Shaun of the Dead is a 2004 British horror comedy directed by Edgar Wright, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and written by Pegg and Wright. Pegg plays Shaun, a man attempting to get some kind of focus in his life as he deals with his girlfriend, his mother and stepfather. At the same time he has to cope with an apocalyptic uprising of zombies.
The film is the first of what Pegg and Wright call their “Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy” with Hot Fuzz as the second and upcoming The World’s End as the third.
The film became a surprising critical and commercial success in the UK, and particularly in the US, receiving a very positive response and developing a very devoted cult following soon after its theatrical release.
Many of the Zombie extras are fans of the TV series “Spaced” (1999), which also starred Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and was also directed by Edgar Wright. They were recruited through the Spaced Out fan web site to be in the film.
The phrase “fried gold” originated behind the scenes of Simon Pegg, Jessica Hynes and Edgar Wright’s sitcom “Spaced” (1999) and was mentioned several times on the DVD commentaries for that series. It makes several fan-pleasing appearances in the film.
Frequent references are made to Big Al’s claim that dogs can’t look up. This is a reference to the commentary to the second series of “Spaced” (1999) in which Simon Pegg (Shaun) and Edgar Wright talk about Nick Frost (Ed)’s claim that the difficulty in shooting a scene with a dog was due to the fact that dogs can’t look up.
When Shaun, Liz, David, Dianne, Barbara and Ed run into the alternative ‘gang’ as they make their way to the Winchester, there are quite a few comedy partnerships brought together again. Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes – Tim and Daisy from “Spaced” (1999). Lucy Davis and Martin Freeman – Dawn and Tim from “The Office” (2001). Dylan Moran and Tamsin Greig – Bernard and Fran from “Black Books” (2000). Julia Deakin and Nick Frost are, of course, in Spaced too, as Marsha and Mike respectively.
The zombie that Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) find in their garden is Mary, the checkout girl from the film’s credit montage. A short story detailing her transformation into one of the undead was featured in issue 1384 of the classic British sci-fi comic 2000AD. The issue went on sale 7 April 2004. The strip was called “There’s Something About Mary” and was written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (the film’s co-writers) with art by Frazer Irving.
The game that Ed (Nick Frost) is playing throughout the movie is Timesplitters 2 (2002) (VG).
Shaun (Simon Pegg) complains that Ed (Nick Frost) isn’t his boyfriend, then says, “Thanks, babe.” In season one of “Spaced” (1999), a conversation begins in a similar manner between the two actors (“All right, babe?”). This was, however, a total mistake. The writers used the same joke again, forgetting they had used it in Spaced.
Because of the timing and the indisputable similarity of the names, the distributors were forced to hold the film back until two weeks after Dawn of the Dead (2004) was released in the UK.
In the beginning of the film, when Shaun is riding the bus, the young man in front of him is listening to music. The song that can be heard is the dance club classic “Kernkraft 400″ by Zombie Nation, which itself is a track from the 1984 Commodore 64 game “Lazy Jones”.
When Shaun and the group are running out of Liz’s flat they are all carrying weapons of some kind, but only Shaun actually hits any zombies. This was because only the cricket bat that Shaun was carrying was a padded fake, all the other items were real and would have hurt the extras playing zombies if they had been hit with them.
John and Bernie run the Winchester. These are the real names of the landlord and landlady who used to run Simon Pegg’s local pub, the Shepherds in Highgate. John used to make toasted sandwiches for regulars, hence the reference to “the Breville out back.” Pegg and Nick Frost were regular attendees of the Shepherd’s Thursday night quiz, hence the line “we do the quiz” when Shaun is knocking on the Winchester’s door. Chris Martin of Coldplay, who plays a zombie in the film, also used to attend quiz night.
The “pyjama zombie” had his voiced dubbed over by Simon Pegg.
When Shaun’s girlfriend objects to going out to the Winchester he suggest a few other pubs, one of which is the Shepherds, which actually used to be Simon Pegg’s local pub in Highgate until it was closed and reopened as a themed bar.
Shaun berates Ed for calling the creatures zombies (which they are, of course). This may be referring to the fact that many zombie movies (including Night of the Living Dead (1968) and Resident Evil (2002)) never mention the word “zombie” at all. More likely this is a reference to Danny Boyle, director of 28 Days Later… (2002), and his insistence that it isn’t a zombie movie.
At one point, a zombie can be glimpsed wearing a yellow cycling helmet and lycra shorts. He’s played by comedian Michael Smiley, who made appearances in “Spaced” (1999) as a bicycle courier named Tyres.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) director George A. Romero was given a private viewing of the film near his home in Florida. During the scene in which Ed (Nick Frost) yells into the phone, “We’re coming to get you, Barbara,” Romero was oblivious to the fact it was a direct lift from his film Night of the Living Dead (1968) and only found out later after a phone conversation with director Edgar Wright.
