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Tuesday 21 November 2017

A touch of frost and root of all evil in new drama

Shaun of the Dead star Nick Frost tells Susan Griffin how playing the anti-hero of Martin Amis's darkly comedic tale of 1980s greed nearly got him into fights with strangers

Nick Frost, the generously sized star of Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz has no qualms about stripping off.

"I played a lot of rugby as a kid so being naked in a room with 50 men is not an issue for me at all," he deadpans. "I have a weird body dysmorphia where I think I look like Daniel Craig, so that's why I've never been forced into thinking, 'Gosh I should lose some weight'."

It's just as well Nick isn't camera shy, as he spends a lot of time "in just my socks and pants" in Money, a new two-part adaptation of Martin Amis's darkly comedic tale of excess, greed and flawed ambition at the beginning of 1980s capitalism.

The 38-year-old stars as anti-hero John Self, a successful British director of commercials who's thrust into the world of New York movie deals, shark agents and petulant actors in order to shoot his first film.

Nick read the book in his early twenties but avoided picking it up again when he got the part.

"I specifically didn't read it before shooting 'cos I understand John Self is a creation of Martin Amis but this John Self is a creation of myself and the director and the writers, so I didn't want to confuse the two. There is a difference."

That difference he says is that his Self is more sympathetic than Amis's creation.

"I think Martin's creation was more black and white and a lot more hate-filled and violent and aggressive than what we've done. There's only so much you can do on BBC2 before people are just put off by the sight of a fat man drinking vodka through his navel."

In preparing for the role of John Self, Nick made a mental check list. "Can I eat it? Can I f**k it? Can I fight it? Can I drink it? That's it for John Self," explains Nick.

But he adds: "What I wanted to do is to show people that Self is hurt and he's afraid and frightened -- as well as being a s**t."

Calling himself the "funny, roly-poly, gun-mad whoever", Nick is only too aware that Money marks his debut playing a darker character.

"I think that's why I wanted to do this," he says, tucking his shoulder length hair behind his ears. "I never trained as an actor and to just to do comedy seems very narrow-minded. I don't understand why you'd just do that."

He admits though that he found it difficult to shake John Self off at the end of the day.

"It isn't easy because you're John Self from 6am to 9pm and then you get home and you're snappy and you're still John Self a little bit," he says.

"I found myself staring at men, willing them to break the stare first and that's not me at all. Then I'd think, 'What are you doing you f**king idiot? Look at the size of this guy!' There was lots of that."

Thankfully, he adds: "As soon as the moustache came off, John Self disappeared."

The experience was made all the more intense as the shoot was only four weeks long. "It's a crazy way to work and the budget was tiny," says Nick, who's still lamenting the fact Pinewood Studios had to stand in for New York. "But it looks amazing," he adds.

And the set was meticulous in its 1980s detail. "I think the thing that overwhelmed me was how old everything looked. Just things I remember as a kid, like packets of biscuits and fonts, it made me think, f**k that looks so old, it just made me feel old," says Nick.

As for his own memories of that decade, he says: "The 1980s were cool if you had the figure to pull off tiny jeans or a headband, but I didn't look cool . . . I was just a fat kid with a parka on, so it's not romantic for me."

Money is part of a BBC2 series of programmes focusing on the 1980s. Part one airs tomorrow, at 9pm and part two is on May 26

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