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PAUL

About The Production
The notoriously rainy English climate has spoiled picnics, caused plenty of traffic jams on British highways and wreaked havoc on the schedule of more than one film production. One of the unexpected benefits of the inclement weather, however, is that it indirectly gave rise to the comedy-adventure Paul.

During the rain-soaked shooting of Simon Pegg's first film, the rom-zom-com Shaun of the Dead, producer Nira Park asked him what he was planning for his next project. Fed up with rain delays, Pegg swore he wanted his next movie to be shot in a warm, dry climate. He laughed: "Let's make a film somewhere it never rains, like a desert.”

"That day, over lunch, Simon handed me this drawing of an alien with a tagline that read, ‘In America, everyone's an alien,'” remembers Park. "He said, ‘This is our next movie—a road trip with an alien.' We talked about it a bit and how the film would be shot in the American Southwest. After that, I pinned the piece of paper on my drawing board and kept thinking about it. I thought, ‘What a brilliant idea.'”

In the years that passed, Pegg and his frequent director and collaborator, Edgar Wright, moved onto other projects for the production company they share with Park, Big Talk Pictures. The most prominent of these was the action-comedy Hot Fuzz, the company's second hit.

Park recalls: "At the end of Hot Fuzz, I reminded Simon again about the idea. I said, ‘Why don't you just write up the first scene…just to see?' Simon returned 10 minutes later with a scene, and it was just fantastic.” Park sent the copy to Eric Fellner at Working Title Films, the successful British production company that had funded Big Talk's previous efforts.

Fellner remembers that day: "Nira sent over the treatment, and I was eager to find out what Nick and Simon were cooking up. By its very nature, a road trip is about exploration and discovering places and people you've never encountered. When I read how this concept had been married with an alien comedy, I thought it was brilliant.”

After she heard back from Fellner, Park phoned Pegg. She recounts, "I told him, ‘He wants to do it!' and Simon said, ‘Who wants to do what?' and I said, ‘That thing!' By the time we started filming, we realized it had been six years since he gave me that piece of paper. I had it scanned and gave it to the director, Greg Mottola, on the first day of filming.”

Paul marks the first screenplay Pegg and his frequent co-star and close friend Nick Frost have written as partners. "Nick and I have worked together for 10 years and we've been friends for much longer,” shares Pegg. "The collaboration has been an interesting experience, because we've slightly changed the dynamic of our characters in this one. In the other movies, which I wrote with Edgar Wright, I played the main character and Nick is the sidekick. But this film is very much a doubleheader. If anything, Nick's character, Clive, is slightly more dominant and confident, whereas my character, Graeme, is a bit of a wallflower at first.”

Before putting pen to paper, Pegg and Frost set out on an actual road trip in an RV across the American West, starting in Los Angeles, California, and weaving their way through several states until they ended up in Denver, Colorado. The excursion proved to be invaluable in the creation of the film's story. Ironically, they encountered terrible weather, including heavy snow and temperatures so low that their RV's battery froze. Nonetheless, Pegg found the trip extraordinary and inspirational. "We learned so much about the landscape. It was extraordinarily beautiful, hospitable and inhospitable at the same time, remarkable country.”

Another aspect they had not anticipated, according to Frost, was the scope of their undertaking. "There's something about the size of America for which we weren't prepared,” he confesses. "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. Then there was the weather. When we got to Nevada, it started snowing, and it continued for the rest of the trip. In certain parts of Wyoming and Colorado, it got so cold the beer would freeze inside the fridge and the shampoo in the bottles.” Frost laughs: "I think we killed the RV.”

They wove several of their experiences from the trip into the script. "We actually went to a place called the Little A'Le'Inn, and the incident in the film with the meatheads happened to us,” recalls Pegg. "There were these two guys who came in who were perhaps not quite as threatening as the characters in the movie, but they certainly made the atmosphere turn cold. The bird hitting the windshield also happened. Every day there was a new experience. We had a real adventure. It was vital and brilliant fun, and we never could have written the movie without it.”

Since it was a bit difficult to locate an actual extraterrestrial to take the trip with them, the duo came up with a suitable substitute. One of Pegg's friends sculpted a bust of an alien and called him Paul. "All the photos they sent were framed in such a way that Paul looked like he was with them,” says producer Park. "That inspired them, brought it to life. They suddenly thought, ‘You know, this could really work.'”

Once the excursion was over, Pegg and Frost watched more than 50 movies about aliens and about road trips. "Then we just sat opposite one another and banged it out, line by line,” recalls Frost. "For a time Simon went off to do How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, and since we needed a draft of the script, I went away for a couple of weeks and wrote a big 180-page script. When Simon returned, we took that behemoth and completely deconstructed it. We kept what was good, and what was bad was elbowed. Simon had a big monitor so I could see what he was typing. We discussed every single line, sometimes for hours.”

What emerged was a comedy-adventure that is actually about more than one visitor who's far from home. "In one respect, everyone in this film is slightly alien,” says Pegg. "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.”

The search for a director began and ended when Greg Mottola was proposed. At the time, Mottola's only theatrical release was The Daytrippers, an independent film that Park and Pegg both hugely admired. But he also had a new movie in the wings called Superbad, and when the comedy was screened for them, they knew they had their man. "Greg's films have a certain feel, a certain lightness of touch,” commends Pegg. "He is able to bring indie feel to a more mainstream film.”

Mottola first met Pegg at a hotel restaurant in New York City the day that Superbad opened. Pegg walked him through their concept for Paul and Mottola responded to Pegg and Frost's story breakdown of ordinary, interesting people who find themselves in an extraordinary situation. He offers: "Nick and Simon have created smart, interesting characters and I find them really appealing as performers. Together, they have that special chemistry that is endlessly enjoyable to watch. I think it's because they're close friends and that they make each other laugh effortlessly.”

Six months later, Mottola received the script for Paul. He recalls: "Just as Shaun of the Dead is about zombies and Hot Fuzz is about action movies, this wa

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