Nick Frost interview: Snow White and the Huntsman, angry dwarfs, and The World's End

Interview Michael Leader 31 May 2012 - 07:31

We caught up with Nick Frost to talk being transformed into a dwarf for Snow White and the Huntsman, Paul, and what he has lined up...

Nick Frost has come a long way in the last 12 years, from playing the lovably gung-ho best mate Mike in Spaced, to appearing in the likes of Paul, The Adventures of Tintin, and the upcoming fourth entry in the Ice Age series. This month, he is one of the eight seriously grumpy dwarves in Rupert Sanders’ epic Snow White And The Huntsman.

After catching a tantalising 30 minutes of clips of this new take on Snow White (we've since seen the whole lot), we caught up with Frost at an advance press junket, where the actor spoke about being an angry dwarf, his career to date, and what the future has in store...

I still feel that we need to be pulled up to speed about Snow White and the Huntsman. We only saw half an hour of clips from the film...

Which is 26 minutes more than I’ve seen, by the way...

...and only one scene with the dwarves. But we saw epic battles, monsters and more than mild peril. So is this quite a radical reworking of Snow White?

I think I’m going to disagree, because I think it’s very close to the original source material in terms of it being a gothic fairytale designed to frighten children and adults. And I think Rupert’s kind of gone back to that. I love that. It appealed to me that it wasn’t the Technicolor, heigh-ho, kind of thing that we expect from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I really liked the fact that he wanted to do it big, and he wanted to make it dark.

It seems there’s quite a bit of grime and mud, from what we saw.

There’s a lot of that. I think, should we do a second film, and I think we are possibly going to do a second film, because we’ve signed on for a few. I think that’s when the dwarves will come into their own. I think you find us pretty far into the film, and then Snow White has this amazing ability to make angry dwarves slightly less angry. So as our story goes on, we become less like animals - which is what we are when she finds us - and potentially more like the human beings.

So they’re definitely angry dwarves this time out?

Oh my god, yeah, they’re angry. There’s a lot of anger. We’re factioned into the half that trusts talls, and the other half that hates talls. I think we’ve just been solidly been fucked over by the queen, and we’ve lost everything. We’ve spent a lot of time in the run up to the film talking about it. Potentially, there were thousands of happy dwarves, mining and finding gold. And we came out of the mine one day, and it was literally scorched earth, no families, and I think that has really affected them to a great degree. Now they hate everyone. But no dwarf women, that’s a shame, no dwarf women left.

Maybe something for the sequel, then?

No, it would be great to get a dwarf chicken!

But you have such a great line-up of gruff, British men as the dwarves. Who’d be the female dwarf?

Maybe Kathy Burke. I think she’d be a great, great gruff dwarf female.

It seems that recently there’s been a renewed interest in fairy tales, especially that of Snow White. Mirror Mirror came out earlier this year, and Once Upon A Time has done quite well on TV in the States. And now there’s Snow White and the Huntsman.

In terms of Snow White, I think it’s the 75th anniversary of Disney’s release, isn’t it? I think that’s why there’s been a glut of Snow White stories. But, I don’t know, if I was being less cynical, I’d say that there’s been a nice boost in technology, which means we can remake these things, and really make them look amazing. Classy and frightening and dark, or glossy or whichever Snow White camp you’re in. But, if I was being more cynical, I’d say that marketing people go through a list of things and go ‘ah! This is the thing! Let’s remake these.’ Rather than find some good original material and take a chance on it.

The technology aspect is there, though, and that’s something that has developed since, say, the eighties, which is the last time that a lot of fantasy films were made in Hollywood. Most of those films look quite ropey now. But now we can get some of the best British actors and shrink them down into dwarf form. Was it all CGI?

