'SHAUN OF THE DEAD'
|(left to right) Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, &
(Interview contains some spoilers, both major and minor)
Interview by Dead Kev
On September 24th, the self-proclaimed "rom-zom-com"
Shaun of the Dead (review)
will be opening to theaters all over the United States.
Already a hit in the UK, this romantic comedy with zombies
is preparing to take Americans by storm. I finally got the
chance to see what the hype was all about when I attended
a screening of the film in Atlanta, the last stop for the
film's U.S. promotional tour. Shaun of the Dead ended
up being everything I expected and more, and the next morning,
I caught up to the men behind the mayhem...director/co-writer
Edgar Wright, co-writer/actor Simon Pegg and actor Nick
Frost. After exchanging pleasantries, the zombie talk began.
We join the interview already in progress...
It feels like a...kind of like sort of a height of all
types of zombie films the last kinda couple of years,
Especially with Land of the Dead coming up as well.
Oh yeah. And with Resident Evil 2 coming out.
Have you seen Resident Evil 2?
No, I haven't seen it yet.
I read a review of it last night?
Was it any good?
Middling. [laughs] Like 3 out of 5, middling. It sounded
like something he really wanted to like it more...
Yeah, I don't know, I'll just have to see it.
I didn't really like the first one that much.
I thought it was okay.
We like the games though.
Yeah, those were the first video games that actually scared
Playing the video games in the dark was really...I always
had to turn the lights on.
Used to make me jump. Nick used to be in the other room
where we'd stay.
He's got his earphones on, so I can just hear people in
there going "Ooouhuhuh."
And then every now and then I'd go "Aaaagh!" [laughs]
When you come out of a door and there'd be one of those
hunters just stood there.
Or when the arms that would pop out in the hallways.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
The thing that always used to freak me out in the first
one is that fuckin' tarantula. It was annoying with that
"boom boom boom boom." It was just like, I hate spiders
and I remember playing it the first time the tarantula
came out I shat my pants. [yells] No! No spiders. I thought
this was a zombie game, there's not supposed to be any
fucking big spiders here.
You'd walk into a room in that game, and there'd just
be a zombie standing in the corner of the room, and just
sort of swaying. Which I guess, you know, is probably
part of the inspiration for that scene when they [Shaun
& Ed] open the curtain and Mary just stood in the garden.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It's just so eerie, that you might not even notice it
when you come in, it just stood there.
It's almost like that kind of video game activation thing
whereby a foe will not start moving until you actually
come within its area and stuff.
And that was something that he kind of, the designers
of the game, took from Romero almost. They kinda calculated
Romero's zombies and then took them one step further,
and thought that they would do this as well. And if there
was one in a room on its own, it would probably just stand
there, you know. I thought that showed immense perception.
And I would say, that really the very heart of this renaissance
that's occurred recently with all these new sort of zombie
films was probably sparked off by that.
Oh yeah. Definitely, I think so too. It was huge.
Have you seen, Kevin, the scene in Spaced that
was the zombie theme?
I haven't scene any of Spaced, but I've heard lots
of great things about it.
Obviously it's not a horror, sort of, show, but it's very
genre-inflected and there was this one episode where Simon's
character has been playing Resident Evil 2 for
like 10 hours after taking some speed.
Yeah, I did hear about that episode.
He's kind of fighting off zombies in the flat. So, that
was the thing that in turn that sparked off the idea of
doing this [Shaun OTD]. Having played the games
and done that bit in the show, we're thinking "fuck
yeah, wouldn't it be amazing..."
To do a film, yeah.
Was that a pretty popular episode with the fans?
It was the best thing, because...one of our proudest moments
in our career, was that after Friends at 9:30 on
a Friday night the announcement came "Next on Spaced
and it may contain some scenes that viewers may find offensive."
[laughs] Literally, our show was on between Friends
and Frasier, the first series was. And you know,
the opening of that episode has like a zombie's head getting
shot off with a shotgun. I kept thinking when we were
making it, it's like, no they're never going to let us
show this. Then they just showed it at 9:30. And I think
for some people, the genre fans, watching it was like
"Oh My God, I can't believe I just saw that zombie-shotgun
action in a sitcom."
From the actual video game footage?
