Friday, September 3, 2004

An Interview with Director Edgar Wright and Writer/Actor Simon Pegg

This interview was conducted on September 3rd, 2004 by telephone between Atlanta and Washington, prior to the release of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s film Shaun of the Dead. It was previously posted at a fan site I made to earn points on the “Shaun Squad” Street Team website (which is how I got in contact with Edgar in the first place), and the now-defunct entertainment website Funk Diggity Fresh. Sadly, the “Shaun Squad” site was not left up as a fan community, which is a shame because the trio wrote highly entertaining blogs about their trip across the country that don’t seem to have been saved anywhere. In any case, I’m re-posting the interview here.

If you’re wondering why I didn’t interview Nick, I didn’t know he was there. This is also one of my earliest interviews, so I didn't know that "What's your favorite and least favorite horror movie?" is a terrible, insipid question that the interviewee has already endured two and a half billion times.

Tyler Foster: Hello! Having a good time in America?
Edgar Wright: Uh-huh!
Simon Pegg: Yeah.
Edgar Wright: Our last day today. We've been here for a month, and we're going back tonight.
Simon Pegg: Going back to the UK in four hours.
Tyler Foster: Alright, I'll just get started then. What's the scariest thing about relationships?
Edgar Wright: [laughs] Sometimes they end.
Simon Pegg: I guess it's just the notion of longevity and commitment, and all that kind of stuff, but that doesn't neccesarily have to be a scary thing, you know? Also weird sex.
Tyler Foster: It seems nowadays that everything's a horror comedy, you know, with all horror movies having jokes, or sort of needing to poke fun at themselves, I think. Do you think that it's because it's harder to be scary, or because the horror movies don't have any ideas left, they need another form of entertainment to give the audience what they want?
Edgar Wright: We hope for too much.
Simon Pegg: I don't know if that's true. I mean, look at, for whatever it's worth, Cabin Fever, or Gothika, I mean, there's lots of films that try to be scary, The Gift, what was that one...
Edgar Wright: Oh, the Japanese horror films as well.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, like, The Ring...
Edgar Wright: The Ring, Audition.
Simon Pegg: Audition, yeah. I don't really think that that's true, I mean in our film we don't really try and make fun of the horror either, we try and sort of to keep it as real as possible, and try to maintain a serious dimension to the zombies. I just think it's that there was a kind of spoof culture that kicked in, by the first Scream, in a way, which is a very good film, but it spawned some sort of lesser sequels, and then the Scary Movie series, which is a weird kind of spoof of a spoof.
Tyler Foster: Yeah. What are your guys' favorite and least favorite horror movies? Or, horror-comedies.
Edgar Wright: Um...Favorite horror movies...I mean, obviously, Dawn of the Dead is a favorite. American Werewolf in London. Evil Dead II.
Simon Pegg: The Omen.
Edgar Wright: The Omen's good.
Simon Pegg: The Shining.
Edgar Wright: Suspiria.
Simon Pegg: The Exorcist.
Edgar Wright: The Exorcist, yeah.
Tyler Foster: Was Shaun of the Dead always planned as a romantic comedy, or was it ever straight comedy, or something else?
Edgar Wright: Yeah, it was one of the initial sort of ideas, partly because we wanted to write something about our own sort of life, and not London, but also we thought it would be quite funny, that, you know, because most British exports are romantic comedies.
Tyler Foster: Mm-hmm.
Edgar Wright: So, we thought it would be quite funny to do a sort of subversive version of that.
Tyler Foster: Now, since I'm in the US, I haven't been able to see "Spaced" [note: long since rectified], and of course, Shaun isn't based on it, but was there any of that fear of jumping from TV to the cinema, like that the humor wouldn't translate?
Edgar Wright: Well, the show that we did, "Spaced", was sort of a satire sitcom about two roommates, and it had a lot of dream sequences. But one of the things we wanted to do with Shaun of the Dead was to make a film where people didn't have to wake up at the end of a dream, where something fantastical could have happened, but it could be happening for real, and even have fate, or real consequences. Kind of born out of having that kind of TV show and wanting to tell a story that had a beginning, middle and an end.
