Police Constable Nicholas Angel. Born and schooled in London. Graduated Canterbury University in 1993, with a double first in Politics and Sociology. Attended Hendon College of Police Training. Displayed great aptitude in field exercises and made Sergeant in *whispers* Sandford, Gloucestershire...
… but we all flipping know that most of Hot Fuzz was filmed in Wells, Somerset ;) and we love the bones of the film, so when we discovered we could go on a Hot Fuzz Walking Tour to visit the filming locations in Wells, plus get some insider Hot Fuzz stories along the way, we jumped at the chance - for the greater good, obviously!
Hot Fuzz is a cult classic. If you haven’t watched it, you won’t have had a clue what the opening to this blog was all about, so go to Amazon Prime this very minute (other streaming services are available) and put that right! ;)
In a nutshell, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are police officers attempting to solve a series of mysterious deaths in a crime-free, multiple award-winning village of the year! And it’s a corker of a plot, with lots of dialogue you’ll be quoting forever after… or is that just us? Yarp!
The Co-writer and Director of Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright, was born in Wells and as we discover on the tour, many of his childhood memories are weaved into the script. Edgar’s mum was in the local paper and yep, they got her age wrong like they did to poor Mary in the film…
… and when he was a teenager, Edgar worked in the Somerfield that appears in Hot Fuzz. He didn’t have to look too far for inspiration for the character of Supermarket Manager Simon Skinner (played by Timothy Dalton) either, as that was a boss Edgar wasn’t exactly keen on when he was there…
So basically, there was never going to be anywhere else but Wells for the action to take place… or for the sh!t to get real! ;)
Talking of action and err… sh!t getting real, we start the Saturday afternoon tour by meeting Hot Fuzz Super Fan (and founder of Wells Walking Tours) Siobhan Goodwin and the rest of the group, outside The Crown.
We obviously have a quick cranberry juice in the bar beforehand and you’ll also be pleased to hear that as we make our first tour stop at the famous market place fountain, there are no hoodies, crusty jugglers or living statues in sight! The Sandford Neighbourhood Watch Alliance would be delighted to find no blights to the streets on this particular afternoon.
Siobhan starts off by asking us all how many times we’ve watched the film (one fellow walker says they’ve watched it over 100 times!!) and she wants to know how competitive we are (most of us say very!). That’s because as we walk to each of the points on the tour map she’s given us, there are some Hot Fuzz questions to answer, as well as themed prizes up for grabs if you’re the first to shout out the right response. For us, it’s challenge immediately accepted… although we’ve got our eye on the ‘over 100 times’ watcher! ;)
I needn’t have worried too much about leaving the tour empty handed though, because when we stop at The Swan to check out Nicholas Angel’s digs (the ‘lovely little cottage’ isn’t ready when he arrives, if you remember), it’s Graeme’s moment in the Hot Fuzz sun! He shouts out a correct answer and we’re presented with the best prize of all… an original flavour Cornetto, to celebrate Hot Fuzz being part of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy.
As we wander around beautiful Wells for a couple of hours, going from stop to stop on the tour, Siobhan shares anecdotes and Hot Fuzz insider stories with us that help to paint an even brighter picture of what went on during filming! Many of the extras in the film were local people, most of whom Siobhan either knows or knows about and so she’s a brilliant guide – really bringing a different perspective, and her own love for the film shines out of her every expression as she chats.
We won’t reveal all the insider stories here and spoil the tour for you, but we’ve got to mention one of our favourite discoveries… and it’s all about The Andys! :)
As Siobhan says,
“There are lots of Andy’s in the Police, take my word for it”
and it just so happens that her friend, a Wells-based policeman named (yes you’ve guessed it) Andy, was one of the people Simon and Edgar spent time with when they were researching and getting more ideas together for the film. Let’s just say there are some scenes included that are definitely based on his real life experiences.