No, no. It was real. We were fighting real zombies. But
then we also, the rest of the episode, Simon's character
in the episode pretty much stayed in front of the TV the
whole time, and we had the rights to the game, so we had
footage from the game. And then we...they gave us everything
as well. They gave us the footage and they gave us some
of the score. So we actually scored that episode in Resident
Evil. And some of the sad bit later, it's got some
of the melancholy music from it. It's funny, because we
did the same thing in the Shaun of the Dead that
we did with Spaced. It's like I was talking about
in the Q&A last night, if we have references, we like
to be really specific. The worst thing is when you have
films or TV shows, mainly TV shows, that make up games.
So like, I always hate that when you see a comedy show
and they're playing a game and they say, "Oh what are
you playing?" And he says, "I'm playing Mega Kill 404,
level 3, fighting draculiers." It's such bullshit. Did
you hear us, what we were saying last night about Medal
[In the previous night’s Q&A, they told the
story of how EA rejected their use of their game Medal
of Honor in a scene of Shaun of the Dead because
they did not want their game associated with, essentially
couch potato loser-guys. So they used Time Splitters
That was hilarious.
Yeah, it's so stupid.
I mean, who else plays video games... [laughs]
I know, it's ridiculous.
This is the last stop on the tour. I know it's been tiring,
obviously. How does it feel to have it come to an end?
The only downside to it is just the physical fatigue,
really. In terms of the screenings and stuff, every night
it's been really great. The response has always been fantastic.
And so far, all the critics around the country that we've
met seem to really genuinely dig it. In a way, even though
I was so fucked last night, so tired, when I got back
to my hotel room and switched on the TV and I saw the
first Shaun of the Dead TV spot on Comedy Central,
I just looked around I was like, "wow."
I think I just started seeing them for the first time
a week or so ago.
I know. That's great for them to be well ahead of time,
three weeks before.
I'm glad that they're putting some marketing behind it
and not just screwing off with it.
Well the thing of it is that they pulled the release forward
because of the buzz on the internet. Because it was supposed
to be scheduled, you know when Focus bought it, they didn't
know what to do at first. Then they did a test screening
in New York that we attended, which went really well.
And they did another one somewhere else...I think it was
in Arizona...that went really well. And then, I think
because of NBC taking over Universal, there was a hold
on things. And then it was announced for February of next
year, because they wanted to release it on Valentine's
Day next year. And then because of the internet buzz they
pulled it right forward. And then we swapped places with
Seed of Chucky as well. Because Seed of Chucky
wasn't ready. And weirdly enough, our editor of Shaun
of the Dead, is now editing Seed of Chucky
Do you ever get to spend any time in the cities that you're
touring, and hang out?
A day in New York, a day in Detroit.
We have a day off every week. And we just really had time
in Seattle, Detroit, and New York, and that was it.
There are some places we saw seen more than others. Like,
I have a terrible feeling that we're gonna see barely
anything of Atlanta today. You know, because we're just
here, and then we're going to CNN, and that's it. So some
cities, we really try to see as much as we can, cause
like we, quite a few of them we saw, because we've been
doing that tour diary thing, as well, on the Shaun Squad
The blog. It's been a really good thing to do, because
otherwise we wouldn't remember it all, you know what I
The CNN...is that going to be on air today?
Ummm...I think we've got a couple things on CNN.
It's not live is it?
Yeah, we're doing Live with Larry King today. [laughs]
No. They're talking about the Republican convention. [laughs]
What's funny about it is, there are some cities that we
barely saw anything of, like Miami and Chicago. I think
Miami, we were there for literally about 15 hours. It's
been really good sort of like, you know, introducing the
screenings and stuff. If our flight hadn't been delayed,
we would've introduced last night.
So you usually catch all the shows?
We've only missed but two introductions. Every other night,
we've managed to introduce.
We usually say "hi", and this is our film. We
don't usually watch it, not because we don't like watching
You've seen it so many times already probably...
Well no, it's not that. It's hard to watch it with an
audience because you end up watching the audience or listening
to the audience. It's almost tiring, because you're thinking
ok, this is coming up and how are they going to do. What
we usually do, is if we can hang out nearby the theater,
we'll come back for Mary and see her in the garden.