Tyler Foster: One thing that I noticed that I really liked was the way the jokes sort of come full cycle, each scene during the relationship is sort of referenced during the zombie attack. Was that something you planned, or did it come naturally?
Edgar Wright: Some of that stuff was in the first draft, and I think on subsequent drafts we did more and more of it. We're big fans of kind of films like Raising Arizona that are sort of dense in detail, and have a lot of setup stuff. It's not something we originally set out to do, but it definitely expanded as we went along.
Tyler Foster: Simon, in an interview for CHUD, you mentioned a bunch of my favorite films and directors, such as Garden State, Eternal Sunshine, you know, Spike Jonze, Wes Anderson. Would you and Edgar have an interest in doing something more serious like that?
Simon Pegg: Um, yeah, I think so. I mean, the thing is our background is from comedy, and that's something we really enjoy doing. I think if there was something that moved us enough to want to, you know, if we had an idea and we were really serious about it we'd probably follow it through. I mean, the directors I mentioned, there's a great bit of sweet comedy running through, you know, a lot of those films, Garden State, Eternal Sunshine, you know, Wes Anderson has a wonderful kind of wit to him, and I wouldn't call them comedies as such, but they certainly are...they have a great sense of humor, I think. I don't know we'd actually make something like Requiem for a Dream, as such, it depends what kind of budget there would be. At the moment we're enjoying doing comedy, and it's not just comedy either.
Tyler Foster: Yeah.
Simon Pegg: We're not just going for gags, kind of thing, we're trying to create something a little more rounded. There are moments in Shaun of the Dead that are quite serious, in a way. So I never say never.
Tyler Foster: How do you think the use of the blog on the Shaun Squad website spreads the buzz, because I mean I know Zach Braff did that for Garden State, and it seems to have had an impact with the fans.
Edgar Wright: I think it helps us remember where we were and what we were doing! [laughs] It's been a good thing writing it up, it's just such a whirlwind trip that I think that if we hadn't written some of it down we would have forgotten, it would have all bled into one. It's just such a nice thing to do because I know some of these fans on the stops that we've stopped and took pictures with and we've put them up on the site, and it's just a nice way of doing it. I think that maybe, the fans feel that --
Nick Frost: People would appreciate the effort you put into it as well.
Edgar Wright: Yeah. Update most of the days.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, and there's so little time as well, between cities, so as you're leaving a city, and I think it's nice to be able to sort of record everything, and it's a good idea, and, well, I don't know who's reading it, but there does seem to be people who are responding.
Tyler Foster: I read on the website, of course, and on other sites actually, that you guys went to see Alien vs. Predator, and you weren't very impressed.
Edgar Wright: Well, I fell asleep,
Simon Pegg: The trouble is, I think that, with those words is that, maybe in our tiredness we've been a little bit too outspoken on this. The truth is we went to see Alien vs. Predator directly after Garden State, we only went in really because we heard the Shaun trailer would be playing with it, and we thought we'd just nip in and watch that. And then we stayed, but it was so late at night, that we couldn't really get into it. wasn't my favorite film I'd ever seen, but I think we were just a bit tired, you know?
Tyler Foster: Yeah, well, what do you think of these crossovers, the matchups, like Freddy vs. Jason, or they're talking about doing Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash now.
Nick Frost: They're going to make Herbie vs. Christine next. That's another one they're working on.
Tyler Foster: [laughs]
Edgar Wright: [laughs] I'd like to see Herbie vs. Christine. Maybe you can start the rumor, and then someone will offer it to us.
Tyler Foster: I have a copy of the soundtrack, and I enjoyed the choices you made, nice and varied. Are these just musical influences, or what you thought was right for the movie, your favorite songs?
