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Shaun of the Dead - Edgar Wright 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.
In terms of people walking around with a sort of blinkered attitude towards other people, is not us attacking other Londoners; it's rather us kind of commenting on ourselves [laughs].
One of the inspirations for the script, when we were writing it, was that I remember not having read a paper for two weeks, and then feeling utterly stupid when I was watching the TV and burning cows, and not really knowing what was going on, and having to ask somebody what exactly foot and mouth was.
A lot of people walk around in their own little bubble of their own little problems and don't really see wider things going on.
Having Shaun do that with a zombie apocalypse was like the ultimate end of that joke - that he can walk around on a Sunday morning, with a hangover, and not really spot the living dead.

Q. I gather George Romero, the man who started this genre of film, has seen your film?
A.
We had a really nerve-wracking Friday, cos we were cool about the fact he was watching it, and had even asked him if he'd like to see it, but we kind of figured that because it's very reverential of his films, he might dig it.
But then we started trying to work out the time difference between London and Florida, and the screening had been put back and we hadn't heard anything, so we though, 'oh God, he's seen it and doesn't like it'! And then we got a call and both spent about half an hour each, talking to him. He was really sweet about it. I think he was genuinely very flattered that we'd kind of, within a comedy take on it, taken a very reverential approach to his films, and he really loved it. That was the icing on the cake really.

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.
Even though it seems like a funny/campy thing to do, they quite get into the zombie method. There'd actually be this kind of... the moans would just sort of start and people would be really into it and stuff. It's weird how when people can be quite self-conscious just acting one on one with zombies, when you get 30 of them together, this sort of mob mentality starts, and it is very strange. They don't want to break out of character and they do start coming at you.
I was once taking sound effects of the zombies, and got them all together in a lunch break, so I could take different sound effects of them all moaning, and I asked them to attack me, and then one of them bit me on the leg. It was like, 'this isn't even in the film, what are you doing, this is crazy?' [Laughs]

Q. What specifically draws you to zombie movies and why do you think it's making a comeback?
A.
I think the reason that the sort of zombie zeitgeist has started again was that there has always been a fondness for the Romero films, but I think Michael Jackson's Thriller video probably killed off the zombie genre for about 15 years.
Simon Pegg: He's got so much to answer for!
Edgar [laughing]: I think it literally killed off zombie films for quite a while because it was ultimate high-camp zombie thing...
Pegg: Zombies were spinning in their graves at that video!
Edgar: I think it was the Resident Evil games that sparked off the interest in the genre again. Romero has been threatening to do a fourth one for a long time, and then there was 28 Days Later, and the remake of Dawn of the Dead, which is more based on 28 Days Later than the original.
But it's nice that there's been a constant wave of things happening, but I don't know why they've tipped the zeitgeist.
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, when we were writing we heard about both of them, and were initially cheesed off, I think.
But, in both cases, it's kind of good, because for younger viewers, who maybe haven't seen the old films, it works as a nice kind of primer in a way. And even though we've very doggedly stuck to the old school, sort of slow, shuffling zombies, I always thought that the zombie refit (the MTV kind of zombies) was a bit needless, in a way. They were zombies for people with short attention spans!
But I think it's good in a way, because it's worked out as strangely great timing, in that both films are released by Universal. I went to the cinema and saw the Dawn of the Dead trailer and the Shaun of the Dead trailer back to back, which was bizarre. But audiences laugh at it, so it seems to work pretty good.
In fact, the Dawn of the Dead works as a brilliant set-up, in that every time someone shoots a zombie, they shoot it in the head first-time, even though they've never used a gun before, while in our film, Shaun shoots someone in the head after, maybe nine attempts.
So that's one of the key moments in our film, when Shaun actually has the rifle and he's worked out how to cock it. Then he starts firing and he misses, and he misses again, and again, and again. I just thought that's what I'd do. I mean, I've watched a hundred John Woo films, but if somebody gave me an automatic, I would not even know how to take the safety off.
So it's worked as a nice kind of primer to our look at the end of the world.
We kind of worried about them at the first, but then realised that the Dawn of the Dead remake wasn't going to have a scene in it where they sing 'White Lines' with a zombie, or 'Don't Stop Me Now' by Queen.

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.
Maybe it would be fun to see something like Marcel Marceau to come back as a zombie, or a physical comedian like The Three Stooges.
In terms of a franchise, we'd like to do something a bit similar. We'd like to do something again, with a similar sensibility, like the mixture of comedy and another genre. But maybe not zombies again.
We definitely like playing with genres and we're big fans of both horror and sci-fi. So we'd like to find a different recipe.

Q. Do you think American audiences will take to it?
A
. It's interesting that with the Internet, our trailer went online, and we just went global straight away. Aint It Cool News picked it up, which meant that millions of people in the States seemed to get it and pick it up.
I'm glad that we stuck to our guns and made a very British film in terms of the cast, because I think with very few exceptions, when British films contrive to have American actors either doing British accents, or having US leads in British films, our audiences don't really take to it, and I don't think American audiences do. So I'm very glad that we've been so lucky to have such a British cast and British outlook, and I think if it does perform well, it will be because of that.
It was the same with Spaced. People who've seen it in other countries like the fact that people in London are recreating The Matrix in a pub. If it was done in the States, it wouldn't have the same charm to it, so we've definitely tried to make it so that it revels in its parochial nature, without being off-putting.

Q. Will there be more Spaced? And have either of you got a special actor from horror movies that you particularly loved?
A.
Bruce Campbell, it's got to be Bruce Campbell. We did think about getting him for the second series of Spaced. His performance in Evil Dead 2 is possibly the best performance in a horror film ever. He's brilliant. He's like a live action movie king.
Simon Pegg: As for Spaced, we'd love to, cos it's a labour of love. But in terms of practicality, getting it done, getting it written, getting it edited, a series would be a mammoth undertaking at this point.
But we're certainly talking about the possibility of doing some specials and rounding up the story of Tim and Daisy, because, you know, as far as we're concerned, it's not particularly finished.

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.
Well, it's a weird one, because even has a low-budget film, the budget was bigger than TV. No matter how many resources you have, if it rains, it rains. It's the same problems that happen to a low-budget TV show, so in some respects it felt more ambitious in scope, particularly because the film takes place over 40 hours, so it's a lot more intense, and more difficult in a strange way. But, at the same time, you come across the same problems in terms of locations.

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