If there really are extraterrestrials visiting our planet, they’re probably none too pleased with how they’re portrayed in the movies. I mean, if they’re not busy hatching out of people’s sternums, they’re evaporating folks with beams of light or sucking their brains out with a straw. Aliens can only take so much bad PR.
Fortunately, now there’s Paul, a laid-back, enlightened “visitor” who accidentally crash lands in the Southwestern U.S. and must escape his governmental captors by hitching a ride in an RV with two Comic-Con geeks from England. Humankind can rest assured that Paul’s worst attributes are a crude sense of humor and a potty mouth.
A creation of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the British collaborators behind the cult comedy hits Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Paul has been described as a “love letter” to science-fiction adventure films from the 1980s and ’90s. The film’s eponymous title character is looking to take his place alongside E.T. and Alf as one of the more benevolent movie aliens to find its way to Earth.
“I think of all the alien films that have come out recently, and we do seem to be a part of a zeitgeist of alien cinema, I think that Paul is probably the only one who would pass you a joint rather than shoot you in the head,” said Pegg.
Which leads to the question: has our planet ever truly been visited by little green men? The talented ensemble cast of Paul weighed in on this debate during a recent press junket for the film.
Do you believe in aliens?
“I don't know if they exist,” said Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader, who plays an FBI agent looking to hunt down Paul. “I know it’s kind of an old joke, but it's usually the same type of people that always see aliens… It’s never like: [in a proper British accent] “I just saw an alien, I was in my room and I just saw an alien come down. The other scientists, we were all sitting there, and an alien came into the room.” You never hear that. You always hear: [in a goofy, country bumpkin accent] “I was in my truck, I was out in the woods by myself...”
But Hader’s co-stars were more open-minded. “I think there's definitely life on other planets,” affirmed Pegg. “There’s more chance of there being life than there is not… but the thing is that we may never meet because of the distances between our worlds are so enormous.”
Blythe Danner, who plays an older woman who saved Paul’s life 60 years ago, was equally optimistic. “When you hear that there are how many billions of galaxies out there… I don’t see how you can’t believe in extraterrestrial life,” said the stage and screen actress. “It’s not something I’m obsessed by or think about all the time, but I certainly hope… it could be.”
If you did meet an alien, what would you ask it?
I would say, “How did you get in my bed? How did you get here? Where did you learn how to do that?” said a facetious Joe Lo Truglio, who plays Hader’s comic-book-obsessed FBI partner. During the shoot, Lo Truglio also doubled as Paul’s physical stand-in, though the alien’s voice is portrayed by Knocked Up’s Seth Rogen.
After giving the question some thought, Danner pointed to a poster of Paul and said, “Do [you] have a mouth like him? I’d probably wash it out with soap.”
Pegg took the question more seriously: “I would inquire about the secrets of interstellar travel,” he said. “I mean, they’d have to have overcome an extreme hurdle to get here” – a rather ironic quote, considering that Pegg also plays Scotty, the Enterprise’s chief engineer, in the rebooted Star Trek franchise.
Paul opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, March 18.