This isn’t Nick Frost’s first book. When he was 21, long before he found fame in Spaced, Paul and the Cornetto Trilogy, he wrote An Alcoholic’s Guide to the Holy Land to impress a girl. Although Frost now describes the – as yet unpublished – work as “really infantile”, it worked, he got the girl. But then Frost lost her, and several more girls after her.
There’s a lot of loss and a lot of alcohol in Truths, Half Truths & Little White Lies, Frost’s new memoir of a tragic family life and wildly off-the-track 20s. His family life in Dagenham collapsed when he was 16; his father’s design business went bust and his mother began the long surrender to drink that led to her early death. “When I wrote it all down,” says the 43-year-old, who seems remarkably cheerful, given all he’s been through, “I didn’t go: ‘Good Lord, that’s bad!’ OK, it’s kind of s*** but it’s all relative. It could be worse. I never wanted people to throw the book down thinking, ‘I can’t go on!’ I wanted it to be as funny as it is tragic.”
It is very funny. Some of the more entertaining passages concern Frost’s close friendship with Simon Pegg, his co-star in Spaced and the Cornetto films (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End). Pegg was one of the first people to realise the kitchen-hand, whom he met at a north London party, had talent. They fell for each other.
“Close male relationships are often shied away from,” Frost says. “Or given a name so they’re slightly less fearful for heterosexual men: bromance. But at heart it’s a friendship. I’d never met anyone like Simon before. We both knew exactly what the other was thinking without having to vocalise it.”
Famously, they slept in the same bed for nine months. Was Pegg happy for Frost to reveal even more of their relationship in the book? “I don’t know,” says Frost. “He hasn’t read it yet. I’m not an extra in Simon’s story, we both have our own stories, but I would never go into our relationship lightly. Our friendship doesn’t stop because I am writing a book. I know the things he wouldn’t want me to reveal.”
Much of what’s revealed happens while the pair are under the influence of alcohol. It ranges from the comic – fleeing in panic from a haunted house – to the perilous: Pegg leaves Frost with a head injury in a wood because he wants a Chinese takeaway. “I’ve always been a fan of that kind of Gonzo living,” says Frost. “Where you think: ‘F*** it – let’s see where it goes.’”
Frost and Pegg in 2011’s Paul
Where it went for Frost was finding himself face down in the gutter, after he was beaten unconscious in the street. “In our culture there’s a real stigma attached to not drinking, which is weird. Drink is somehow safe because it’s government-backed and taxed. It is up to a point but there’s a lot of danger there as well. Once there’d be someone in the pub who’d step in and say, ‘That’s enough,’ if you had too much. But not now that pubs are closing and people sit at home drinking very cheap booze, which is more sinister because no one is looking out for you.”
Frost’s father attempted to nurse his mother through her drinking, ultimately to no avail. “My mum was of an age group where you didn’t want people to know your business; you didn’t wash your gear in public,” he says. “She would drink in their local pub amongst friends but she also drank at home.”
Frost was “an orphan by the age of 39” and knows he’s fortunate to have come through his first 40 years. “But despite everything that happened, I am very lucky,” he says. “Even during the worst times, when people were dying left, right and centre, getting mugged and beaten up, I never thought the world is after me. It’s not in my nature; it’s just how it is.
“But it would be remiss of me if I went through everything I went through and fell into the same quagmire as my mum. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen. But I have a little boy now and the thought of him having to see that keeps me on the straight and narrow. That’s not to say I haven’t wobbled from time to time.”
Nick Frost in Snow White and The Huntsman; he will reprise his role in the upcoming prequel
Frost’s work – he’s just finished filming The Huntsman with Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron – precludes wobbling. “Turning up on set pissed every day or high is absolutely frowned upon,” he says. “For me, work is everything. I’d much rather work seven days a week than have a beer. Though I get grief on Twitter. When I moan about being tired after a 16-hour day on a film set, people are very quick to say, ‘You have no idea what hard work is.’”
He wrote the book in part to show that, in the era of Cumberbatch and Redmayne, successful actors don’t have to be posh. “We haven’t all been to Eton and Harrow and Oxford, or Rada,” he says. “Look at Gary Oldman, Ray Winstone and Eddie Marsan, Phil Daniels – working-class and just as good as Oxbridge [graduates]. It’s about who you are inside, not which school you went to.”
It won’t be long before Frost’s four-year-old son will be going to school. And although Frost still takes “a Stella or two at weekends and a margarita on holidays”, it’s parenthood that has cemented his position as a survivor. “When he was born everything that happened to me and my family became different,” he says. “I learnt that something you went to bed thinking would be there for ever can literally change overnight. You’ve just got to keep going.”
Truths, Half Truths & Little White Lies by Nick Frost is published by Hodder & Stoughton £20
Nick Frost is in Paul (Today and Friday, Film4) and Shaun of the Dead (Friday, Sky Showcase)