Earlier today I was able to participate in Universal’s Paul roundtable interviews. For those unfamiliar, the film follows two sci-fi geeks (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) who go on a cross country nerd odyssey where they start at Comic-Con and eventually meet an alien named Paul (Seth Rogen). The film is directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad) and written by Pegg and Frost. Continue reading to see what cast members Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Bill Hader, Joe Lo Truglio, Jeffrey Tambor and Sigourney Weaver along with director Greg Mottola.
The first group I got to talk with was actors Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver, Joe Lo Truglio and Jeffrey Tambor. Here are some highlights of the discussion:
- Used to go to Comic-Con as a fan “dressed as myself, dressed as a nerd.” He remembers going to the Lord of the Rings panel as a fan and geeking out about seeing Elijah Wood.
- In the film he plays an agent chasing Paul the alien along with Lo Truglio and Bateman. He said his character has a similar role in the story to Peter Coyote in E.T. but the three cops in Paul are inadequate, like the Keystone Cops.
- He stayed up in his hotel during shooting Paul until 4 in the morning with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost talking about science fiction.
- Says he geeked out the first time he saw Sigourney Weaver on set with Joe Lo Truglio.
- Called the directorial style of the film “early Spielberg” rather than the Mottola we’re used to in his earlier, more comedic films.
- Says the film has less improvisation then Superbad and they stuck closer to Simon and Nick’s script. Simon and Nick were very open to improv though.
- Said she plays “an authority figure with an appreciation for pain” but couldn’t describe her role further.
- Calls the movie a very smart and funny ode to the Comic-Con generation
- Joked that the alien in the film is so likeable that the movie might undo all the hard work she did in the Alien series
- Says she will not appear in the upcoming Alien prequel
Joe Lo Truglio
- Says he is the biggest nerd of the cast. As a kid he stored his Stephen King novels in a box under his bed so in case of a fire he could easily grab the box and go.
- Says Nick and Simon drew up a sketch of the alien during the filming of Shaun of the Dead and they kept it and showed the cast as a little memento during the filming.
- Went to Comic-Con first for Max Headroom in the 80s.
- The first time he saw Simon and Nick at the Comic-Con set built for the film he thought they were just other nerd extras. (Our own Steve Weintraub was one of those extras.)
My second roundtable was with stars and writers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and director Greg Mottola. Pegg could barely keep his eyes open and warned us he had an hour of sleep the night before but was a good sport and still spoke a lot.
- Said that Joe Lo Truglio stood in as Seth Rogen to voice Paul on set to help the actors.
- When Frost and him first threw the idea around they had no idea the film would ever come together or how much work it would actually require to make the character real. They expected to film the movie and a year later the animated alien would just magically appear. In reality the film has been a long and difficult technical process.
- In this film, him and Frost’s characters are equally important and Pegg isn’t the sole lead like in Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.
- Says Kristen Wiig plays a creationist who has her ideals shattered when she sees the alien. At one point in the film she only has one eye and Pegg’s character believes she is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen.
- Says when he writes with Edgar Wright, Wright is the motivator and keeps him on task. When he writes with Frost, they are both chaotic and regularly “go off and buy DVDs in the middle of the day and Edgar might say no to that because he wants to get things done”.
- Admits that he and Frost often argued during the writing process but ultimately worked well together for the greater good of the film. “We’ve had more fights writing this film then we’ve ever had”
- When they wrote the script they had Greg check it over to make sure it wasn’t “too British” and they wanted to make sure it felt more like an American film.
- He is still looking to find the time to write a third part of his trilogy of films with Edgar Wright but after shooting Paul he said there was nothing he wanted to do more than work with Greg Mottola again.
- Said his Mission: Impossible 4 role isn’t official yet and he’s still not sure he’s in it.
- Says the characters in this film are similar to his and Pegg’s Spaced characters in that they’re like an old married couple with a funny relationship. But for this film they added more of their own personalities to these characters to make sure the characters don’t feel stale.
- Admits that in the writing process he and Pegg do argue and bicker – much like their characters in their previous works together.
- They still have a lot of effects work left to do on the film – the effects company is Double Negative, who did The Dark Knight and the Harry Potter films
- Picked the project because he wanted to do something very different from his previous films but he’s still “very invested in the psychology of the characters and liking them by accepting their flaws”.
- Promises references to Spielberg movies, X-Files and other pop culture icons
- Called it the most “in over my head” film of his career
- Compares Paul the alien to a “Roger Rabbit element” of the film, but the alien must look lifelike and can’t appear fake.
- Doesn’t think the film will be finished until January or so.
- They couldn’t afford to have Seth on set as a stand in for Paul the whole time.
- Says the film is a love letter to Spielberg (Nick joked it was a love letter to RVs)
- When asked about Pegg and Frost’s work with Spielberg on Tintin, Mottola joked that he hopes Spielberg never sees Paul because he’s too scared to show Spielberg his love letter to him. Pegg said he was excited for Spielberg to see it.
- He was inspired by the fact that Spielberg doesn’t always shoot in close ups (which a lot of comedies do) and imported that into Paul. However he doesn’t want the homages to be distracting and obvious.
- Said he’s stunned when fans turn against Michael Cera for doing similar roles and he’s “amazing in Scott Pilgrim. I thought he was incredible.”
For more info on Paul, check out our coverage from Steve’s set visit:
For more Comic-Con coverage, click here.