Nick Frost: "Maybe I should publish a magazine called 'Normal People Eating Stuff'"
Having watched (numerous times) Nick Frost go totally apeshit with a broken bar-stool in The World's End, I would have thought that taking up dancing for Cuban Fury was a walk (or quickstep) in the park compared to fight training. Not so, evidently. "I found it much harder," Frost tells me, "because I'd trained to be a kickboxer for four years and played rugby for years, so the combat and being hit, that side of physicality, I kind of welcome it, really! Dancing was something else completely and absolutely relentless. You're essentially doing it in a box made of mirrors and you're having to watch yourself dry-hump Latino culture. It's not a pretty thing when you've never done it before."
Frost's fleet-footed Bruce Garrett salsas his way through Cuban Fury, a comedy that when read as a rom-com, is sweet if slight, but gains considerable power as a film about the dangers of abandoning your dreams (as TheVine's Anthony Morris points out in his review, a life "devoid of real companionship").
It's not surprising, then, to hear that Frost had wanted to make a dance film for ages:
NF: "I was really frightened of it, but I had that little Jiminy Cricket in me that, every now and again, after a few drinks would say 'Tell someone!' and I'd have a real internal struggle about it. You know, I thought that-- hoped --that it was a good idea. So I sent Nira [Park], the producer, an email, and the next day she said 'This is great, let's do it'. So I was like the Zodiac Killer; I wanted to be caught."
CB: The thing about dance movies is, much like musicals, I feel as though every few years Hollywood tries to 'reboot' the genre and it never quite happens.
"I think, yes, it's a dance film and it's a gentle comedy, but I don't think we were trying to 'reboot' anything. I really love films like Strictly Ballroom and I think what I like about that film, and what we've tried to do is, the comedy should be funny, the characters should be real people, and the drama should be dramatic and the dancing should be fiery and passionate. I think people either really, really love this film or they're slightly suspicious of it. 'Well, it seems to... make me feel quite nice?' It's a weird thing for people in this day and age."
Yes, I think earnestness has become a bit declassé, which is a shame.
"Well, it feels like there's a certain person who feels guilty to be happy. We live in such a cynical society where we have to be on our guard all the time, and when we see something that isn't that, you get people jabbing pitchforks at it."
I was talking about this the other day with a friend; he'd been sick, and an acquaintance brought some food over because she'd heard he wasn't able to cook, and he remembered thinking 'What's the catch?' because it seemed "too nice".
"Isn't that weird? Isn't that horrible? I bet he threw it all away because he was afraid it was poisoned."
The thing about Cuban Fury, though, is that it's obviously being pitched and marketed as a 'rom-com', but in some ways I think it's more of a love story about reconnecting with the things that you love, those passions you've lost.
"Yeah... [sigh] Marketing people have to pitch it as something, I understand that, but we were really keen to make sure that the character of Bruce does everything for himself, and in doing so, kind of, maybe gets the girl. You know, we shot a kiss, and we never used it, because it was completely wrong; it was if he'd done it all just to woo her [Rashida Jones' character]."
I was wondering about that.
"Which [would be] fine, but what you have to think of is 'What happens once the film ends?' What if it doesn't work out, what if she goes home, or cheats on him? Then Bruce is back to square one. But the way we've done it, hopefully, he would still have himself and that eternal peace and happiness from that catharsis of washing those bullies out of his life and pulling himself back up."
You know, I think - outside sport and "cool" things like that - those sorts of passions, be they dancing or comics or collecting some particular action figure, the people who pursue them have had an experience like that, that reconnection with an old passion.
"Yes, but also, you never feel old - there's always hope. In some of my earlier ideas for this film, it was about a shunning of what the media classes as 'attractive'. I think we're all meant to strive towards this unattainable vision of abs and ice-white teeth, which is fine, but I probably know three people that like their body, and I know hundreds of people. Even people who have amazing bodies probably look in the mirror and think, 'My lats could probably be a little firmer'. So in terms of this film, what I was trying to get was that passion is attractive. In Bruce's case, that's passion for dancing, but it could be passion for Sailor Moon or Star Wars or cooking or motorbikes. That kind of passion is attractive forever, it doesn't go away. Like rock hard abs do."
It might be wishful thinking, but I feel like there's a slowly boiling movement away from that notion of romantic comedy being 'beautiful people meet cute, get together, the end'.
"They're not real people, you know? I think you just have to be happy. The older I get the more I realise it's just about being happy, it shouldn't matter what you look like."
I always think of that fantastic line from Almost Famous, where Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Lester Bangs, says, "You know, good looking people, they got no spine; their art never lasts".
"Yeah! Maybe I should produce and publish a magazine called 'Normal People Eating Stuff'.
"'Feeling Okay About Myself'. And it's just normal men and women doing what they do in their life."
I'll subscribe for everybody in my family; there's your first thousand pounds made.
"No, you keep your money - this can be like The Facebook, you're in at the ground floor."
Do you have any other long-held dreams, you know, now that you've finally done your dance film?
"God, I dunno, I mean I've always loved cooking, and considering it's something we all do, all the time, in terms of eating and consuming food, there are no films 'about' food. There's Babette's Feast and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, but that's two films. There's a vast population that likes to think about the next meal or what we're going to eat tomorrow."
There you go, that could be a tie-in for Normal People Eating Stuff magazine.
"Yeah! 'Helen, 38, enjoys an apple'. Just a couple of big guys eating a hotdog each and laughing. I think that would make people feel good."