‘You’ve Got Red on You’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Shaun of the Dead’
It’s everyone’s favorite funny zombie movie. It’s the first and, arguably, most popular entry in Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s celebrated Cornetto Trilogy. It’s the movie that was going to be called Tea Time of the Dead — the most British title ever. It’s Shaun of the Dead, and here are some killer facts about the making of the zombie film that still remains (decomposing) head and shoulders above its imitators...
The Amputee Stuntman
Tim Baggaley, the besuited shopper at the beginning who later turns into a zombie with one arm, is, in fact, an amputee stuntman. Pegg said during the movie’s commentary that Baggaley made a lot of jokes about his arm on set and added that he was a master fencer.
Bowie or Prince?
“We were going to have a David Bowie joke in the part where they’re deciding which records to throw at the zombies,” Wright told The Guardian. “‘Hunky Dory? Ziggy Stardust? The Labyrinth Soundtrack!’ In the end, we went with Prince because we thought it was funnier: ‘Purple Rain? Sign O’ the Times? The Batman Soundtrack! Throw it!’”
Wright and Pegg wrote a Shaun of the Dead comic strip for the comic anthology 2000 AD titled “There’s Something About Mary.” It was published before the film’s release and features the first zombie, Mary.
Fans of the movie, of course, would know that Mary can be seen at the very beginning of the film working the job, already half-zombified.
Missing an Epidemic
Wright once explained that he completely missed the 2001 foot-and-mouth epidemic by not watching the news — just like his two main characters. “I remember during the foot-and-mouth (epidemic) in the U.K., I hadn’t read the papers or watched the news for, like, two weeks,” Wright remembers. “And the first thing I saw (on) TV was piles of cows burning, and I didn’t know what it was about. I felt like such an idiot! That sort of informed the film. I thought it’s plausible that the world could be ending, and these two guys could be the last to know.”
Inspired by ‘The Terminator’
In the movie’s commentary, Wright said that all those crash zooms were inspired by James Cameron and his use of it in movies like The Terminator. Only, instead of crash zooming on gnarly weapons, Wright uses it to zoom in on everyday, mundane objects.
It All Started with ‘Spaced’
Before the three Brits would storm the world with their comedic movies, they were making comedic television. Spaced was a British sitcom starring Pegg and Frost, along with several actors who’d later pop up in Shaun of the Dead. In the episode “Art,” Pegg’s character Tim Bisley takes speed while playing Resident Evil 2 and starts thinking he’s fighting real-life zombies. The episode, combined with the fact that the series was ending, gave Wright the idea for a feature film. “The zombie scene was the last thing we did,” Wright remembers, “and I remember being in a cab with Simon on the way to the wrap party and saying, ‘Hey, we should do a whole zombie film!’”
How Wright Came Up with the ‘Spaced’ Episode
“A flashpoint came when I ventured out once to buy milk at five in the morning after staying up playing Resident Evil,” Wright told The Guardian. “I was taken with how deserted and eerie the streets were. What would a British person do if zombies appeared now? In American zombie movies, everyone had high-powered weapons. What would someone do without all that? This turned into the first scene I filmed, where Shaun walks to the shop completely oblivious to the zombie attack.”
According to the movie’s commentary, Frost’s Clyde impression was something the actor had been doing at parties for years, prompting Wright to add it to the script. The line “I’m not your performing monkey” is something that Frost literally said to Wright whenever the director asked him to do said impression at these parties.
The scene in which Shaun’s mother, Barbara, dies led to both Pegg and Frost crying for real as Pegg imagined it to be his own mom dying.
Going for Broke
Wright, who was not the established filmmaker he is today, basically went broke trying to make his first big hit. Film4 Productions had initially signed on to finance the movie but at one point decided to cut back on budget, leaving Wright to search for other backers and eventually borrow money from friends. He was also declining other directing jobs to focus on getting the film done even though it was on hold. “For me to take on a TV job meant that I was like pushing the film back,” he said on the Empire Podcast. “So I was going rapidly broke. I was like majorly in the red.”
Shaun Used to Be a DJ
It was a backstory that didn’t make it from script to screen, but Wright and Pegg say that some of the posters hanging in the guys’ apartment allude to Shaun’s deejaying past.
Thanks, ‘Spaced’ Fans
“We wouldn’t have been able to make the film without fans of Spaced, the sitcom I’d worked on with Simon,” Wright told The Guardian. “We put a call out, asking them to be our zombie extras, and the response was overwhelming. We had no money to pay them, though, and I’m keenly aware that after the long hours they put in, some of them weren’t Spaced fans afterward.”
“Our zombies spent a week cooped up on set,” Wright continued. “They had to stand outside The Winchester, the pub where our heroes take refuge, banging on the windows and not doing much else really. When we eventually involved them properly, they had this electric energy: a pure, crazed hysteria. I needed to record some zombie sounds, so one lunchtime, I stood in the middle of the pub and asked them all to attack me. One came straight at me and bit my leg. They’d gone feral.”
Jeremy Thompson’s Part Was Much Smaller
The former Sky News presenter who plays himself in the movie was initially going to be shown for just a brief moment like the other TV inserts, but the guys were so impressed with how he handled the bonkers premise that they expanded his part.
Begging Brian May
Wright and Pegg were so hellbent on using Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” for the pub fight that they choreographed and filmed it while still waiting for the clearance to use the song. They ended up personally writing Brian May, begging him to give them the green light.
Why the Cornetto
The particular ice cream is Edgar Wright’s actual hangover cure, so it became Ed’s in the movie, too. “It’s the weirdest thing you would want to eat at that time in the morning,” the director said. “When I was in college, I got very, very drunk once, and I had a Cornetto in the morning, and I felt a lot better. So, it became my hangover cure, and it still is.”