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Shaun of the Dead - Simon Pegg Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. One of the things the film does is point out the strangeness of city life, and you guys come from far away from London. Was that an intention, or inadvertent sub-plot?
A.
I've lived here for ten years, but having come from a different place I guess it's afforded us a little objectivity, and so made it easier for us to comment on what it's like to live in a city, particularly London.
Much of the film is about the way in which city people can live their lives and ignore each other, and ignore people. I mean, you can walk past someone who is dying in the street, as we often do every day, in London, and just kind of step over them. So in some respects, that's one of the things the zombies represent, in a way.

Q. I gather George Romero, the man who started this genre of film, has seen your film?
A.
Yeah, that was validation beyond all that we could possibly wish for. He viewed the film, in America, on Friday, and then we were given his phone number and called this hero of ours, the man who invented the contemporary modern zombie (not the running, shouting one, but the shambolic slow one, we all love), and he really, really enjoyed it. It was a real joy to hear him talking about how much he liked our film.
It's a bizarre thing to say, and I was waffling along like a fan boy... I was making comparisons between how the zombies re-animated themselves and he said, 'you know, Simon, I don't mind'.
It was amazing, because daddy approves, and what more do you need? Everything else is a footnote.

Q. Can you paint us a picture of the day you shot the zombie scenes outside the pub. I mean, it looks chilling, but it must have been bloody hysterical?
A.
It was very strange, not least because I remember looking over at Edgar that day and going, 'oh my God, we're making a zombie film!' You know, it was a wonderful thing to see the streets awash with blood! Not least because half the residents down there joined in, and were queuing up to be made-up to be background zombies.
I actually had to ask Edgar to call 'cut' on the first take we did, when they all came rushing towards me, because it just freaked me out. I had always been a big fan of zombie films, and had been unnerved by them and had dreams about them. So to suddenly see 100 people rushing towards you, covered in blood, and wearing contact lenses, going urgh, was extremely disconcerting and I had to sort of go, 'stop it, I don't like it!'

Q. You said you would sometimes dream of zombies., but didn't you have a strange alternative to counting sheep as well?
A.
Yeah, that was when I was younger, as a fan of the genre. To get to sleep, I would lie in bed and plan what I'd do. I'd plan that if it happened, I'd planned my route. I lived in Highgate, so I thought I'd get up on the roofs, and run down to the gunshop on Marchway Road, which is one of the few in London, get some ordinance. This was me and Nick. I'd always be asleep by the time I got to the gun shop, because I was having so much fun.
Edgar Wright: A lof of the comedy in the film was born out of that literal 'what if?' approach, in terms of we've seen hundreds of American genre films, and played a lot of PlayStation games, so it was always sort of 'what would I really do if I woke up on Sunday morning, had a hangover, and there were zombies outside my door'.
We're not equipped to deal with it in the same way that characters in American films, that have guns under their beds, or are expert marksmen and stuff, so we wanted to do a genre film where you'd have a pretty ill-equipped hero as you're lead, you know.
Simon Pegg: And also have that thing whereby if something as outlandish as a zombie invasion happened, when you first saw one, you wouldn't go 'oh, there's a zombie'; you'd say 'there's somebody who's pissed, who's got cataracts, or someone with a nose bleed'. You'd go through every permutation before you started to say, 'ok, they're zombies'.
We just loved that idea where we find Mary in the garden, and their just like, 'what is she doing'? You just wouldn't come to terms with something like that straight away.

Q. What specifically draws you to zombie movies and why do you think it's making a comeback?
A.
For me, it's always been the strangeness of zombies, in that they are (or were) very slow and almost inept and shambolic, and without motive, moral rage, or agenda. They are death. They'll get you in the end. We could all be in a room now with one and quite happily walk round and round, and it would never get you, as it would just be stumbling about, but eventually you'd have to go to sleep and when you did, it would eat you.
There's just something really eerie about that. They don't mean any harm, they're just doing their thing, you know?
Edgar: They're not evil, they're just hungry!
Pegg: I think if you gave it to a film student and said, 'give us an essay' it would probably be fear of ourselves, of the enemy within, and the fact that we are the greatest threat to each other now. Nowhere has this been more relevant than the in the idea that, suddenly, in this city now we could all be killed at any moment. Without noticing, we're in a situation where we are under an enormous threat, and we kind of not noticed it happen.
Art always reflects where it comes from and these are concerns that are with us at the moment, I think.
Horror films in the early 80s, for instance, such as stuff about The Fly, was all about body horror and fear of viruses and stuff; now it seems to be that we are frightened of each other.

