Highlights from the ‘Shaun of the Dead’ Fan Event with Edgar Wright
The ‘horror comedy’ tends to be the kiss of death for any studio or filmmaker. For some reason – there’s a belief that people just don’t want to pay and see these movies… which, to be fair, may be true (See the less-than-spectacular financial returns of Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse or The Cabin in the Woods or Drag Me to Hell…) Even companies that make horror-comedies today are reticent to label them such: the horror-comedy Happy Death Day was marketed as ‘horror-fun’, lest anyone, even for a second, think about calling it a ‘horror-comedy’ (the audacity!)
There is one exception to this anti ‘horror-comedy’ crusade, one film that’s seemingly bucked the odds and overcome the stigma: Shaun of the Dead. The proud and out ‘horror comedy’ launched the careers of both its stars Simon Pegg & Nick Frost and its director Edgar Wright. It’s one of the few films that seem to grow in stature with each passing year – a true blue modern classic, a movie that seemingly everyone has seen and even more shockingly everyone likes.
At the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, Edgar Wright, Shaun co-star Lucy Davis (Dianne) and Fandango Correspondent Alicia Malone presented a special fan screening of the zombie comedy, complete with a zombie costume contest, free shirts, a whole lot of drinks and even a prescreening Q&A. For highlights and pictures from the event, read on below.
The event opened with a zombie-costume contest – various attendees were dressed throughout The Greek Theater as zombies, to the point where it was impossible to tell who worked at the event and who just decided to come to the screening in zom-garb. In the end, a group dressed as Simon, Liz, Ed, Diane, David & Barbara took the top prize (despite not being dressed as zombies – which seems like a technicality… but I digress.)
After the contest, Edgar Wright and Lucy Davis took the stage and Q&A’d one another on their experiences working on the film over a decade ago.
Lucy Davis spoke about her most difficult day on the Shaun set – the scene where the principle cast is crammed into the same car, trying to make it to The Winchester. Philip (Bill Nighy) succumbs in the back seat to his zombie bite, prompting Ed (Nick Frost) to spin the car dramatically to a stop. “They put us on a low-loader and we had to spin the car round and round,” Davis recalled “We had several cameras on us and we did it again and again and again… We were all sitting in there, about to [puke]… And then there’s a little note from the director, ‘Can you look more sick?’ We loved him…” Wright, deadpan, interjected – “One of my greatest directions.”
Wright shared one of his favorite memories, working on the film – “For the whole of the climax in The Winchester, the poor fuckers playing the zombies outside the windows were basically silhouettes. They were really there – about fifty of them… I had real sympathy for the zombies because it’s one thing to be doing long hours in that make up with those uncomfortable contacts, it’s another thing to be standing outside a window banging on it for what seemed like ten days. Eventually when they finally break the windows and come in, there was this genuine bloodlust from the extras. You can see it in the scene with Dylan Moran (David). They went bonkers. And one time… there’s this thing called a wild track, which is where you just record the sound of the zombies. So they’re not on camera, but I remember for one lunch break, we kept the zombies back for fifteen minutes and told them we just want to record the sound of them going crazy. So I’m standing in the middle with a sound guy – and I’m like, ‘Alright guys come at me.’ They swarmed me. One of them even bit me on the leg. It wasn’t even on camera… but I felt like I deserved it.”
The production filmed quite a number of scenes outside The Winchester at night — and sometimes the teenagers in the area would disrupt shooting. Davis laughed, “We’d have the odd egg or stone pelted at us… That was until we asked all the kids in the area if they wanted to be zombies. And then they were great.”
Wright added – “The other thing I remember about that sequence – the reason I have a beard is always to make myself seem older. When I was making [Shaun] I would always get mistaken for a PA on my own film set. There was a particular old zombie… His name’s Sal, I think. He was also in Star Wars. He’s in the cantina scene. He’s the guy with the horns. Now – he’s a zombie in [Shaun] and I saw him standing on the side of set and I walked up to him and he went to me, not realizing I was the director, and said ‘Straight to video for this one.’
Interesting Factoid: Lucy Davis’s mother cameos as one of the zombies that eat David (Dylan Moran) towards the end of the film.
Davis revealed that when re-watching Shaun of the Dead, “I struggle a little with watching myself, but I love everything else. All the rest of it is great.”
In front of screenings of Shaun of the Dead, Wright likes to list the IMDB plot key words for the film. Now without further ado – the exact order of IMDB plot key words for Shaun of the Dead (per Edgar Wright): “Zombie, Record Collection, Pub, Cricket Bat, Long Take, Severed Head, Generation X, Dysfunctional Society, Lifting Person in Air, Suburbia, Television Being Used, Throat Ripping, Improvised weapon, Ink (?), Accountant, Broken bottles, Stepfather-stepson relationship, flower shop, National Emergency, Decapitation, Old Lady, Rifle Death, Social Satire, Arab Grocer, Door, Mother-Son Relationship, No Opening Credits, Secret Love, Friendship, Hit with a Shovel, Lookalike, Beheading, Love in England, Electronic Store, Explosion, Shot Repeatedly, Boyfriend-Girlfriend Relationship, Machine Gun, Shot in the Chest, Answering Machine, Roommate, Hip-hop Montage, Friendship Between Men, SWAT Team, Actress, Shot in the Neck, Car Crash, Eaten Alive, Trampoline, Convenience Store, Loss of Mother, Tool Shed, Severed Head, Cult, Flower, Cellphone, The Color Red, Character Name in Title…” The list goes on…