Nick Frost

We’re used to seeing Nick Frost in supporting roles (or working alongside Simon Pegg) but he gets a chance to take the lead in Cuban Fury, a romantic comedy that also stars Rashida Jones and Chris O’Dowd.  I caught up with him recently to have a chat about the experience. You can download a short audio extract from the interview by clicking here.

Matt:  I believe this is your baby, your idea.  Can you tell us where it first came from?

Nick:  I think I’m known for playing a certain role… and for being in Simon and Edgar’s films and the three of us making genre comedies with a sci-fi / cult slant.  For years and years, I’ve harboured a dream to be a dancer and to make a dance film.  I’ve had the idea of a long time and whenever I had a few beers, it would pop into my head and I’d go “this is a good idea… you have to tell someone about this”.  But I had a fear that if I told someone then somewhere down the line I’d probably have to do it.

About two and a half years ago, I plucked up enough courage and I wrote an email pitching the film to Nira, my producer.  I pressed “send”, went to bed, and when I woke up the next morning, slightly worse for wear, there was an email back from Nira saying “what a great idea, let’s do this.”  That was that.  I’d been caught and it was now out of my hands.

Matt:  So if you’ve always wanted to make a dance movie do I assume that you’ve always known how to dance?

Nick:  Yeah, I could dance and I like dancing but I’d never danced with anyone in a competition or anything.

Matt:  So did you have to do a lot of training?  How much work did you have to put in to get ready for the main scenes in this film?

Nick:  Yeah.  It was 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 7 months.  I had a team of 15 people who would rotate around and they taught me how to salsa dance. 

Matt:  Was it what you thought?  Now having been through the whole process, is there stuff that you would have done differently looking back?

Nick:  I probably wouldn’t have sent the email!  It was just really hard all the time.  It never got easier because as soon as you think “I’ve got this” then they pile more stuff on you.  One of my greatest fears in life is having people watch me dance.  You come to this place where you’ve been training for these scenes for 7 months… and then you’re standing on a stage with your partner being watched by 500 of the country’s best salsa dancers.  It was an absolute nightmare… but it also made me feel great.  I felt like I’d conquered something which had held me back as a person in my life. 

Matt:  There’s a stigma associated with dance and it’s touched upon in the film.  Your character is teased for doing it at high school and then you’re bullied again by someone at your work.  Is it actually like that?  When you went your through training, did you get any odd comments or looks from anyone?

Nick:  Yeah.  I was training at Pineapple Dance Studios which is a really famous studio in London.  Sometimes I’d be outside having a break and someone would walk past and say “what are you doing here, why are you at Pineapple?” and I’d say “well I’m training to be a dancer” and they’d often laugh and walk off. 

Matt:  What’s interesting is that in the early scenes of the film, you actually have to dance not-so-well.  Is that as easy as it sounds?

Nick:  No, it was a pain in the bum!  When we were looking at the early takes of those scenes, it was kind of too good.  We had to tone it down and I was talking to the director and producer and saying “why didn’t we shoot this 7 months ago?”

Matt:  We’re going through a wave at the moment of dance films – like the Step Up series – and TV shows – like Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance.  Do you have any idea where this surge in popularity has come from?

Nick:  I don’t know.  That’s a really good question that I haven’t been asked yet.  I think it’s cyclical.  We’ve always had dancing on TV and I think that Australia has always had a rich history of dance when you look at the success of films like Strictly Ballroom. 

Matt:  Were you involved in the casting process?  How do you pick out who would be a good fit for these roles?

Nick:  I wanted Chris O’Dowd straight away.  I’ve worked with Ian McShane on Snow White and me and Nira thought he’d be perfect for it.  As for Olivia Coleman, I’ve always wanted to work with her on everything I do.  I just did a sitcom with her and she was also in Hot Fuzz.  As you can see, you end up with a list of people you want to work with and then you end up being very lucky if they want to come and hang out and make a film.

With Rashida, she was someone on the top of most people’s lists.  I met her for a cup of tea in a restaurant in town… that turned into a glass of wine at 5pm… and before you knew it, it was 9pm.  We just got along.  It was one of those meetings where I felt like I’d found a friend for life even if we didn’t end up working together.

Matt:  Chris O’Dowd is sensational in this.  It’s as if you gave him the instructions of being the most annoying, irritating, offensive individually imaginable.  I’m guessing he had fun with it?

Nick:  He did have fun with it but to be honest, he found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that he was going to have to play this horrible scumbag and that’s not who he is in real life.  He’s actually a lovely charming man.  Often during a scene he’d turn to me and say “oh my God, I can’t say those things to you” and I’d say “come on, let’s do it, let’s do it”.

Matt:  The film recently had its premiere in the UK so finally people have had the chance to see it.  What sort of comments have you been receiving so far?

Nick:  I think people seem to be liking it on the whole.  I realise that not everyone is going to like every film and that’s just how it is.  What’s surprised me is that men are enjoying it too.  Getting men to see a dance film was thought to be difficult but because Rashida and Chris are in it, they’re going along for that and then enjoying the dancing too. 

Matt:  I always finish up by asking what’s next.  What projects do you have in the works?  Will I be seeing you in the next Step Up movie?

Nick:  I could play an old, wrangled hip-hop artist!   I did a film with Vince Vaughn just before Christmas and I think that’ll be out in the autumn.  It’s called Business Or Pleasure and it was a lot of fun to shoot.  I’ve also shot a sitcom called Mr. Sloane with Olivia Coleman and that comes out in the UK in May.