Q. How do you regard the new release of Dawn of the Dead now. Fortunate or unfortunate? And how aware were you of 28 Days Later?
A.
Well, it's interesting, because I've had some people come up to me and say, 'you know there's a Dawn of the Dead'! So, to the uninformed, it will look like this is the fastest sort of reaction ever.
When I find out about 28 Days Later, we were both like 'oh God!' And when news of the Dawn of the Dead remake came out, I was similarly sort of depressed, because I just felt we were going to lose our individuality.
But, as Edgar says, I think it's going to be a kind of zeitgeist thing, and I'm glad that the Dawn of the Dead remake will be a different take on the zombies, and it seems to be going down well.
Having said that, we were planning on our publicity being, 'if you see one zombie movie this month... see Shaun of the Dead' [laughs].

Q. If you could have anyone rise from the dead, who would it be and why? And is this the start of a zombie franchise for you?
A.
I'd say John Lennon. He'd write some really good songs. Obviously, as a zombie, you can't communicate with them, but I would like to get to the bottom of everything to do with The Beatles.
I don't know if we'll stay with the zombies. I mean, we've kind of done what we wanted to do now and even though we had fun, it would be great to move on.

Q. The other thing this movie seems to focus on is the sad male buddy syndrome. How much is that a reflection on each other?
A.
Well, Nick Frost, who plays Ed, and myself did live together for a while, and we did go to a pub constantly for a while, before our girlfriends managed to extricate us from it. But Edgar and myself both believe in writing from the truth, because then you don't make any assumptions about anyone. If you write something specific, more often people will relate to it.
Both Edgar and myself have both had situations where, perhaps, we have been criticised by a female counterpart for not facing up to responsibilities, and there is part of you that just always wants to be with your mates down the pub, because it's the simplest thing to do.

Q. Do you think American audiences will take to it?
A.
I hope so. We tried to not be patronising to American audiences by putting any concessions in. We tried to make it very British as we wanted it to be a British film. I think American audiences are quite under-estimated. They can extend their outlooks to other cultures. There seems to be quite an affection for Britain over there.
I think they will get it; they certainly took to 28 Days Later, which was a surprise, so there's no reason why they shouldn't.

Q. Is there a new law that if you make a British movie, Bill Nighy has to be in it?
A.
Well, if you want to work with the best, then you have to. One of the reasons he is working so much, is that he is so gifted, but another reason is that he is good to work with; he's generous, he seems to be without ego, and when he's on the screen, you just have to sit back and let him get on with it. It's his moment, you know. I just applaud that.

Q. There must have been a huge culture shock in terms of going from the small screen to the big? How did you cope?
A.
Nick Frost summed it up I think, when he said it's like going from junior school to university. The stakes are so much higher, so you're performance on celluloid costs a lot of money. I'm a terrible giggler, and it was only when I looked at the out-takes on Spaced that I realised how unprofessional I am, and you can't do that on film, because it costs money.
So whereas on TV, you do an out-take and the crew laughs, and you pause for a moment, you laugh on film and the crew nod 'no'.
In that instance, it does feel like graduating to a far more serious arena.

Q. Do you want to make more movies now that you have a taste for it?
A.
I would love to. I think TV is becoming less and less the domain of art, if I can say something like that. The creativity is becoming less and less important in television now. It's a bit more about people being on TV now, and I think the opportunity to make good, creative drama or comedy is getting less and less. Film remains entirely about that. You can't put Big Brother on the cinema, and thank God for that! So it would be nice to, and it would also be nice if our film industry was able to be a little bit more prolific. Obviously money and what have you is a factor; it's certainly not about lack of talent or ability, because we have a very rich comedy and dramatic talent in this country, as we do with producers, directors, set designers and every aspect of film. We're all here. We're just waiting for an opportunity.

Q. What ingredients did you use for the human remains?
A.
That was melon, water melon. We had loads of blood. Prop blood, make-up blood, wardrobe blood, all of which were made with various things, including syrup. Anything that people had to eat was generally melon and syrup, and you could write an essay on the amount of blood we used.

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