Nick Frost is best known to American audiences for his roles in the "Cornetto Trilogy"—Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End—in which he co-starred with mate Simon Pegg for director Edgar Wright. Frost rose to prominence in the U.K. on the Channel 4 sitcom Spaced, again alongside Pegg and Wright, and went on, with Pegg, to co-write and co-star in Paul. Frost's other credits include The Adventures of Tintin, Attack the Block, Pirate Radio, Kinky Boots, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Ice Age: Continental Drift. Most recently, he developed the story for Cuban Fury, in which he takes on the lead role of salsa dancer Bruce Garrett. Frost met the press at San Francisco's Clift Hotel, where I wanted to know about his personal inspiration to master dancing.
Nick Frost: My motives for wanting to do a dance film, and the terror dancing in front of people brings to me—or brought to me at that point—it was all part of my catharsis, and my incredibly expensive therapy session, which is what the film became in terms of me hating dancing in front of people. I messed our wedding up by not wanting to dance with my wife. And we'd had a dance all picked out, and then it came down to it, and we were like grade school: I kind of put my hands on her shoulders, and we did this a bit [motions swaying], and then I stopped, and then all our aunties kind of flooded onto the floor and got it goin' again. But I kinda thought, I shouldn’t have to feel like that, you know? I’m an actor and I do scenes in front of two hundred cast and crew every day, so I shouldn’t be afraid of dancing. But I think being a big man, too, there’s a kind of stigma attached to being a big man who can dance and who enjoys it. And here’s a look that people give you, and is often accompanied by a sound, and the look is this: "Aww." As if they somehow feel sorry for you or somehow see that—“You go for it, big guy.” D'you know what I mean? Some kind of patronizing “Attaboy.” And that makes me so cross, y'know. And that was all part of my reason to want to dance. And I think it kind of helped it get green-lit, really. I mean, we could have easily done that thing where you just do my top half moving, and then we cut to an audience reaction, and then feet. And there are a couple of those, by the way. So it's actually, like, ninety-eight percent of it is me. Why wouldn’t you want it to look beautiful? And that’s the charm of it, is that you see Bruce Garrett doing it. I said yesterday at the Q&A in Seattle: there’s no Oscar nomination for effort—for amount of effort put into a comedy. If it was Daniel Day Lewis putting seven months training into becoming some kind of meat killer, a man that stuffs animals, people are saying, “Wow. This dedication for this role is admirable.” But for a kind of romantic comedy about a big man who woos a girl through the medium of salsa, no one gives a shit about your training.
Groucho: So about the training process, the theme of the film is discovering self-confidence.
Nick Frost: Yeah.
Groucho: So is there a breakthrough moment you recall when you realized, "I don’t need to be insecure about this anymore? I got this"?
NF: No, because it never got easier. There was never a moment where it's like they unplug a wire from your head, and your eyes flicker and you say, “I know Pachanga!” That never happened. It never got easier. 'Cause as soon as you got something, they just—
G: Step it up.
NF: Stepped it up. You know. I don’t want to seem down on it, because I loved it. And I realized that it's "What an opportunity." And when you watch the last ten minutes of the film, and all that is me, you think, “That’s why I did that.” But when you’re in it, it’s like, “Fucking hell, when’s this going to end?!” But I became a dancer, you know? It was that thing that—also, I didn’t want to lose weight. I wanted to be still a big lump. And so I could eat giant steaks in the morning, and like fifty bananas a day, and like a whole chicken, and it was like a dream for me! I even started to become—I dressed like a dancer: you know, I'd have leggings on and bands in my hair. And I’d find myself—before our particular studio opened—I'd be sat in a room with fifteen eighteen-year-old ballerinas. [strained stretching voice:] We'd just be having a fucking stretch! And that wouldn't seem weird, on either way. "How you doin'? You alright?" "Yeeahh." I became that dancer, you know. Sorry—is that—?
G: No, no, that's good. I guess, as a follow-up—
G: Do you care to recount any breakdown moments rather than breakthrough moments?
NF: Yeah, they were there! Yeah, there were two. Twice. Twice I had to leave 'cause I started crying in front of people. Once I was going to hit Richard Marcel, who was my choreographer. 'Cause he did a thing where—I don’t like to be manhandled. I don’t like it. I think it's disrespectful. It got to a point at, like, three in the afternoon where we’d been dancing since 8 a.m. And you no longer—you got to that point where he would be talking to me in English, and I would be seeing Mandarin come out of his mouth. “I don’t know what you want from me!”, you know? And he moved me. And that was it. I had that kind of [toots Popeye fanfare:] spinach moment, but it was too much. 'Cause he’s only a little thing. I'd fucking murder him. But it was like—I might—I'd had that thing [demonstrates:] where my voice kind of went quite high! I said, “So don’t fucking touch me!” And he tried to calm me down, and I kind of started to cry in front of him and [assistant choreographer] Susana [Montero], and then I said, "Just give me a minute, alright?" and I went into the bathroom. And there were lots of kind of beautiful-shaped ballerina boys, you know, eighteen years old, just no tops on. Just amazing! And then this big fucking gorilla comes charging through the toilet in tears. And they were like, “You alright? You alright?” [on verge of tears:] “Oh, just fucking leave me alone!” And then, yeah, I kind of went back into the studio eventually and kind of just grabbed my kit bag and said, “I’m going home!” And that was it. I went home. That was twice that happened.
G: And then back to it.
NF: Next day, yeah. We had that thing where Richard and I, we just had a really nice coffee and chatted about it in the morning, and we hugged it out. And then it was like, "Let's go!" And sure enough, the thing that I couldn't do that night, I did within twenty minutes—
G: Yeah, yeah.
NF: Of that morning. You know...
G: So you're here at kind of an interesting moment. 'Cause I think less than a week ago, the news broke that you're going to do Sober Companion.
NF: Yes! Yeah!
G: So I'm curious what it was about that project that appealed to you to make that potential kind of commitment—
G: And what the potential is for it, what it might mean for your career.
NF: I dunno. I think my career is kind of alright as is. You know. I don’t lie awake at night thinking, “Fuck. How'm I gonna—how’s my son gonna go to school?” I think: I’m really excited about it, and I'm pretty nervous, 'cause I don’t know how this works. I don't know what it means. All I know is: I was offered this role of an alcoholic accountant—which for a character actor, when you see the words "alcoholic accountant—lawyer, sorry—you think, "Yeeah! This could be great!", you know? And it was a great script. And I really like Justin Long. I've known Justin—we've bumped into each other at parties, on and off, for like the last ten years. And we've always had a bit of a laugh. So it was like "Yeah! This could be pretty good!" I say no to a lot of stuff, to a lot of stuff, and it really annoys my wife. And I kinda thought, you have to say yes to something at some point, and it just seemed like this was it. And obviously, I'm not thinking about the fact that I could be here for six years, if it’s picked up and goes and goes and goes. That’s a big commitment. I think if you look at it as six years, it’s a long time. But if you look at it season by season, then it’s not so bad, yeah. And I said this to my wife the other day. It's like, "You know what? We might actually enjoy ourselves. Let's not judge what it's going to be like now. Let's go and give it a try." We lived here when we did Paul. We were here for kind of six months, and it was like—it was absolutely amazing! I'd get up, and I'd ride my bike shoeless to a tennis court, and I'd have a tennis lesson. And it's like "What a great life!" I can't ride a bike shoeless in London. Someone would murder me.