Shaun of the Dead Making Of From Book: San Diego Comic-Con

Simon Pegg leads the cast of Shaun of the Dead on a walk outside.

The cast of Shaun of the Dead
Picture: Focus Features

It’s quite mind-boggling to think how much a impact the 2004 film Shaun of the Dead had on the history of modern cinema. For starters, although the trio have worked together on a show called space, the film, for the most part, made us discover director Edgar Wright and actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Wright went on to make some of the most exciting and innovative films of his generation such as Scott Pilgrim vs the world and Baby Driver.

Pegg and Frost appeared, the two together and individually in such popular movies and shows it would be silly to even start listing them (Star Trek, Attack the blocketc.) The film was also followed by two equally beloved pseudo-sequels, Warm down and the end of the world, while instantly setting the bar for genre mashups go forward. But none of this would have happened without a little help from their friends and San Diego Comic-Con.

io9 is very happy to offer an exclusive excerpt from the new book You have red on you by Clark Collis, who is available now. Collis works at Entertainment Weekly and has spoken to not only Wright, Pegg and Frost, but also around 60 other people to immerse themselves in all aspects of Shaunthe origins, creation and reception of. In this clip, Collis explains how the film community at large and an event at San Diego Comic-Con set the stage for everything to come.

One of the most surprising and delicious things I have learned while writing You have red on you was the support this very British film received from American filmmakers ahead of its September 2004 US release, ”Collis told io9 via email. “Zombie King George A. Romero gave Shaun a helping hand and provided a citation for the movie poster, as did Robert Rodriguez, Sam Raimi, and Quentin Tarantino, who hosted a screening of the movie at his home. Meanwhile, the legend and future of makeup effects Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero and Hotel Director Eli Roth was in attendance at San Diego Comic Con in 2004 to lend his support to the film, as the excerpt below reveals.

The book itself, front and back.

You got red on you from Clark Collis
Picture: 1984 Edition

The most important stop of the Shaun of the Dead Promotional tour was San Diego, where the city’s annual Comic-Con took place on the weekend of July 22-25. In previous years, the major studios had begun to fully realize the event’s showcase potential. A host of upcoming releases were on display at Comic-Con 2004, including Batman begins, Alien vs. predator, by Robert Rodriguez the city of sin, and Exorcist: the beginning. Focus Features, which distributed Shaun, arranged for star Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright to attend Comic-Con and appear on a Shaun of the Dead panel. “It was my first Comic-Con,” Pegg says. “We had never seen anything like it. I remember stepping out into the main lobby and thinking, “Holy shit, this is the mecca for nerds. We did autographs, and people came and got autographs and stuff. I met Carrie Fisher. She was doing a dedication, so I lined up and talked to her, and it was amazing.

Focus had decided to screen the film in its entirety at Comic-Con, an unusual strategy for a major studio release. “Comic-Con played a big role in our launch,” said Adriene Bowles, Focus publicity manager at the time. “We knew it would be difficult to get there without the power of the stars. We were [originally] It’s only going to be screened once, and we ended up adding two more screenings. It was really important to Edgar that we didn’t turn anyone away, so we kept adding projections. It was extraordinary, considering that we were arriving in unknown quantities. They were packed houses, and it just played through the roof. Wright recalls Comic-Con screenings were a highlight of the ensemble Shaun of the Dead to live. “The movie just absolutely kills at Comic-Con,” he says. “It’s this funny thing that Americans are a lot more uninhibited about when it comes to laughing. I remember Simon and I were on the side after doing our intro, looking at each other like, fuck shit, they really love it. He received an enthusiastic reception every evening. At one of the screenings, an exuberant Wright even indulged in a little props comedy. “Outside in the multiplex was a massive cardboard cross promoting the Exorcist prequel ”, explains the director. “For one of the questions and answers, I came up with the Exorcist cross, which was massive, like 12 feet high. There were just a lot of hijinks.

Greg Nicotero attended a screening with Dawn of the Dead star Ken Foree, after whom Pegg and Wright named Shaun’s workplace Foree Electric. Nicotero was delighted to meet the British pair and profusely apologized for accidentally purchasing an unauthorized DVD of their film. “I said, ‘Look, guys, I love the movie,’ Nicotero says. “‘I thought it was funny, it was great, I told George about it, but I’m a little embarrassed to tell you that I didn’t realize that the film was not officially available on DVD.’ They were like, “Ah, don’t worry about that.” I said to the guys, ‘Anything you need me to do to help promote the movie, [I’ll do it]. ‘”

Pegg and Wright were guided around Comic-Con by publicist Jeff Walker. “We hit it off immediately,” says Walker. “We introduced them to everyone at Comic-Con, and vice versa. It was a love story between fans and filmmakers unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The Shaun of the Dead panel was moderated by Walker and took place at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. “By the time we got the movie, the Comic-Con schedule that year was already full, and the only way to get them in was on a Sunday,” says Walker. “Sunday wasn’t traditionally a very big panel day at Comic-Con, but we had a really good crowd.” The panel was a sometimes exuberant affair. At one point, Wright and Pegg were heckled by an audience member who complained that their movie was “a total rip off. Dawn of the Dead. The Rowdy was, in fact, Wright’s pal Eli Roth, the 32-year-old writer-director of the horrific 2003 horror hit. Cabin fever, about a group of friends who contract a flesh-eating virus.

Wright had met Roth in February at the Empire Awards in London, an annual event hosted by the eponymous film magazine, where the American filmmaker was nominated in the Best Newcomer category. “I really really liked him,” says Roth of Wright. “We met right away. Wright had reconnected with Roth in May during a trip to Los Angeles, and the couple attended the Saturn Awards, which celebrate sci-fi, fantasy and horror films. “I made a date with Edgar,” said Roth. “I hadn’t seen his movie, but I took him to the red carpet, and I was like, ‘He made the brightest new movie, his name is Shaun of the Dead. ‘ Edgar was just laughing. He said to me: ‘You haven’t seen the film!’ I was like, ‘Well, now you better show me the movie, and it better be good.’ “

Roth finally found his new friend’s film at a screening hosted by the Cabin fever director’s agency, CAA. “I loved it,” he says. “Edgar and Simon are so funny and so smart. You can’t ignore Peter Serafinowicz, who is a genius. He’s never mentioned in the mix, but he really is a major ingredient in this team. The cast was so good in this movie. You think of the comedy genius of Pegg, Frost, Serafinowicz, and Edgar, and then you add everyone in. Lucy Davis. Bill Nighy. Roth was particularly impressed with the film’s conclusion, when Shaun visits Zombified Ed in the hangar to play video games. “It was cute, you got emotional,” says the director. “I felt like that was what Gen X would do if there was a full zombie attack. You would keep your roommate chained while playing video games. Sure. Why not you ? Now you have someone to play with. It was brilliant. “

Let me tell you, the first time I saw Shaun of the Dead was at that same San Diego Comic-Con. And this audience, of which I was a part, had no idea what he was going to do. The movie was so fresh, so fun, so surprisingly moving, it immediately feels like it has become everyone’s favorite movie. I know I left San Diego that year telling all my friends about it. I’m sure a lot of others have done it too. And the rest was history.

Read more in Clark Collis’ You have red on you, which is now available.

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