Edgar Wright: Well, a bit of everything. Some of them are favorite tracks, like the Queen track, the whole Electro vibe, it's Simon and I's sort of bag, and yeah, it's a nice mix. I mean, you want to do stuff that's relevant to the film, like the Specials track, and the Smiths, but it's really nice to create something, I really enjoyed that aspect of the process, and mixing the soundtrack was great fun.
Tyler Foster: Actually, just another question I thought of, I know that you guys, or at least I know Simon is a huge Star Wars fan. What do you guys think of the changes Lucas is making on the DVDs?
Simon Pegg: Oh, don't remind me.
Edgar Wright: [laughs] We saw some of that.
Simon Pegg: Yeah, we did. We did get a sneak preview of some of the DVDs at an undisclosed location in the universe, and uh, I won't lie to you. Some of them are good, some of them aren't. I think -- I don't like this kind of revisionist stuff. It underestimates the audience, and it assumes that, I don't know, that it's not ours. When you give something away, it becomes the world's, and and George Lucas forever taking his ball in and pumping it up again, it's like, well, for God's sake.
Nick Frost: I say...well, why not do something else?
Edgar Wright: [laughs]
Nick Frost: Eat at a different restaurant for a change.
Simon Pegg: There's an interesting thing that they've done...I mean, I just think the Special Editions, you know, you kind of start to think, hang on, something's wrong here, some of the kind of changes he made there, and of course that was a foreshadow for the debacle that was The Phantom Menace and the subsequent Attack of the Clones...
Tyler Foster: [laughs]
Simon Pegg: Yeah, I just think he should have left it alone. I never thought when I was seven that it needed more comedy Jawas in the background. It was perfect.
Edgar Wright: It wouldn't be so bad if he was releasing the originals as well, you know, so you could choose between the two.
Tyler Foster: Exactly.
Simon Pegg: I don't like the revisioning, no.
Edgar Wright: It seems it's also like a crime against film history, because then, in twenty years time, if that's the only left, is the DVDs, it's like, well, this was done in 1977, and this crappy Jabba the Hutt bit was done in 1997.
Simon Pegg: Oh, yeah, he's redone Jabba again for these DVDs.
Tyler Foster: Yeah, I mean, and I've heard, it's not just the fans, you know, film professors, for instance, they want to have the original versions available --
Edgar Wright: Yes!
Simon Pegg: Right, definitely.
Edgar Wright: It's genuinely like a crime against the archives, it's really, really sad. At least Spielberg with E.T., when he, you know, made all the changes, at least they had the original version on the DVD as well.
Tyler Foster: Yeah. For your next project, you've mentioned that it's going to be a cop action movie, kind of like a sequel to Shaun in spirit. What was the sort of jumpstart for you guys to get going on that, because, like, it seems like 28 Days Later might have been a jumpstart to do Shaun.
Edgar Wright: No, really, cause I mean, we'd started writing Shaun before we heard about 28 Days Later, if anything, the film was sort of more inspired out by having played too many Resident Evil games, really. It's not that there's a push, really, to do any project, it's just like playing with genres, and we want to do a cop film, on the UK's not-so-exciting streets, we thought it'd be pretty funny. It was inspired by these cop films of the 70's, but it's just another way of doing a different, a sort of British take on it, this American genre.
Tyler Foster: If you do end up doing Shaun 2, sometime in the future, I have my idea for it, just a shot you should do...
Edgar Wright: Yeah?
Tyler Foster: It's like the new version of Shaun waking up as a zombie. Just gotta have the white pane, you know, and the hand comes up and hits it like Dawn of the Dead, and then it's just Shaun, wiping off his mirror after a shower.
Edgar Wright: [laughs]
Tyler Foster: Well, thank you for doing this interview --
Edgar Wright: Oh, well, thank you!
Simon Pegg: Thank you!
Tyler Foster: There's a ton of fans I know who just wanted to say hello, my friends.
Edgar Wright: Well, did you come last night, Tyler?
Tyler Foster: Oh, no, I'm in Washington State.
Edgar Wright: Oh, okay. Well, cool, thank you very much, and we appreciate it. Glad you enjoyed the soundtrack too.
Simon Pegg: And if you see the mirror gag in our next film you can't have any money.
Tyler Foster: [laughs]
Edgar Wright: [cackles]
Simon Pegg: You've given it away.
Tyler Foster: Bye!
Edgar Wright: Thanks, Tyler!
Simon Pegg: Bye!

No comments:

Post a Comment