Filmmaker Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have become some of the most interesting creators in Hollywood, helming comic book adaptations, starring in massive blockbusters, and bringing audiences interesting genre fare. British audiences have known about the talented trio for almost two decades, beginning with their TV show Spaced, but it wasn't until 2004's Shaun of the Dead that American audiences truly understood their talents.
The millennium kicked off with Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, a minimalistic "zombie" film from 2002 that bent the rules of traditional zombie lore to create a low-budget hit across the world. In 2004, Zack Snyder directed a remake of George Romero's classic Dawn of the Dead, reinterpreting the original story for a modern monster movie. Shaun of the Dead premiered later that year, taking a more comedic angle of a zombie invasion, resonating with audiences and critics alike.
Shaun quickly developed a cult following, launching the careers of the trio and giving them enough clout to make two more films together, Hot Fuzz and The World's End.
Frost and Pegg have recently begun a production company, Stolen Picture, with their first project being the horror-comedy Slaughterhouse Rulez, marking a return to the format that helped them become heavy-hitters in Hollywood.
Before production begins on Slaughterhouse, we thought we should look back at the film that kicked off the creative team behind some of the most hilarious genre films of the last decade.
Scroll down to learn more about the behind-the-scenes antics of the cult classic Shaun of the Dead!
Honoring the Master
In addition to the film's title rhyming with George Romero's Dawn of the Dead, the filmmakers found many other ways to pay tribute to the founding father of the modern zombie genre.
Although there's never a definitive answer in Shaun of the Dead as to why the dead have come back to life, one sequence involves Shaun walking down the street and overhearing a radio broadcast that mentions a space probe that had re-entered the earth's atmosphere and broken up over England. In 1968's Night of the Living Dead, a newscaster links radiation from a returning satellite to have been the cause of the zombie uprising.
Additionally, one clever bit of dialogue mimicked the iconic opening scene of Night of the Living Dead, with Shaun saying, "We're coming to get you, Barbara!" In the opening of NotLD, one character teases another, named Barbara, about monsters coming to get her. Wright even gave Romero a private screening of Shaun, and the nod was so subtle, not even Romero noticed the connection.
Romero was such a fan of Wright and Pegg's work that he gave them cameos as zombies in his next film, Land of the Dead.
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Honoring the Master(s)
George Romero might have been the biggest inspiration for the film, but Wright took the opportunity to pay his respects to many other masters of the genre with subtle references scattered throughout the film.
In the film, Shaun works at an electrical appliance store. One shot show the store's name, which is "Foree Electric." Ken Foree starred in Romero's Dawn of the Dead, as well as a variety of other genre films throughout his career.
Another scene in the film features Shaun walking past local businesses, with one of them being "Bub's Pizzas." Knowing Wright's attention to detail, this is most likely a reference to the zombie named "Bub" from Romero's Day of the Dead. That specific zombie is notable for having experiments done on him that proved zombies could retain memories of their former living selves.
A supermarket employee appears as a zombie in Shaun's backyard, with her nametag identifying her as working as "Landis Supermarket." Director John Landis is the filmmaker responsible for the seminal horror-comedy An American Werewolf in London.
One scene shows Shaun flipping through the yellow pages, moving his finger past an Italian restaurant named "Fulci's." Filmmaker Lucio Fulci created Zombie, which features an iconic zombie vs. shark underwater sequence, in addition to many other genre classics.
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The Cornetto Origins
Shaun, along with Hot Fuzz and The World's End, are referred to as "Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy." Cornetto is a brand of ice cream in the UK, with each film featuring a different flavor of the confectionary prominently being displayed.
In Shaun, the main flavor was strawberry, as its wrapper was red and white, symbolizing the bloodshed and gore in the film. Hot Fuzz focuses on Pegg and Frost's characters being members of the police force, so that film featured a blue wrapper, symbolizing the blue of the police uniforms. World's End uses a green wrapper, symbolizing the sci-fi theme of aliens replacing humans.
As far as the inspiration for the ice cream goes, Edgar Wright has explained that he once ate a Cornetto early in the morning to cure a hangover, something Shaun also does in the film.
"It's the weirdest thing you would want to eat at that time in the morning," Wright has explained. "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."prevnext
The Three Flavors Cornetto Trilogy don't feature any linking continuity or narrative, but merely shared similar actors and filmmakers. However, there were rumors early on that the story of Shaun could continue in future installments.
One idea for subsequent films would be to have Shaun face off against different varieties of monsters in each installment. Following zombies, the first idea would be for Shaun and company to take on vampires. In the film's audio commentary, Pegg even goes so far as to give the tentative sequel a name, "Shaun of the Dead 2: From Dusk Till Shaun." That title is a play on the Robert Rodriguez vampire film From Dusk Till Dawn.
This idea qas quickly scrapped, as Wright and Pegg were so happy with the stand-alone product of Shaun and also thought too many main characters died to attempt continuing the narrative.
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Shaun Spoils Itself
Considering Wright's incredibly kinetic filmmaking style, Shaun takes multiple viewings to completely comprehend all of the bits of dialogue. With repeat viewings, viewers can also learn that the film gives away many of its own details of events before they occur.
At one point, Ed and Shaun's roommate Pete tries to get Ed to clean up after himself, saying, "You want to live like an animal?! Go live in the shed." At the end of the film, the zombified Ed is shown living in Shaun's shed so that the two can play video games.
In another clever prediction of events to come, one scene features Ed detailing what he and Shaun will do the next day, in hopes of cheering Shaun up. Ed mentions getting bloody Marys, which ends up meaning a zombie named Mary shows up in their backyard. Next, Ed mentions a "bite at the King's Head," reflecting Shaun's stepfather being bitten by a zombie, followed by mentioning a "couple at the Little Princess," which ends up meaning the "Little Princess" is Shaun's ex-girlfriend, who lives with two roommates, meaning the "couple."0comments
Ed goes on to say they will "stagger back," which indicates the gang having to impersonate zombies, before ending with "back at the bar for shots," resulting in the gang returning to the bar where Ed lays out the entire plan, which also includes a shoot-out with zombies.
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