For those who couldn’t get enough of Shaun of the Dead this past weekend, writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, and actor Nick Frost talked a bit more about their movie, including answering the age old question on every zombie fan’s mind-slow zombies or fast zombies?
CS!: Last time, you mentioned that you prefer the slow zombies. Maybe you can explain to us why you chose to use them instead of the more common fast zombies? Pegg: The root of the word zombie is somnambulism, which means sleepwalker, and by their very nature, they’re very slow. Fast zombies, to me, defeat the objective, and you also can’t really share screen time with a fast zombie, because you always have to run. Whereas, with slow zombies, you can actually be in shot with them, and not worry about them getting you, because you just can keep walking. Wright: Whenever someone talks about slow zombies, they always make the same joke of saying that you can just run away. The thing that’s great about slow zombies is that you can outrun them one-on-one, but when you get tired, you cannot keep on running, and they will eventually get you. There’s like this slow inevitable creeping threat, and so a lot of those old films have that horrible weird nightmare logic. The other thing is that in the original Romero films, because they’re not running around like Tasmanian devils, you do have a few moments where you have a bit of sympathy for them. There’s a great moment in Dawn of the Dead where a mother is dragging around a little plastic doll, because it’s the remembrance of the kid that she once had and it’s heartbreaking. I’m glad that we stuck with the old zombies, because the slow zombies have now become like the classic Reeboks trainer (note: that’s “British” for sneaker).
CS!: Did you try to offer up a large variety of zombies of different races and sexualities? Were there any gay zombies? Frost: I think we had a couple happy zombies. The thing about zombies is they come from all backgrounds, and no one is immune to being bitten unfortunately. It’s very inclusive. Pegg: It’s difficult to define a sexuality of a zombie when they’re just walking around, unless they’re wearing like a gay pride t-shirt or something. It’s society, so we wanted a cross section of the zombies to represent, all the zombies to represent society Wright: The other thing with the fast zombies like in the Dawn of the Dead remake is just by having them run really fast, it inadvertently creates this master race of zombies. All of the zombies are gym fit, 5′ 10 to 6′ 2, and they can all run really fast. Where are the fat zombies? Where are the frail zombies? Where are the little kid zombies? Where is the zombie in a wheelchair like in our film? We’re very P.C. Pegg: The wheelchair zombie is a friend of mine who got into a car accident when she was seventeen, and I asked her to do this, because I’ve never seen a zombie in a wheelchair. We wanted to show that society had been affected in every way, but the trouble is zombies don’t really get it on with each other in the zombie world. The actors might do, but in a way, sexuality becomes irrelevant. The way they breed is to bite each other, or bite people.
CS!: Did any of the extras playing zombies take things too far? Frost: Yeah. Individually, they were quite quiet, shy creatures, but when you get them in a group of a hundred other zombies, they get the blood lust. Sometimes, we would need them to not roar or moan, but it would just drift in. There was quite a lot of zombie lovin’ going on. Pegg: Huge zombie orgies! (laughter) They were hanging out together twenty-four seven pretty much, so we kept hearing of these zombie trysts that were happening on-set, which is lovely. There was some shagging, but mainly it was romance.
CS!: Obviously, the comedy is very British. What were some of your influences? Pegg: Loads of stuff. I’m a big fan of comedy and British comedy in particular. The Pythons were around when I was born, but I found them when I was older. The Young Ones. Frost: The Young Ones was very influential. Adrian Edmonson, Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer. They were very physical cutting edge comedians of their time, but they were something I was allowed to sit up and watch. Wright: In terms of the film, we tend to think more of the horror influences., because the comedy stuff probably comes more from us in terms of our personal lives and our relationships and family situations. The Coen Brothers are definitely an inspiration in terms of their comic stuff. Raising Arizona is one of my favorite films, and that was an inspiration on the script, because its one of those films that is absolutely dense with detail and there’s a lot of little things going on and subtext to pick up on the second watch. We tried to jam pack Shaun of the Dead with those kinds of things. Frost: For the British people, we’ve always had quite a glut of good comedy, so we had quite a lot to choose from. Pegg: I love the whole tradition of British comedy. I also loved Laurel and Hardy as a kid, and in a way, they have a similar relationship to Ed and Shaun, because they’re both foolish but very codependent. I love shows like “Larry Sanders” and “Seinfeld”, and I’m a huge fan of “The Simpsons”. That’s a massive influence on me. At their best, both British and American comedy is very similar; it’s very dry and intelligent. We both have our crap comedy as well, but when we’re firing on all cylinders, our sense of comedy is not that dissimilar.
