In Shaun of the Dead, comic actor Simon Pegg battled zombies. In Paul, he befriends an alien who needs help getting to his mother ship. Beyond the sci-fi premises, the films share another connection. Shaun was shot at a time when the damp British climate was being particularly nasty. Pegg swore he wanted to make a movie shot “somewhere it never rains, like a desert,” and said his next movie should be “a road trip with an alien in the American Southwest” where things were presumably warm and dry.
A few years later, as Pegg was finishing Hot Fuzz, producer Nira Park reminded him of the comment and Pegg began writing Paul, the story of two sci-fi fans touring legendary hotspots of alien activity who encounter a real alien.
Before filming, Pegg and costar Nick Frost set off on a road trip in the American West. Beginning in Los Angeles, the pair set off in an RV, winding through several states before ending up in Colorado.
The weather was far from the dry warmth Pegg anticipated. The pair encountered heavy snow and temperatures so low that their RV’s battery — and the beer in their refrigerator — froze.
The two, presumably used to getting around the small island that is Great Britain, also discovered that the West was much larger and than they expected. “There’s something about the size of America for which we weren’t prepared,” Frost says. “You look at it on a map and think ‘All right, we can probably do that in three or four days.’ Then, after a day’s driving for 10 or 11 hours, you’ve only gone 300 miles and you’ve got to travel 2,000 miles. We did nothing but drive from eight in the morning until nine or ten at night.
However, Pegg found the trip inspiring. “We learned so much about the landscape. It was extraordinarily beautiful … remarkable country.” The trip also fueled the theme of the comedy/adventure. “In one respect, everyone in this film is slightly alien,” Pegg says. “That was a key factor in the writing: this idea of people not being where they belong and learning to live where they don’t belong.”
“Paul” is now showing on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2011 Universal Studios