nicholas confronts Skinner in the supermarket office was not fully scripted. Instead, Wright says the script just stated: “We see lots of flash cuts and flashbacks. It looks pretty cool for a British film.”
21. While Nicholas and Danny are eating Cornetto ice cream in the car together, Wright starts playing with the “Cornetto trilogy” jokes. He says, “Clearly, if we do a third film together, it’d have to have a mint Cornetto in a green wrapper.”
22. The big reveal of the film (spoiler alert: they all did it) was inspired by Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
23. Robert Rodriguez did the music for two scenes without seeing any other part of the movie because he thought it would be fun. The scenes are when Nicholas visits the convenience store and sees the action movie DVD son the rack and when he suits up for the final shoot-out.
24. Wright used a hand-cranked camera, similar to what Tony Scott would use, to shoot much of the courtyard shoot-out. This gave the shots an inconsistent timing with irregular film speeds.
25. While the two pub owners are shooting at Nicholas and Danny from behind the bar, there is a chalkboard that says, “2 shooters for the price of 1.”
26. Originally, Wright wanted the glass at the deli counter to shatter during the supermarket shoot-out. However, the production decided it would be too expensive to replace because it was curved glass. To explain why the glass does not shatter, Wright included sounds of bullets ricocheting off of bulletproof glass, presuming Skinner had planned ahead and made his deli out of bulletproof glass just in case the fuzz came after him. However, when the cops rammed the shopping carts into the deli counter at the end of the scene, it broke the glass anyway. Similarly, Wright wanted more windows breaking during the car chase scene, but there was no money in the budget for it.
27. The officials for the Village of the Year competition seen when Nicholas and Danny drive away are Wright’s mother, Pegg’s mother, and actor Peter Wild.
28. The swan seen in the final chase scene is a real swan, not a model, even though it sometimes looks like one. It’s name was Elvis.
29. The scene at the graveyard was included in principle photography but shot in a way to make it look like a reshoot dropped in after test audiences didn’t like Danny getting killed.
Best in Commentary
- Wright: “Some interviewer once asked me, ‘Oh, did you steal all your montages from Snatch?’ And I said, ‘No, I stole them from Martin Scorsese like Guy Ritchie did.’”
- Wright: “Whoever wrote this line in Bad Boys II deserves an Oscar. In those films, when you have what’s called the point of no return at the end of act two, when the chips are down but our heroes are gonna face up to the final onslaught. Whoever then reduced it to the line ‘This shit just got real’ is a genius.””
- Wright: “I’m such a 14-year-old boy, but this kind of stuff gets me hard. Crash zooms and guns. I know, it’s so obvious. I apologize, but it gets me hard.”
Being the curmudgeon that I am, I never got into referring to this set of films as the “Cornetto Trilogy” because it evolved as an afterthought by the filmmakers rather than a planned endeavor. Watching Hot Fuzz again and listening to Wright and Pegg talk about the film shows the Cornetto connection in its infancy before it became an excuse rather than an inside joke.
My personal grumpiness aside, this commentary is quite nice because we get a fresh perspective from Wright before he was burned by the box office failure of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and the general jading that anyone gets working in Hollywood too long.
It’s clear to see during the commentary that Wright and Pegg worked as partners during the film rather than as a director and his actor. They clearly have a lot of fun and are very close, even finished each others’ sentences at times. There was a nice mix of silliness, trivia, and general film knowledge in the commentary, keeping me interested throughout.