Nick Frost – he of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and Paul hilarity – played the mohawk-sporting dwarf Nion in Snow White And The Huntsman a few years back. Now, he’s returned to the role in Universal’s prequel/sequel/spin-off The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
This time around, Nion has been given more comedic opportunities and a new half-brother by the name of Gryff. Rob Brydon – he of Would I Lie To You?, The Trip and Gavin & Stacey funniness – has taken this role, and the pair prove to make quite a formidable double act in the movie. While Chris Hemsworth scowls and battles, these guys bring the warmth and the humour.
We caught up Frost and Brydon for an all-too-brief five minutes in a fancy London hotel room last week, and the duo were just as charming and funny as you’d expect…
So Nick, you were in the first Huntsman film. What was your dwarf advice for Rob going into this one?
Nick Frost: Short arms! Keep your arms short.
Rob Brydon: Keep your arms short, as if you’re trying to put them in your pockets.
NF: Little steps…
RB: Small steps. Short steps. Um…
NF: Um… yeah…
RB: Look up a lot. Look up, because that’s your viewpoint on the world. And, think dwarf.
NF: Yeah, think small.
RB: Think small, be small. It was good advice, because Nick as you say was a graduate of dwarf school the first time around.
NF: Class of ’13!
RB: Mmm, I went in all ears, all eyes. I used to go into his trailer and just sit there and say ‘I want to learn’. And he’d say [points to eyes] ‘keep these open, [points to ears] keep these open, [points to mouth] keep that shut’.
NF: And he did!
RB: I learnt so much. So much.
NF: I used to, and I know it sounds odd, but if you could see the dwarf walk in nothing but human flesh… So, I would strip down to my pants and just walk up and down.
RB: I could see the musculature…
NF: You could see how it works.
RB: I could see the spine… it was hypnotic. I’ve been unable to forget it.
And what’s it like being put together and being told to be a double act? How do you build up that rapport?
NF: I don’t think we were told to be a double act. Just, Rob and I know each other, and we like each other, and we make each other laugh socially, and you know I trust Rob as a performer and it was never about us. It was always about the characters, and about the film. It’s nice when you trust everyone you work with, because you can do some good work and leave a bit of yourself out there. You know, I think, if people are seeing us as a double act, I think that’s a really nice thing, and I’m kinda chuffed with that. I think we worked well together.
RB: We slotted in nicely, but as Nick says we’ve know each other for years socially, and we live near each other, so… and it would be in our nature, if we were to bump into each other, I’d try and make him laugh. Because I admire him, and to make someone you admire laugh is a nice feeling. And he would do it back to me, it was always fun. So when I knew I was going to do it with Nick, it was “oh, this’ll be good!”
And you did a little bit in Shaun Of The Dead as well, Rob. Have you known each other since back then?
RB: I voiced something in that, just as for a laugh really, for Edgar [Wright]. We’ve never actually worked together, but as I say I’ve known him for years.
Rob, when yours and Sheridan Smith’s characters starting getting flirty, part of my brain was going ‘but it’s Bryn and Rudi, it’s so wrong!’ Did you get freaked out at all by that, or was that just me being weird?
RB: That was just you [laughs], because for me Gavin & Stacey was six years ago, for six weeks a year. That’s the interesting thing, you know, that the people in these things don’t have the associations that the fans do, you know? I think of her as Sheridan, I couldn’t have told you that her character was called Rudi. I just know she was in it, you know? We didn’t really do many scenes…
So for me it was just a delight to work with her! Because she is one of the best actresses in the country. And she’s recognised as that, it was great –
NF: – also, she’s very easy to make laugh –
RB: – she is! She is the best audience. I’d say that about Sheridan Smith. Never mind being a great actress, she’s so good as an audience.
NF: She does that laugh sometimes, that she laughs so much that she becomes silent, and slips back into sound as the laughter –
RB: She makes you feel like the funniest guy in the room.
And was there any room for improvisation in this? Because I was quite surprised that some of the humour was quite grown-up. Was that all in the script, or did some of that come from you guys?
NF: Yes, absolutely there was. But, you always do the script, you know? You always do what’s written, and then if you have time… or Rob or I might say ‘hey, do you mind if we go again?’ Yeah, we were encouraged to improvise. Also, not forced to do it. You know, sometimes when someone says ‘okay, do something funny, now!’, it’s kind of hard. But everything we wanted to do, we were kind of allowed to do.
RB: I think some of it has ended up in the finished cut, you know? Little moments here and there. It’s not much, just little bits.
Could you give any examples of those?
NF: [jokingly] No!
[Laughing] And on that note I think I’ve run out of time now.
NF: Okay, that’s enough! [laughs]
RB: Oh, I know one thing! [Whistles and mimes putting on a glove, which is a move that gets a big laugh in the film] That wasn’t in the script, so there we are. That’s something where Cedric [Nicolas-Troyan, the director]… well, it’s a gesture, but it’s a bit, you know?
There are little bits like that. There’s the scene when we’re tied up [turns to Nick]… there’s something there isn’t there?
NF: Yeah… there’s lots and lots of little bits. “Same mum” [a line, again, which gets a big laugh]. That was ours.
RB: Oh, “same mum”… when you first meet us, and to introduce the brother we go…
NF and RB together: Same mum!
RB: That was ours.
NF: It’s like that’s their relationship, that they have to stipulate that it’s only the [mum that’s shared]… you know what I mean?
RB: There a lots of little bits like that.
Rob Brydon and Nick Frost, thank you very much!
The Huntsman: Winter’s War reaches UK cinemas on Monday 4th April 2016.