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Friday marks the U.S. release of Paul, the latest film from the warped, hilarious minds of the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost writing team and their first collaboration with Superbad director Greg Mottola. As you’ll read more about in tomorrow’s review, the movie is scientifically engineered to tap directly into the average geek’s pleasure center.
Paul follows a pair of comic book/sci-fi geeks (Pegg and Frost) as they discover and attempt to protect a profane extraterrestrial named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who’s pursued by government agents. One of those operatives, O’Reilly, is played by Joe Lo Truglio, who partners with Bill Hader’s Haggard. The duo does great work, with Haggard playing a straightlaced-yet-bumbling G-man, a contrast to Lo Truglio’s comic book-loving Fanboy In Black.
The duo sort of came as a package deal to Paul. Lo Truglio told Spinoff in a recent interview that the casting happened quickly after Hader brought up the possible gig: “Bill mentioned the script and said they were thinking about he and I pairing up. I of course was thrilled.”
“It all kind of happened pretty quickly after that,” Lo Truglio said. “It was really one of those situations where suddenly this amazing thing is going on around you and you’re like, ‘What happened?!’ That’s how quickly I got involved.”
Hader and Lo Truglio do a great job with their characters, making the most of their screen time — and generally stealing the scenes they appear in — with a great back-and-forth rhythm. Like the movie itself, which is brimming with references geek culture, Lo Truglio explained how he and Hader prepared by looking at similarly colorful character team-ups from Hollywood’s past.
“We knew who these characters were and what their role was in this movie. So we were watching Midnight Run and … Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, and there’s Buford T. Justice and his son from Smokey & the Bandit … so there are all these great characters in so many amazing movies that inspired us to give our version of that.”
The performances, not just Hader’s and Lo Truglio’s but really everyone’s, feel so natural and unrehearsed that there’s an almost improvisational quality to the film. That wasn’t the case on set, however. The script wasn’t always followed, but Pegg and Frost nailed most of what you see on the screen in what they wrote.
“They’re great writers and they’re always rewriting,” Lo Truglio said. “But they also knew that they had a lot of talent around them and encouraged us to bring stuff that we wanted to bring to them. it was very different than, say, a David Wain film or a Judd Apatow movie where — Judd Apatow in particular — [the script] is kind of like a blueprint, each scene, and you kind of launch off from there.”
Lo Truglio also played another role in the film, one that he doesn’t get credit for. Rogen was off working on another movie during the production of Paul, and so Lo Truglio was the one who sat in for him as the alien during the shoot.
“We shot it like a play in LA [first], where Seth was in a mo-cap suit and they just shot every scene,” he explained. “Then on set in Santa Fe, I would watch that to see what Seth did, see if there were any major action gestures I should add just to get that reaction.”
“I was on my knees. I had kneepads,” he added, explaining how they accounted for the height difference between himself and the diminutive alien.
“It was very fun, because aside from being privy to how a movie like this is made — I’d never been part of a movie with so many visual effects — I was able to be on set for two and a half months. I was there the whole time, it was phenomenal. We kidded around a lot, we played a lot of improv games between takes. It was fun.”