On the DVD (at least the region-two and region-one versions), there is a feature that plays an edited version of the scene where Pete yells at Shaun and Ed for playing the music too loud (“I’ve got to go to fucking work in four fucking hours!”) that has been dubbed over for television airings, thus replacing all obscenities. “Fuck” is replaced with “funk,” “prick” becomes “prink.” The feature has the fitting title “Funky Pete” and is found in the alternate bits section.
According to writer-director Edgar Wright in the DVD commentary, when Ed attempts to cheer Shaun up at the Winchester with plans of binge drinking, he is actually summarizing the events of the next day (Z-day) entirely in drinking references.
All of the newsreaders and television presenters are real people portraying themselves.
While flicking through the Yellow Pages, Shaun finds the number for an Italian restaurant named Fulci’s, a reference to Italian horror director Lucio Fulci.
Nick Frost (Ed) allegedly kept his genitals shaved throughout the production to create a genuine need to scratch that the character demanded.
Most of the posters in Shaun’s living room are of artists on the Ninja Tune record label. These include Funki Porcini and the Herbaliser.
The non-featured zombie extras were paid the princely sum of £1 a day for their troubles.
A poster in Shaun’s flat is an image from the Edgar Wright-directed video for Psychosis Safari by the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. Members of the band feature as zombie extras and a song of theirs, “Mr. Mental”, is featured on the soundtrack album.
When Noel (Rafe Spall) rings Ed (Nick Frost), Ed calls him Noodle, which is the name of one of the teenagers in an episode of “Spaced” (1999). Noel also says, “E-Ball says you’re holding,” which is a reference to director Edgar Wright, whose nickname is E-Ball.
The word “fuck” is used 77 times in this movie.
The Batoru rowaiaru (2000) (Battle Royale) poster in Shaun’s living room is designed by Fred Deakin of Airside, as is the green poster with the flowers and girl in Liz’s flat. Deakin is also a member of the band Lemon Jellÿ, which provides music for the soundtrack.
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George A. Romero, creator of the films that this movie pays homage to and lampoons, was so impressed with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s work that he asked them to appear in Land of the Dead (2005), the fourth part of his Dead series, in cameos as zombies.
Mary, the zombie in Shaun’s backyard, works at Landis Supermarket. This is a nod to John Landis, who directed An American Werewolf in London (1981), and to the British chain of convenience stores named Londis.
Just when Shaun is exiting the Indian-run deli, which is tuned to a radio station playing songs from Indian movies, the song stops and a newscaster begins speaking in Hindi. The content of the news, when translated in English, is, “People are waking up from their graves.”
David Walliams auditioned for the role of David.
When the army shows up outside the pub, Joe Cornish can be glimpsed as a zombie being gunned down, shown in his video diary on the DVD. He’s being shot in the back, facing toward the camera.
When Shaun and his friends are trying to get inside the pub, horror writer and Frightfest organizer Alan Jones can be seen as a zombie walking past the phone box. He’s the bald one in a checkered shirt.
Director Cameo: [Edgar Wright] during the Remembering Z-Day montage, there is a long shot of the zombies walking through a park; Edgar is the one in black who falls over himself.
Among the voices in the news reports you hear on television and radio you hear David Walliams on a TV news broadcast, Mark Gatiss on the radio, Keith Chegwin hosting the “Fun Dead” programme, and Rob Brydon voicing the “Zombies From Hell” show at the end. Also, the voice heard at the end dismissing the infected monkeys being the cause is Edgar Wright.
Almost all bit-part characters can be seen later in the film as zombies
Shaun walks past a road sign for Weston Park which is a street in Crouch End, London, the same locale as “Spaced” (1999) and where Simon Pegg now lives.
One of the zombies seen in the film previously featured in a TV ad for the Mini as a zombie.
When Shaun is on the phone with Fulci’s Italian restaurant, the voice of the host is Edgar Wright doing a terrible Italian accent.
Northern Irish rock band Ash donated 3 songs used in the film: “Meltdown”, “Orpheus” and “Everybody’s Happy Nowadays” featuring Chris Martin. These songs were donated for free as Edgar Wright’s girlfriend, Charlotte Hatherley, played guitar and sang backing vocals for Ash at the time.
The original script called for Shaun to beat Mary and the hulking zombie with a girl’s bicycle.
The garden scenes were originally a lot longer, featuring a hanged man zombie and a woman being eaten by her own dog (The dog was intended to be played by “Spaced” (1999)’s Colin).
The pyjama zombie was originally scripted to walk along the pole it was impaled upon, which is why it is hanging off the end when Diane is doing zombie lessons.
The rifle they use in the Winchester is, naturally, a Winchester model 73, the gun that won the west.
Shaun’s last name is Riley. It can be seen on a poster ad from Shaun’s Disc jockeying days.
Shaun tells Liz that he’s going to take her to “the place that does all the fish”. When he opens the phone book you can see that the restaurant is literally called ‘The Place That Does All the Fish’.