British film and TV stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost formed indie producer Stolen Picture last year, and with their first movie coming out this year, a TV series in the offing, and a growing development slate, they talked to Variety about their plans to take their inimitable brand of comedy and drama to the big and small screen.
Pegg and Frost are both men in demand. Frost will be seen in “Tomb Raider,” Dwayne Johnson wrestling comedy “Fighting With My Family,” and stars in AMC TV drama “Into the Badlands.” Pegg has a Paramount project in the works, will star alongside Margot Robbie in thriller “Terminal,” and is finishing the delayed “Mission: Impossible 6.”
But now the pair say they are “breaking free of our past commitments” and “eventually everything will be Stolen Picture.” At one time Frost thought he and Pegg would produce only movies, but the world has changed. “In terms of where the money is being made, and creatively, making episodic television is now no less nourishing than a two-hour movie,” he says.
The co-founders actually started out in TV, with revered Channel 4 comedy series “Spaced,” which provided a launchpad for Edgar Wright-directed “Shaun of the Dead” and then “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End.” Their first TV project at Stolen Picture is “Truth Seekers,” a half-hour comedy-horror about a three-person paranormal investigation team.
Each installment of “Truth Seekers” will focus on a paranormal incident, a setup with clear monster-of-the-week potential. “Each episode is going to be an adventure, a potential haunting or something,” Pegg says. “It’ll start as a very parochial idea, a very small business venture for these people, but it will expand as the series goes on to be something far more global. It’s a language everyone understands, the mystery of the unknown. ‘Shaun of the Dead’ was a very parochial story set in North London and somehow it managed to get this global reach because everyone understands the language of zombie movies.”
Projects are also taking shape on the movie side, including Stolen Picture’s debut film, “Slaughterhouse Rulez,” a horror-comedy now in post-production. Directed by Crispian Mills and set in a well-to-do public school, the movie is “very satirical, very much about the U.K. selling itself off,” Pegg says. “It’s about fracking as well, and that unleashes some awful subterranean demon.”
In development is a film about a fading double act who haven’t spoken for decades but reunite one last time. “We’d like to do it as a two-hander and make it on a very low budget,” says Pegg. “We’ve had the idea for a long time, and we’re going to write an outline and then improvise and make something, which is far looser than when we work with Edgar…where every transition is so precise.”
Frost and Pegg have appeared in blockbusters but are happy to make lower-budget features in order to retain creative control. “There’s that trade-off,” Frost said. “I’d rather have a lot less money and make a film or a TV series and have a great time doing it than put it through a million processes and people you don’t know and you don’t respect creatively.”
On the TV side, Stolen Picture is backed by Sony Pictures Television, which is, separately, distributing “Slaughterhouse Rulez.” It is already out in the market with “Truth Seekers.” “Despite being very British, in terms of their sense of humor and perspective on the world, they have created content that has been lapped up around the world,” said Wayne Garvie, SPT’s president of international production. “Whether as actors, writers, producers, or even directors they have a constituency around the world they reach out to and a real bedrock of support and love in Britain.”
James Serafinowicz (brother of “The Tick” star Peter Serafinowicz) and Nat Saunders, who wrote Sky’s Rupert Grint-starring sitcom “Sick Note,” have joined the eight-strong Stolen Picture team as creative directors. They will continue with their own projects and have a “soft first-look” deal with Stolen Picture.
Miles Ketley, the former Fox Searchlight and Bad Wolf exec who is now CEO of Stolen Picture, says the market wants creatively led businesses like Pegg and Frost’s new venture. “We are not set up as a highly leveraged production company, to go and get as much IP as possible, and to get everything done as quickly as possible,” Ketley says. “These guys have spent a long time building up an authentic body of work and connections with their audience, and whether that’s at the $5 million level or the $200 million level you see it in their work….
“If we can be super focused and keep it true to that authenticity, and the charm that these guys find in the mundane and in the horrific, then we’ve got this really special thing.”