Real life Andy (as we’ve now nicknamed him) was once called out to catch a swan… the only swan who knew how to ring the Bishops Palace bell no less and who’d flown away from his home surroundings. It took a while, but with Andy’s help and a bit of messing about en route, the swan eventually arrived back in his rightful place. After that encounter though, Andy ended up with a surprise soft toy swan in his locker, a ‘Missing Swan’ poster up in the station and various bits of swan-related banter that followed him around for a little while! ;)
Real life Andy also had a toy peddle police car when he was little, which was given to him by his uncle. In the film, Nicholas tells Danny that getting a peddle police car from his uncle is one of the first moments he knew he wanted to join the Police Force (I mean Service. Official vocab guidelines state the 'Force' is too aggressive). As Siobhan tells the tour, with a grin:
“Andy was choked up about the peddle car being included, but he always makes sure everyone knows his uncle wasn’t ever a drug dealer!”
And then there’s the real life 'hierarchy of Police Station snacks' that Andy told Edgar and Simon about… the ones that have to be brought in to the station for colleagues, if you’ve messed something up. Turns out that you start with doughnuts for a “little misdemeanour” and work up to Black Forest Gateaux for something "a little more serious"... and anyone who’s a Hot Fuzz fan will know that when Danny crashes his car in to the fountain in the film, the station “won’t be short of Chunky Monkey for the next month”.
For us, it’s really cool to know that Andy's real life stories have been reflected in the film - and we’re sure one of the reasons it’s such a classic is that it has humour in it that’s totally true to life.
Anyway, whether it’s visiting the Bishops Palace or the playing field where Nicholas and Danny chase their own escaped swan (and whilst we’re still on the subject of swans, did you know the swan in the film was played by an actor called Elvis? Yes, Swans can be actors too you know!!), Siobhan has us listening, laughing and remembering all at the bits we love about the film.
We all shout out our favourite quotes at one stop on the tour too and of course, I have to do the actions with mine...
One of the other things we love about Hot Fuzz is spotting the cameos in it. Some we definitely hadn’t noticed until Siobhan shares the uncredited ones with us on the tour - and as we stand chatting at the entrance to the old Somerfield, where Edgar Wright worked so many moons ago, one of those cameos revealed is this masked woman…
Hmmmm… we thought we recognised those eyes Janine, but to find out which famous actress this is, you’ll need to go on the walking tour yourself … or, you know, you could check Google, but don’t do that…definitely not as much fun! Go on the tour! Go! Go! ;))
Anyway, as we hot foot it to our final destination, St Cuthbert’s Church, where the village fete and the messy 'decaffination' of Tim Messenger (hi hi) was filmed, what strikes me is that although we’ve watched Hot Fuzz a fair few times, we’ve never really taken in the locations before – the beautiful, the much-loved, the backdrops of a Somerset community that help to make the film everything it is.
The stories that Siobhan shares about local people, the colourful characters and how they've contributed to the film in so many different ways makes Hot Fuzz all the more special for us - whether that's the old lady who wandered into the grounds of St Cuthbert's during filming, didn't realise Simon Pegg was an actor dressed in a police uniform on a break and told him off for smoking, or the woman who always leaves a Japanese Peace Lilly in her window for Siobhan to see when leading the tours past it.
So here’s to Hot Fuzz! To the beautiful city of Wells and to the Police Station that has this swan sculpture proudly outside it.
Here’s to getting your geek on on a Saturday afternoon, or just enjoying having a stroll around the make believe 'village' of Sandford and finding out more about a film that’s genuinely laugh out loud funny. Here’s to discovering more unique Somerset stories… and here’s to Siobhan - the heart and soul of the tour. The legend who wanted to run into the old supermarket before it closed down and say over the tanoy...
“Mr Skinner to the Manager's office. Manager’s office, Mr Skinner”!
We’re with you all the way lady… and we can’t wait to try out one of your other walking tours soon. This one was the absolute business!
Photo credits - the Hot Fuzz photos in this blog were snapped by us as we were watching the film. The copyright belongs to Universal.