Yeah, that was a great scene.
You know, because that's generally the litmus test. But
no, we'll disappear off and wait it out, and come back.
I always like to watch the last 5 minutes with the audience.
See David go through the window, the reaction to the TV
stuff at the end, and then Ed in the shed, I always love
the reaction to that.
That got a nice response last night.
Yeah, we saw.
I, like I think a lot of people will be, was surprised
at the amount of gore that was used in the film. Was there
ever a point that you thought you might alienate some
of the mainstream audiences?
Not really. I remember, Edgar and me, reading it and saying
"is it bloody enough?" Are we going to have enough blood?
We wanted it to be, the film had to be a genuine credible
horror movie, and a genuine credible comedy, you know,
and those two things had to operate together. And without
ever at the expense of each other. So, we didn't want
to sanitize the film because we wanted to make it a family
comedy. You know, if you want to watch the film, you're
going to have to take it all.
It's also interesting in a way, as well, in some ways
it becomes more shocking in a way. Because it's not as
gory, it's not as balls to the wall as Dead Alive
or Evil Dead 2. What works is if you have 25 minutes
of no gore and then someone dies really bloody, it's like
"whoah." It's kind of like, when I think of Dead Alive,
I absolutely adore that film, I think it's fantastic.
But it's interesting some people that you watch it with
who you think oh, they'll really love this, kinda get
kind of tired watching it. Because at the very first scene,
you see someone gets disemboweled. And so, when the film
starts you're thinking "Oh God", this is going to get
crazy. We wanted to have the best of both worlds. Kinda
have a comedy that had a broad appeal than every now and
again have something that's genuinely quite shocking.
And I think for some people in the UK who watch this film,
and haven't seen the Romero originals, or haven't even
seen the Dawn remake, and were just in awe. God
it just must be a blast for that to be your first zombie
Well I thought it was a perfect blend...you know, it wasn't
so over-the-top like in Dead Alive.
The reason for that is that that film cannot be topped.
In terms of that kind of like, sort of, I can't see how
in terms of the splatstick how that film can ever be topped.
I liked the fact that Shaun was kept very realistic.
I mean, besides the fact that people are becoming zombies...the
comedy is everything surrounding the zombies, while the
zombies themselves are kept very serious.
That was always our intention, you know. We never wanted
to make fun of the zombies. We wanted to make it very
reverential and serious about it. And we're big fans of
specifically the Romero trilogy and kind of wanted to
get the across. You know, we wanted that to be an underlining
reverence to the film. And for the comedy to always be
a reaction to the zombies and not from the zombies themselves.
The zombies, I guess the one common thing, which is ambiguous,
that a zombie does is when Phillip is in the car and he
turns the music off. Now, that is probably an accident,
but it's a little joke that the old thing is them remembering
something from their previous life. And that's music banging
and Shaun and his mom having an argument...that was the
one moment of where a zombie does a joke and that was
It was impressive to me, and it's a credit to the script,
is that you were able to put in some genuinely emotional
moments in the film, with Shaun and his mom, with Philip,
and I know that my roommate said she got teary-eyed with
the scene with Ed at the end.
[Collective "Awwwwww" and laughter]
That came out of, cause we expect from the script, the
film has more of a kind of a 'before' than most horror
films do. And we tried to play that out as much as possible.
So that you get to know these people before you get to
see the effects of the zombie epidemic on them. In that
sense, because you've built up theses characters so much,
to have the ending just a series of splats, and seeing
people die in different and creative ways, we kind of
had to give the death scenes the dignity the characters
deserved in a way. It was a definite decision of like,
okay, if Shaun's mum is going to die, then if for any
reason this gets dismissed then whole film will fall apart.
If it were to become jokey, I think the film would...there's
a time throughout the film is quite flippant at first,
or it seems like the characters are, but then it's like
at some point comedy and tragedy are going to collide.
So I'm really pleased that we did it and it was a little
bit of a gamble, because when people were reading the
script they were going, "Oh my god, I didn't expect him
to shoot his mum's head off." [laughs]
I didn't either!
