EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article contains adult language.
The spectacle that is Comic-Con International has finally been recreated for film, thanks to “Shaun of the Dead” creators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. And if all the Storm Troopers and Slave Leias didn’t make for enough theater, the two also threw in an escaped alien from Area 51 voiced by Seth Rogen (“Knocked Up”).
“Paul,” scheduled to hit theaters in May of 2011 from Universal Studios, follows two British comic geeks as they make the pilgrimage to the comic book Mecca known as Comic-Con International in San Diego. From there, they take their RV and head east, wanting to visit Area 51. On the way, they have a close encounter with a real alien known as Paul (a CGI alien with Seth Rogen’s voice), who has decided it’s time to escape the government facility. Pegg and Frost of course decide – as any true comic nerds would – to help the foul-mouthed funny alien.
In the extended preview that was shown to CCI attendees in Hall H, Pegg and Frost are seen in a familiar setting – waiting to cross the street from San Diego’s Gas Lamp district to the convention center while swarms of fellow fans decked out in their best costumes wait alongside them. The scene shifts, and Pegg and Frost are shown awash in all the bright lights and unusual sights that occur on the convention floor. Jeffrey Tambor (George Bluth Sr. in “Arrested Development”) appears as a narcissistic writer who tells fans who haven’t already bought his book to “Fuck off.”
From there, Pegg and Frost begin their journey to Area 51 when they run into Paul. Paul rummages through their fridge before the three are stopped by the FBI (played by Jason Bateman, also of “Arrested Development,” and Joe Lo Truglio from “Superbad”). In another scene, Pegg is decked by a local, with Paul responding by opening the RV door and shouting, “Yo, fuck-nuts! It’s probing time!” while waving a long, skinny alien finger. In another scene, Pegg tells Paul that he’s having a hard time understanding what Paul is saying, and asks him if he’s communicating via some strange alien mind waves, to which Paul responds, “Actually, I’m speaking English, you fucking idiot!”
“It’s our love letter to you,” Frost, who co-wrote and co-stars in the movie, said to the CCI crowd. The panel was attended by director Greg Mottola (“Superbad”); Simon Pegg (“Shawn of the Dead”); Frost (“Shawn of the Dead”); Bateman; Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live”); Sigourney Weaver (“Alien”); Tambor; Lo Truglio and Rogen.
“I think the people [of Comic-Con] are great and I think they deserve this [film],” Mottola echoed.
Pegg – who co-stars in and co-wrote the film – told the crowd that the idea for “Paul” started during “the filming of a little movie called ‘Shaun of the Dead.'”
“[We were] doing this scene where we’re throwing records at zombies, the weather was terrible, and someone said, ‘Can’t we shoot somewhere sunny all the time?'” Pegg recalled. “Seven years later, here we are.”
To research and “get to know America,” Pegg and Frost took a road trip across the American Southwest together.
“A lot of things that happened in the movie happened on that trip – including meeting an alien,” Pegg joked. “We went a whole day without seeing a singe person. Well, we did see a woman on crutches hitchhiking. No, we didn’t pick her up.”
Mottola said he was able to get involved in the movie before the script was even finished.
“I was already a big fan – if I could ever make a movie as good as “Shaun of the Dead,”” I’d retire,” Mottola said. “Obviously I haven’t done it yet. I begged them to consider me.”
Rogen said that it was Mottola – the two previously worked together on “Superbad” – who showed him the script for “Paul.”
“I was thrilled with [the script] and said yes,” Rogen said. “Then I was told I’d be wearing a head-to-toe leotard all week!”
Despite the spandex, Rogen told the crowd that it was fun for him to work as a CGI alien. “I was happy to use this amazing technology that people have created and perfected, and then jerk off with it,” he laughed.
Obviously, the scenes outside the San Diego Convention Center took place in San Diego, but Frost said the scenes inside the convention center were recreated in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“We tried to shoot some of it here, but, to quote the San Diego fire marshal, ‘No fucking way,'” he said. “We had the 501st Legion of Storm Troopers and lots of comic people, come down [to Albuquerque] for it.”
Pegg, who joked that the room felt like ‘the world’s largest Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting,'” said that the character of Paul shown to the audience was “95- to 99-percent complete” but not the final version. “We’ll be working on him into the next year.”
A fan asked the panel what it felt like to attend Comic-Con as a celebrity rather than as a normal fan.
Mottola laughed and stated that, “Most people just think I’m Moby,” while Bateman said it was nice to be around so many people who like movies.
“Lots of people want to say hi, which is nice,” Pegg said. “It’s nice being here, although it’s hard to not be wearing a mask. You can put a mask on and wander around. You can do it.”
“I was walking around as Slave Leia,” Frost joked. “You really can do it.”
Hader, who said he came as a fan to CCI from 2000 to 2004, told the audience, “It’s cool to come back and be on a panel. Also, I was on the floor, and no one gave a shit.”
Rogen said that since he’s lost a little bit of weight, people think he’s “Lost” producer J.J. Abrams. “People don’t give a shit about me, but they apparently love J.J. Abrams!”
A fan asked who would win in a fight – the cops from “Superbad” or the cops from Pegg and Frost’s “Hot Fuzz.”
“Those guys would kick our asses!” Rogen laughed. “They have machine guns and shit.”
Hader agreed, saying his and Rogen’s characters in “Superbad” would be too drunk to put up a fight.
To end the panel, a fan asked what the cast’s favorite Comic-Con memory was. While most replied that seeing the trailer of “Paul” was their favorite moment, there were a few unique answers. Pegg said his favorite memory was meeting Ken Foree, who played Peter in the original 1978 “Dawn of the Dead” movie. “I gave him a cuddle.”
Bill Hader said his favorite CCI memory was meeting Neil Gaiman.
Sigourney Weaver said she had several fond memories of when she visited as an actor in the film “Galaxy Quest,” but didn’t have any other memories as a fan because they didn’t have the convention when she was a kid.
Rogen got the biggest laugh of the panel with his favorite memory: smoking a joint with “Captain America” writer Ed Brubaker and Method Man at the same time.
“Fuck yeah, Comic-Con!” he shouted.