We spoke to the hilarious Shaun of the Dead star, 42, while he was in town.
There’s not that many dance movies anymore. I mean Step Up was technically brilliant but not very friendly, if you know what I mean. They’re sort of about aggression and attitude and wearing your cap on sideways. Most humans can’t do those moves; certainly not a 42-year-old like myself. I could get down, but I don’t know if could get up back again. I think I’d end up tearing a spleen [laughs].
I went to a lot of clubs. The first thing that struck me is that in Britain and maybe other parts of the world, you do two hours of lessons first. The beginners’ group is usually tight, stiff, gingery Englishmen. After a two-hour period, the club happens, and you put into practice what you’ve just learned. I thought that was quite an amazing [concept].
The training was so bonkers: Seven months, six days a week for seven hours a day. But the whole point from the very get-go was I wanted to do all the dancing. I think it’s a cop-out to do a dance film and not have the actors prepared to put the hours in so the director can hold on big, wide shots and cut to the audience reaction, shooting your top half, then to someone else’s feet. There’s no pleasure in that. I think the point of acting is you become another person. And I think people are so cinema savvy these days they’d see through it immediately. They’ll come out of the theater going, ‘He really did that dancing.’ That’s probably payment enough.
In the kind of harsh, sad, tough life that everyone has these days in a world which is full of the planet dying and international terrorism, there’s something nice and pure about watching two people dance. It’s something we don’t do as a culture in Britain. You don’t dance with a girl, you dance at a girl or near a girl! Or if things are going well she might come and dance in front of you. That’s it. There’s no touching, there’s no passion.
I danced with lots and lots of girls. There was this 22-year-old from Madrid who was an absolute firecracker just to look at her, yet when we danced it was the most awkward thing in the world. Then later in the night I danced with like a 55-year-old, big, Cuban lady, and it was amazing. It felt like we belonged together. That’s the thing about salsa. For me it doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s about the connection.