It was almost like we had no choice, we built the film
up to that point and the only way we can credibly do this
is if we do it properly, and have people genuinely be
upset and it to be genuinely a difficult moment. Same
when Shaun says goodbye to his dad and goodbye to Ed,
you know. Cause that was the mood of the film we were
making. If he suddenly started joking around...you know,
we needed a bit of time after Barbara went down.
I think it worked, I think it really worked well. You
guys are big fans of Dead Alive...well, I enjoyed
it a lot more than Dead Alive because it wasn't
I think with horror comedy, there's so many different
ways you can do it. There's a world between, like...Evil
Dead and Dead Alive and a world between Evil
Dead and American Werewolf in London. One of
the really fun things about doing this film, is that we
hopefully have nailed a slightly unique tone in that it
is a horror comedy, but it doesn't really have the tone
of...you know every film is slightly different except
the way they work. One of the nicest things about it is
that the horror fans have seemed to really have embraced
it and people, even the hardcore Romero fans, have respected
it on that level. And that for us is really nice. We would
have hated to done the genre a disservice in any way.
The title is quite punny is a way, so I think that some
people are expected another Scary Movie, which
it isn't at all.
We wanted to come to this so that the horror fans knew
that we knew what we were talking about, you know. That
we weren't just sort of, taking liberties with what is
essentially a really nice, branded horror myth. Romero's
zombies were a brilliant creation, really clever little
mix of a few things. The old Haitian zombie, you stick
a bit of vampirism in there, and a bit of werewolf communicable
bite stuff, and you've got Romero zombie.
You can get a fact sheet on that [laughs]
Yeah, there's a little recipe, it's great. And I thought,
even when I was young, even though I enjoyed the Return
of the Living Dead series, I always kinda felt "ughh".
I think the low point in zombie comedy has got to be at
the end of Return of the Living Dead. Like, "Thriller"
was bad enough in terms of making zombies funny,
but at the end of Return of the Living Dead, a zombie
comes on dressed as Michael Jackson. I was like, "ah man,
that's a bad gag."
Suddenly they're making it so that they, it's just brains
that they want, and suddenly the whole thing about getting
rid of the head goes out the window, because they don't
die. I know it's not set in stone. It would be an extremely
reactionary to say no, that they always have to be like
this. But we wanted people to know where Shaun of the
So you guys set it in right in the Romero universe?
Edgar: Oh yeah. That was definitely the idea. That's why we joked
that it was a companion film. It's like, that was happening
in Pittsburgh, this was happening in North London.
Any backstory on, if it started in Pittsburgh, how the
epidemic spread to the UK?
[laughs] We never...
Haven't thought that deeply?
No, we haven't really thought about it.
Somebody who had been bitten got on a plane, and during
the flight died and came back bit everybody in the plane,
the plane landed, and a whole load of zombies got out,
They're doing a zombie plane thing. Flight of the Living
Flight of the Living Dead.
I think Lions Gate is doing that one.
We never wanted to...well, the Romero films is where we
took our cue from them, but the actual cause of the epidemic,
or whatever you want to call it, is never clear because
we didn't want the audience to know any more than Shaun.
The audience's only ever one step ahead of Shaun and they
can see what's going on around them, but they still don't
have all the knowledge.
It's like that that sequence where he's in the store and
he looks at the papers and on the papers there are several
different things. Like GM Crops, super flu, and downed
satellite, and you hear about the downed satellite, and
that was obviously taken straight from Night of the
Living Dead, but we thought if we just throw everything
in there, and even at the end it's not entirely clear.
What did the guy say, "we now know that the epidemic was
caused by..." and you're like, "What? What happened?"
And that came from when the foot and mouth crisis happened
in the UK, the kinda mad cow thing. I, having missed the
news for about 2 weeks, and the first thing I knew about
it was when I switched on the TV and there was the footage
of burning cattle. I was like, "What?" I thought
I had kinda missed a memo or something. I felt really
embarrassed at having to ask people what was going on.
So, that was the idea. With that joke, it was like, it
would be quite conceivable for some of these characters
to just miss that bit of just what was happening.
I know that the UK audiences know you all from Spaced,
is the American response different from those over there,
seeing as most don't know your previous work?
