Nick Frost is probably one of the last actors you'd imagine leading a romantic comedy about salsa dancing, and the Shaun of the Dead and The World's End star is certainly aware of that fact. That's why it took so long for him to work up the courage to actually tell anyone he wanted to make a movie where his dancing was a huge plot point.
What's great about Cuban Fury, though, is that it doesn't make fun of the fact that Nick Frost is a large man doing dances usually reserved for slim, sexy people. This is a well-meaning, heartfelt comedy about a man (Frost) coming to terms with the fact that he's excellent at something everyone would make fun of him for. It also doesn't hurt that his secret hobby happens to be the precise type of exotic dancing that his new coworker (Rashida Jones) is trying to learn. I know that may sound silly, but trust us, it all works nicely and makes for the kind of rom-com that feels like a warm hug from a good friend.
We spoke to Frost on his press tour for the film's U.S. release, and he was very open about how his weight sets up certain expectations about him, and how overcoming those fears of being judged are what made him want to make it in the first place.
Movies.com: Cuban Fury came from you drunkenly e-mailing a producer your idea at 3 a.m., but you actually came up with the idea three years earlier. Why did it take so long to send the e-mail?
Nick Frost: Because I was afraid of that idea. I thought if I tell someone about it, then I might have to do it. I like dancing, I've always been a dancer, but the problem I have as a bigger man who is good at dancing, sometimes you catch someone looking at you like you're some bearded woman in some Victorian sideshow. That look drives me bonkers. So the thought of doing a film where I dance a lot kind of excited me, but I didn't tell anyone for ages because of that look. Being drunk was just the catalyst that I needed to be able to write the thing.
I pressed send and forgot it. Then I woke up feeling a bit uneasy, looked at my e-mails, then saw an e-mail back from Nira Park, our producer, saying "This is great! We've been wanting to develop a dance film and this could be it, let's have a meeting." And that was it. From me sending that e-mail to the first day of production was 15 months, and I trained for seven of those months. So from that e-mail to the first day of production for me was eight or nine months, which is a testament to StudioCanal and BFI liking it so much.
I've been known for doing a certain type of film and I think it was very important as a man to put myself under pressure. I'm a firm believer that fear is good for humans. It makes you appreciate the ability to lose it all. But, I mean, this is just a dancing film. It's not like I was being shot at, but the fear of dancing in front of people, and the fear of getting in these pitch meetings where I'd say "Yeah, it's me dancing" and I could hear my id saying "Shut your mouth." I couldn't stop myself from shutting up.
And then when that first training session started, and I'm in this tiny room full of mirrors and I'm with the best salsa dancers in the world and I felt like Dr. Frankenstein's monster humping Latino culture. In that moment I thought, "You are a f**king d**k."
Movies.com: You pulled it off, though, without being disrespectful at all.
Frost: I think we did. We trained so much. If a serious actor did seven months of training for a serious role, it's the kind of thing you'd read and think "That guy's going to get an Oscar nomination." But there is no Oscar nomination for a romantic comedy with salsa in it. It's kind of bonkers to think of those seven months. Like if you were caught with a bag of weed in your car and they gave you seven months in jail, you'd think, "F**k, I'm finished!" [Laughs] And that was the same feeling as this.
Movies.com: Has that changed how you're going to approach future roles?
Frost: No, not at all. As I said, fear is good. I'm good at playing stoned idiots and drunks and angry fighters, those roles were written tailor-made for me by Edgar and Simon. All I had to do was learn the lines and show up and those guys would take care of the rest. But for this, it was a conscious decision to do something different.
Movies.com: Does the romantic comedy side of it add on any extra layers of fear?
Frost: With a rom-com, it has to be believable. I think the first time we met Rashida Jones, we were supposed to meet for an hour and we ended up hanging out five hours. There was a chemistry there and a spark. If you and I have a chemistry here in this room, then the audience will see the chemistry when it's 50-feet high on a movie screen. That's all you want. You can look like me, and she can look like her, and people will believe they can get together because we have a natural chemistry.
I think we're led to believe you have to be size double zero and have teeth as white as f**king ice and have abs, and if you don't look like that, you're never going to get better than that. And that's a myth we perpetuate every generation. If you want to look like that, that's fine, but know that you're actually a small number of people in the world who do. This is about how passion can be attractive too. At one point in your life, your abs are going to go soft, but passion always remains hard.
Movies.com: Any updates on sequels for Attack the Block?
Frost: Nope, haven't heard anything.
Movies.com: Snow White and the Huntsman?
Frost: It's meant to be going ahead, but again, I haven't heard anything.
Movies.com: Adventures of Tin-Tin?
Frost: Again, meant to be going ahead. Me and Simon signed up for three of those, and I signed up for three of Snow White and the Huntsman, so we'll see. I guess it's nice in terms of being an actor that you'd potentially have these things coming up and you'd be able to use them to feed your family for a year, but it's so difficult. They look at what the movies did, is it worth it, did people like it? It's not just "Oh that was a good film, let's do another one."
I do still speak to a lot of the guys from Snow White and I think we'd all love to do one. We all had such a good laugh doing that one. It was such a good time. And I loved Rupert Sanders and what he did with it. I thought it looked really beautiful. I liked it a lot.
Cuban Fury hits theaters on April 18, 2014. Check it out.
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