Nick Frost is a familiar face to folks down under, last splashed across screens in The World’s End and part of a lightning-paced tour to promote that film alongside co-star Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright. With Cuban Fury, Frost takes centre stage, in this comedic tale of a former salsa prodigy who once again dons the sequins and busts out the sultry moves. We spoke to Nick about the film and had a blast…
FLICKS: How did the idea of Cuban Fury first come about?
Nick Frost: Well it was my idea. I had the original idea; I’m the producer on it. After doing stuff with Edgar [Wright] and Simon [Pegg] in a kind of specific geeky genre, in terms of the occult and zombies and robots full of blue stuff, I kind of wanted to do something completely different. I’d always harboured a secret yearning to be a dancer and to dance and to do a dance film. I think they’re amazing if you can get it right, and if everyone does the dancing in ‘em I think they look really beautiful. I kind of never wanted to tell anyone this idea ‘cos I secretly thought “If you tell someone about it, then you might have to do it”, so whenever I had the idea, I’d always have a kind of internal argument with myself saying “Do not repeat these words. Be quiet. Don’t say anything.” And then one night I kinda got a bit pissed and sent Nira [Park], who’s our producer, an email essentially pitching the story to her and I felt like the Zodiac killer, like leaving clues so I’d get caught. And then I just sent it. I sent it off and woke up the next day and there was an email from Nira in the inbox saying “This is a great idea, let’s do it!” and I was like, “Oh shit”.
So I guess there’s a huge gulf between wanting to do a film like this, and the reality of doing it. After that moment, when did you get cracking on the actual dancing part of it?
Well between that email and the first day of production was 15 months, which is really not much time at all, and seven of those months were training. I think everyone was really keen on the idea and I think everyone was really keen on the fact that I said I’d really like to do all the dancing myself and I’d like the training period to be long and punishing [laughs]. So yeah, I did seven hours training a day, every day for seven months.
There’s a different plausibility about it than if the story went, you were just sitting in a pub and someone went ‘oh I’m gonna make you a dancer.’
Yeah, exactly, yeah. I think it helped that we had that great set up that something really bad happened to this young kid and it completely changed the course of his life. Then it’s not until the very end that we realise that he himself – and he’s done it for himself, he hasn’t done it for the girl – he’s essentially got to move the points of his life back on to the track of what he would have been. That was an important point.
You had those fears you mentioned before about people finding out you wanted to do this movie. Did you funnel that into his childhood pain when he gets the shit bullied out of him?
Yeah well I think we all have a point in our lives where we think “What would my life have been like now if only I’d done that. Or if I hadn’t done that, or if I hadn’t let that happen to me”. Bruce gets a chance to go back and make good.
Can you recall any short-lived crazes or pursuits from your childhood?
No, not really. I was a BMXer, I loved BMXing. I played rugby for years and years. So maybe rugby; rugby’s my dancing in this film. I kind of got to a point where I was like, 20 years old and I was kind of having to make a decision where… do you wanna just train and get beaten up every day and be a rugby player, or can you not be arsed?
Speaking of training and getting beaten up, there a fantastic dance-fight in Cuban Fury. When they’re done well they’re great scenes on film. Are there any dance-fights from other films that you drew upon?
I can’t think of any others. Do you know any others?
It’s quite musical-y I guess, like West Side Story.
Oh of course, yeah that’s a good one. That’s a big one. But I think our brief to ourselves and [director] James Griffiths’ brief, it had to be like The Bourne Identity. It had to be like two men having a knife fight, but instead we’re using sharpened hands.
To me there were three components to that scene: Homoeroticism, uselessness, and extreme skill. All combined together in equal proportions.
[Laughs] yeah you’re completely right. Me and Chris O’Dowd, we shot that part of the film for three or four days but we laughed the most when he runs up that ramp and shouts down, “Wanker!” Just ‘cos he’s so shit. He’s so rubbish, you know. We laughed at that a lot.
Chris O’Dowd’s character Drew is a fantastic asshole in this film and he just reminded me of people I’ve worked in really bad jobs with. Is there anyone from your past that you drew upon for that character?
I’ve known people like that, but I think all the credit for that has to go to Chris. I heard him say in the press the other day that Drew is like someone who got turned down for The Apprentice. It‘s completely right, he’s too much of a dick even for The Apprentice.
There’s something about your relationship with him on screen that even though it’s one-way bullying there’s a really good chemistry when you’re together.
What we tried to do is give the impression that those guys had worked together potentially for five or six years, they have a history. There’s a really nice moment just before Drew tells Bruce that they went dancing the night before, when they’re making a cup of tea in the kitchen and Chris drops his guard and says “Can you move a second?” That’s almost like that’s the real relationship they have in the office. It can’t all be like that, there is history between them. Even at times I bet they’ve kind of got on with each other. You know what I mean?
Absolutely. Even if you have to sit with those people in meetings, or they come up to your cubicle or whatever, you don’t really hang out with them to that extent if it’s all complete hatred.