In some ways...well, obviously it went down very well
in the UK, but in some ways it's, not better over here,
but one of the nice things is that I've always been quick
to stress to anybody is that you don't have to have seen
Spaced to enjoy Shaun of the Dead and in
some respects, you might even enjoy it more in that you'll
see it with no baggage whatsoever. In a way, in some of
the screenings that we've been to where people don't know
anything about it, it's quite a blast knowing that they're
enjoying a film where they don't actually know any of
the actors at all, maybe Bill Nighy. It's been really
nice. So, in that respect, it's gone down really well
here because in Spaced, it's pretty much funny
all the way through...well there's some drama bits in
there, but people in the UK were really surprised at the
mum death, whereas over here people they're just taking
it as it comes, you know what I mean? So it's been really
good. But there's some references and stuff that get bigger
laughs over here than they do over in the UK. Like Clyde
and White Lines and Public Enemy.
I'm sure this is a cultural difference thing, but the
British audiences, British people tend to be slightly
more reserved in their emotional responses across the
board, you know. I always feel sorry for American standards
when they come into the UK, because you can sense that
they think they're not going down so well, but they are.
They're being loved just as much as they are over here,
it's just that we just don't vocalize as loudly. So they're
getting laughter that sounds like it's not what they usually
get. Here, you know we've been watching the film with
audiences that it's just been deafening and it's like
"what the fuck, this is incredible", and they're missing
other jokes because they're laughing and cheering too
Was that surprising coming over here? Were the expectations
exceeded as far as the crowd reactions?
Yeah, when we went to a test screening and we went to
the ComiCon. We did like three screenings at ComiCon and
it was just like...
Yeah, I heard that was packed.
Yeah! It was really good fun.
Then we did a panel that was just like, you know, three
thousand people. It was crazy.
It was really crazy. So that was really heartwarming.
And then, in a way, the tour has been, either like screenings
like last night, or the Fangoria one, where people have
been aware of it anyway. But it also been good just doing
it in towns where people will come at random. Like Minneapolis
or something like that.
Denver, that was the most polite kinda audience.
They hate the Denver Broncos as well.
[laughs] Usually when we introduce it, Nick does find
a bit out about the local sports team and then we do a
monologue about it...
I act like I've known the local team for years.
Yeah, make fun of "insert team name" here.
[laughs] And it always works.
Any amusing fan encounters on the tour?
Everybody's been really nice so far. We've not met anybody...
No crazy people?
No, occasionally you'll get the person who wants to...
Someone gave me some hash brownies last night. I had half
of one, which was not a good idea.
The worst I could say is that occasionally you get someone
who just wants to talk for a little bit longer than you've
The only bad ones are the people who clearly...there's
that one autograph hunter guy in Washington, DC who had
three different things and I said, "Who's this to?" and
he goes, "No, just sign your name."
Keep it generic!
Keep it generic [laughs].
I'm not going to sell this on eBay or anything...
There was a funny one the other night in Dallas. There
was this one guy in Q&A that stood up, sort of this tubby
guy. He said, "Can I be your best friend?". And Nick said,
"He's already got a chubby sidekick." [laughs]
It brought the house down, that's great.
I've been hearing about the film for, what seems like
forever now, and I have yet to see a negative review about
it. Have you had any bad reviews? What's the worst thing
that someone's written about it?
There's a couple of bad ones where people are sorta saying
oh it's overrated. The response overwhelmingly though
has been really nice. We had a couple of bad ones in the
UK that people were just dismissive of it. The guy that
edits Starburst said "I didn't get it, but everybody else
in the screening was laughing their heads off. But I didn't
get it." The most amazing thing was the newspapers in
the UK. Across the board, from the tabloids to the really
high-brow, really liked it. So we only had a couple of
Every now and then we'd get someone that just didn't get
it. And in a way, it didn't bother us in any way, because
it seemed like they just didn't get it, you know what
I mean? There's one on Rotten Tomatoes, and we got like
a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes which is really cool,
but there was one reviewer that says that "this is pointless
and stupid." I mean really, what did we do? Upset your
mom or something? [laughs]
About the characters...how much of Shaun and Ed are in
you two guys?
A lot. A lot of it was taken from situations in real life.
I mean, certainly the idea that Shaun and Ed couldn't drag
themselves away the one pub. Couldn't go anywhere else.
That was from my and Nick and the pub we would always used
to visit. And our girlfriends would always...my wife would
always have to go there. Not that they didn't love it to.