CS!: You’ve all mentioned your love for the Romero zombie films, but no one has mentioned Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series which also mixed zombies with humor. Wright: I’m a big fan of Evil Dead 2. It’s one of my favorite films, and so is Brain Dead by Peter Jackson, but those films are both completely far out in that they go into Tex Avery, cartoon-like level of violence. We wanted to rein that aspect back a little, and make the comedy solely about the characters. In a way, the more obvious influences apart from George Romero are John Carpenter films like The Thing and The Fog, and another film we really loved was the 70’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the Phillip Kaufman one with Donald Sutherland. It is such a brilliant portrait of a city that is already pretty paranoid getting even more paranoid, so that was a big influence.
CS!: The British comics weekly 2000 AD ran a couple of Shaun of the Dead comic strips. Can you tell us a bit about those? Pegg: I wrote them with Edgar, and it was drawn by an artist called Frasier Irving, who’s a U.K. graphic artist. Wright: Rather than doing the story of the film, we did the story about how some of the zombies became zombies. So we did the story of the checkout girl who’s in the back garden and how she goes home from work, meets a guy in a pub and then gets attacked and attacks someone else. Pegg: We’ve done another one as well about the guy that comes into the living room with one arm, who is dressed like the bridegroom, we did his story as well, of how he got there. Wright: The first was called “There’s Something About Mary” and the other was called “My Best Friend’s Wedding”. Pegg: We might do a comic book adaptation of what happened to Yvonne’s gang. What you won’t get here is that every member of that group is a famous British TV personality. There’s Tim from ‘The Office’ and people from ‘The League of Gentlemen,’ ‘Black Books,’ ‘Spaced.’ It’s almost like another comedy film is happening somewhere else. They’re doing quite well, though. They’ve still got their weapons and their coats on, where Shaun’s gang, they don’t have their weapons any more and they’ve lost their coats. Wright: In the opening credits of the film, all of the people turn up as zombies later. We’d like to do a graphic novel at some point in which case we’d put them in there.
CS!: Was there any material you couldn’t use for any reason? Wright: Nothing on a censorship level as far as the language or horror. There was some stuff we cut for pacing. The cut that you see in theatres is what we intended to do. There’s stuff that is cut out for pacing that will eventually turn up on the DVD. The first third of the film is a very deliberate build of events, and there is an element of juggling in the tone to make that work.
CS!: What else might we see on the DVD that we won’t see in theatres? Pegg: Lots of stuff. On the British DVD, which comes out quite soon, there’s about the same length of the film again in extras. In terms of like behind the scenes footage and outtakes and a gag reel. Not many deleted scenes really, most of what you see is what we shot, there are some extended sequences, and a couple deleted scenes, but there’s a photo gallery, there’s four commentaries, there’s like six documentaries, there’s a special effects comparison, story board comparison, it’s really – I mean, we’re big fans of the DVD. Wright: The US DVD will have more because there’s other stuff that’s happened since, and some other unrated stuff-like the outtakes-that we had to take out of the UK DVD to avoid an 18 rating, because the DVD is slightly different here.
CS!: Has there been any talk of a sequel? Wright: We want to write a sequel in tone, but we’re not going to do another zombie film or another film with Shaun. We definitely want to do another film with Simon and Nick, and do our own spin of another genre. At the moment, the idea is to do the cop/action genre, because that genre does not exist in the UK. I’d like to see how you would do a film like Bad Boys 2 if you didn’t have any guns.