I bet there’s been times at office parties where they’ve had a few beers and laughed about someone less fortunate than themselves and caught themselves enjoying each other and then shunned it slightly.
Another fellow that you share some amazing screen time with is Ian McShane, who’s always fantastic. When he does these supporting roles he just seems to have a hell of a lot of fun doing them. The first thing that came to mind watching him was his performance in Hot Rod. Did you see that?
His character Ron Parfitt felt a little bit the same to me, I thought he could break out into that absolute horribleness at any point.
Even though he didn’t have to dance, he had lessons and he got into it and he went out and he really immersed himself in this and he didn’t have to. I think it shows a lot when you’re 70 years old and you still have that passion and that fire. Me and him have always got on, since Snow White [& The Huntsman, in which they each played one of the seven dwarves]. So we wrote the part with him in mind, with his voice. Working with Ian, that scene where he gets me to do the Al Pacino impression. When we shot that, that was a long, long scene and it was that moment as an actor when you come out of yourself and you look at what you’re doing and it’s like, “You’re acting with Ian McShane!” and it’s amazing! You just don’t want to be left behind.
I bet. He does a really wonderful job – on the one hand he’s kind of the wise master and highly superior to everyone else, but he’s also an alcoholic and he’s also kind of a little bit naff.
[Laughs] Yeah he’s completely that. I like the fact that he has that shitty little office and we catch him washing up the first time we meet him. It’s funny the people you imagine to be like, gurus, and people who are above having to wash up, and then you catch them washing up. It’s like, “Oh, I didn’t think you’d have to do that”.
What did you think when you first caught yourself in the mirror with so many sequins on?
I felt really aroused. I dunno if I should say that. There was a time when I was first shown a shirt and in my role as producer I said, “We need more sequins.” Which is a sentence I never imagined I would say.
Do you think that signals the beginning of a lot of wardrobe supervision on your part? And possibly just breaking down a few personal barriers for your own dress sense?
I feel like I’ve worked it out of me. Although I’ve still got the finale outfit in a lovely little bag in my dresser at home so sometimes when my wife’s out, I get dressed up as Bruce Garrett.
It’s a shame this interview will be in print because the tone of pride mixed with shame in your voice just then was wonderful.
[Laughs] Thank you.
You’ve done all this work getting this dance film together – I hope you’re still dancing?
Yeah well I’ve always danced. I like dancing; I just don’t like the expectation that one has to dance. If you don’t wanna dance that’s fine. If you leave me be, I will get nearer and nearer to the dancefloor until the rhythm takes me and then it’s out of my hands. In terms of salsa, it’s difficult going out. Not just salsa dancing, but clubbing or to discos. I can’t really do it anymore sadly, so that’s slightly tricky. I still dance a lot but I just don’t go to salsa clubs. In the 18 months since we wrapped up, I’ve probably been three times.
When you wrap a film like this, that’s set in clubs and has so much dancing in it, at your wrap party do you all sit down and behave yourselves?
It was a salsa club at the wrap party, so… do you know the format a salsa club takes?
Not really, do you wanna walk me through it?
What happens is, you’ll have two hours of lessons. There’ll be three groups of people, beginner, intermediate and advanced, and you find your group and you have two hours of lessons and then the floor is cleared and the club begins and you get to put into practise what you’ve just learned. So we did that, all the crew, we had an hour of lessons and it turned into a club. There was a point where I kind of woke up from a drunken haze and me and Richard Marcel, who was my teacher, were up on stage teaching a class, which was kind of surreal.
Well, now that you’re qualified, it’s good to have that string to your bow.
I could be like a Ron Parfitt in 20 years. This could be my job.
Practise your washing up. When we spoke to you last you had this in the pipeline. What other things have you got going on at the moment?
I just finished a film with Vince Vaughn and that comes out later on this year I think, called Business or Pleasure. That was a lot of fun, you know, being invited by the producer and the director. It’s quite flattering when they say, “Listen we love what you do and we just want you to come and hang out and make this film with us”. So I just did that. I like Vince Vaughn, I like what he does and to get on set and to hang out with him and see that he’s kind of like us… He’s not wheeled to work on a giant diamond. It’s nuts and bolts and it’s digging in and making a film together. That was really a nice thing to see. It made me feel good.
The mental picture of Vince Vaughn being wheeled in on a diamond is gonna haunt me for a little bit.
Just let it.
He’s sort of lying prone. Not very comfortable… Anyway, are you looking forward to developing some more films for yourself?
Yeah I’ve just finished a second draft on a film called Cockney Lump which is about an old British wrestler. So I imagine that’ll be another year long training period, much to my annoyance. We’re hoping to shoot that later on this year. That’s about an ex-wrestler who finds himself washed up and decides to make a comeback… Let me just say, that made it sound like it’s this film but with wrestling. It’s not that thing where I’m now just gonna reel out a long roster of sports movies.
Are you in your mid-Will Ferrell career phase?
[Laughs] If only.
This week Nick Frost is…
It’s basketball next. And then table tennis.