But the idea of having the local pub which is the very center
of your universe was from real life, certainly. And, you
know, there are times when we've both been Shaun-ish and
Ed-ish in terms of not wanting to commit to adult life and
being a bit flaky, and not sort of taking on responsibility
and trying to stay like kids. We've both had experience
with that and I'm sure you have as well.
Yeah, yeah. We definitely...we put into the script a lot
of close to home stuff. And it was kind of a fun thing
to do to write the life that you can't live anymore. And
some relationship stuff comes from truth, so it's quite
nice to, sort of make an apology for being a lousy boyfriend
in a zombie film [laughs]. Absolve yourself!
Would you ever do a straight horror film? A non-comedy?
Yeah, I'd certainly be interested. It'd be a challenge
in a way, to do it. You know, I'd love to see Peter Jackson
to do a straight horror movie.
You know, I had heard a while back he was wanting to do
a low-budget zombie film on the weekends...
Yeah, he was talking about some World War I thing. You
know I met him in Wellington and that was the weirdest
thing he said to me, well not weird, but it was great.
He said he loved it [Shaun] so much that it made him want
to do another low-budget horror movie. And I said, "Well,
I watch your films and it makes me want to make a 100
million dollar film." [laughs]
Any plans for a sequel?
It seems unlikely in terms of (a) we wrap it up so comprehensively
at the end that there's really nowhere to go with it.
We had at one point, Simon had an idea for a potential
sequel and also, I had an idea for almost like a possible
alternate reality sequel, which then wouldn't be a zombie
film it would be a different genre. But we spent the last
three years on it, that we want to continue the sensibility
in a different sort of genre. That's not to say that we
won't be in a genre film, or that we won't return to horror
or sci-fi or whatever. But I think it may our last zombie
thing for awhile [laughs].
Also, if you do a sequel, we'd have to bring the zombies
back. And that would mean that when you watch the first
film again, you'd know at the end that it wasn't the end.
And we want that to be the end at the end of the film.
We've had fun doing the comic strips stuff we did for
"2000 AD". And we have kinda thought, maybe
at some point, to do a graphic novel. Either like another
parallel story, like to tell the story of Yvonne's gang.
Or do a follow-up thing as a comic.
There's a lot of spin-off ideas...
Have you seen the ones we did for "2000 AD"?
I had read about it, but I never saw the actual strip.
The other one, I think, is in some of the DVD cases in
the UK, the limited editions. We did the story of Mary,
the checkout girl, and we did how she becomes a zombie.
And we did another one about the guy the guy with one
arm that was sorta dressed up as a best man. So we did
two different stories and it was really good fun to write,
especially seeing as "2000 AD" is such a culty
magazine in the UK.
Yeah it was great.
[The time flew by and I had time for only one last question.
I decided on getting their picks for worst zombie film they'd
We watched a thing, what was that tape you bought me?
It was called Zombiethon and it had clips from
like, Zombie Lake...and there's one that...
City of the Living Dead...
City of the Living Dead is pretty bad. Or actually...it's
got a couple of good bits in it, it's got the good bit
in it with the coffin bit, and the bit with the guts,
and the bit with the drill. But the actually zombies in
it are really shit [laughs]. But I'd say Zombie Lake.
Zombie Lake he says.
So ended our interview. And I quite agree, Zombie Lake
a real heap.
Edgar and I had been exchanging e-mails for awhile previous
to my attending the screening, so it was great finally getting
to meet him, along with the very funny Simon Pegg and Nick
Frost. These three couldn't have been more friendly and
down-to-earth...a real pleasure to chat with. Despite everyone
(including me) suffering from a little sleep deprivation,
they were really eager to talk about the film and about
zombies in general. I didn't get many of my questions asked
(of course I had a ton), mainly due to time constraints
and the fact that I just enjoyed listening to these guys
talk. They really know their stuff, and it's really heartening
to chat with filmmakers that have a true respect for the
genre and for the man, Romero, who's mostly responsible
for the the undead phenomenon we know and love today. They've
done us fans proud with Shaun of the Dead, so make
sure you go see it! Thanks again to Edgar, Simon, and Nick
for spending some time with me.
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