We had a lot of different processes. A lot of the time, there were doubles of us. We went to dwarf college as well, and we spent three weeks with our little selves. They’re not dwarves, either, they’re just short people. So they had to learn how to walk like dwarves, too, and we had to learn to walk like dwarves. Lewis, who was my double, we had to learn to walk like each other. So in the wide shots, you wouldn’t think ‘that’s not Nick Frost!’. So they did a lot of the wide work, a lot of the battle work. They said they were going to cut thirteen inches out of us, and shrink us down to a nice size. But they also did a lot of in-camera stuff, which I really liked. Kristen and Chris Hemsworth were on plinths, and we were in holes in the set, and they’d build each set with a little runner down the middle, so we could get in there. They had a few giants as well, on set, so I think Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones fought a giant, and because of the scale, obviously, it worked perfectly. I think where it fell down technically was the fact that, yes, you can take thirteen inches out of my size, I am twice as big as Chris Hemsworth, or Kristen. So, then, the little guys would come in, and do the stunts. They worked, like, twice or three times harder than us. They did all the battles, most of the big fight scenes. They worked hard, and they had to do it all with a mask on.

That’s while you’re in your trailer, relaxing...

Yeah! [laughs] We had to share a trailer with our...

Really?

We didn’t, I’m joking. [laughs, adopts affected, diva voice] I don’t share a trailer!

It’s been quite fun, seeing your career over the last twelve or thirteen years, going from television to independent films like Shaun of The Dead, to crossover movies like Paul, and now you’re in a big, franchise-potential, four-quadrant epic. What’s that journey been like?

I don’t think about it. It’s just a job. I think, if I’m lucky enough to keep getting these things, I’m not going to damn it by talking about it. You just get more opportunities. If Steven Spielberg approaches you and says ‘would you like to be Thomson in my film?’ I’m going to say yes, every day of the week! Same with Ice Age, it’s like, yeah, ‘it’s a big film, people love it, here’s a new character no-one’s seen, what do you want to bring to the character?’ Yeah, I love that. Thank you. Absolutely, I’ll do it.

Do you tick off genres? Is there one you’ve not done that you’d like to do?

Yeah, maybe. I’d do a war film, you know. I’d do a British war film. I think, in the 50s and 60s we were great at war films, that’s what we did. And we don’t really do them any more. I think there’s this terrible conflict going on, where hundreds of our soldiers die, and I don’t think we highlight it enough. Look at The Hurt Locker, for instance. We could do a Hurt Locker.

So a contemporary film, looking at more recent conflicts?

Yeah. And we don’t do it. And I don’t know why we don’t do it.

I guess the UK film industry, with all its various funding bodies, might shy away from things that could be...

Near the knuckle. Yeah. I agree. I’d like to do a war film. I always think I could play a fantastic psychopath. [laughs] I’d like to play a psycho. With a heart, you know. A caring lunatic.

It’s now been a year since Paul came out. Do you have any reflections on that film? It seemed to do quite well.

It did great! I think its final box office was a little over $100 million, which is fantastic. It’s tricky, isn’t it? How do you class if a film’s done well? And, you know what. I love Twitter, I’m on Twitter quite a lot. And I probably get hundreds of tweets, from people saying ‘Just watched Paul for the thirtieth time. Amazing!’. That means more to me than the box office, in terms of pleasure, and it being a legacy film. If someone’s going to watch it in twenty years and still enjoy it as much as they did now, then that’s amazing. I’ve been fortunate to have been in Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz and Paul. They are three films that people love to watch over and over again. I think that’s probably more satisfying for me than what it did or didn’t do at the box office.

Have you had much time to think about the next project?

Yeah. You’re going to get, unfortunately, one of those shitty actor's secret answers. But there are three things we’re going to make this year - one with Simon, and a couple of things without Simon. We’re at that point where we literally can’t say anything about them.

The project with Simon is the third Cornetto movie...

That is The World’s End, yeah.

And the other two you’re developing on your own?

Yeah. With Big Talk.

And you can’t tell us anything about them?

No. I’m so sorry! But they’re kinda ideas I had a couple of years ago, and the good thing about being part of Big Talk is being able to say ‘hey! Here’s an idea I’ve had...’ And they’ll say ‘yeah, let’s do it!’.

Nick Frost, thank you very much!

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Saw this last night and I have to say I was impressed.  It is a proper fantasy film.

Forget about the baggage of Snow White and this stands on its own merits.

Frost and the other dwarves added a lot of light relief as you might expect but they also kicked ass and served as the heart of the film, showing why Snow White was so important.

If there are going to be more in this vein then I'll be on board for it.

Thought Snow White And The Huntsman was good. Epic battle scenes. One of the most cinematic films of the year anyway: big screen or bust.

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