Decade's Best: Shaun Of The Dead

One of them was called Sam. One was Matt. There was a Zoe, an Emily, a Jill, a messy little man called Rich.

There were others, but with blood bubbling from mouths it was hard to catch names. The sores were weeping. There were holes in heads.

On stage – at the stand-up show at the end of the world – Simon Pegg addresses the undead. “Hello zombies!”

They all laugh.

OK. Zombie apocalypse this is not.

It just felt like a good intro.

Instead Total Film is celebrating Shaun Of The Dead as our Comedy Of The Decade by gathering writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/star Simon Pegg and star Nick Frost in the Bloomsbury Ballroom in London to shoot the Spaced boys performing stand-up to a room full of made-up extras.

The stars are wearing tuxes because, since the 2004 film, they’ve all hit Hollywood.

Wright is editing Scott Pilgrim Vs The World as you read.

Pegg went Scotty for Star Trek and donned the mo-cap suit for Inspector Thompson in Spielberg/Jackson’s The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn .

Frost joined his mate on Tintin as t’other twin and livened up Richard Curtis’ The Boat That Rocked .

They have red bow ties on because Shaun wore a red tie.

Next: The team's favourite comedies [page-break]

Patronising over – and sitting down for a quick beer once the zombie show is over – Total Film asks the threesome what, Shaun aside, has tickled their comedy rib these past 10 years.

Anchorman .” “ Napoleon Dynamite .” “ Knocked Up .” “ School Of Rock …” fly the responses.

What about England? English comedy? “ This Is England ?” Everyone laughs.

But the truth is, when it comes to English comedy films of the noughties, Shaun stands alone.

It feels like it was shot specifically for Total Film readers – film lovers, videogame lovers, pub lovers, men who struggle to be lovers.

It’s that funny/sad thing, home truths. That’s why Shaun has stuck.

“We got serious with Shaun on occasion because Edgar and I always said we couldn’t treat the death of people flippantly who we’d taken a long time to set  up and make likeable,” says Pegg, tux off, jeans on, settling back in a flat cap.

“So when we had to kill them all, we realised that to do it in a slapstick way would have done all the work we’d done a disservice.”

“Maybe that’s why people connect,” chips in Wright. “Because it has seriousness and tragedy, you care about the characters and don’t want to see them ‘get it’.”

Next: The Britcom-movie legacy [page-break]

The film took $12.4m at the UK box office – terrific for first-time filmmakers straight from TV.

It's a key reason why we’ve had to endure Magicians (2007, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, rubbish) and Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009, James Corden and Mathew Horne, even worse).

If Spaced can spawn Shaun , why can’t other comedy-come-latelys do the same, the studio big-wigs thought…

But what the original had that its imitators lacked was a beating heart ripped right from its creators’ lives and loves.

Shaun himself is a mix of Simon and Edgar at the time of them writing the script and a personification of the pair’s inertia and inability to commit.

The story revolves around the love Simon and Nick had for their pub. And Ed is a boisterous blend of Nick and Simon.

It’s a humdrum setting, boys wanting to be men, playing hours of Resident Evil 2 , eating badly, loving their mums, all stuck in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Lesbian Vampire Killers is just a title.

Next: Writing Paul [page-break]

“As a writer I’ve always found drawing from the absolute truth is the best way to create something honest and believable,” says Pegg – who, true to his word, wrote Paul with Frost for their first film without Wright.

It’s all about two guys and an alien heading across the States to Comic-Con. So why’s that drawing from “absolute truth”?

Well, because it was at the San Diego geek gathering that Shaun started to go stratospheric and its London tale found an audience from Australia to Zambia (probably).

Press tours followed, during which the threesome developed a method for rewatching their work again and again and again.

“We’d introduce the film,” laughs Wright, “wait until Nick said ‘cunt’, see how that went down, go for one drink, come back for when Mary falls on the pole, go off for two drinks and then come back for the end.”

Next: Going stratospheric! [page-break]

Such was the reaction across the States – “It’s like when people over there love it, they don’t really give a shit who knows they love it,” says Frost – that when they returned two years later for Hot Fuzz , they were treated like they were in a band.

Not bad for a film that, as Pegg jokes, “we just wanted to get on at the Curzon”.

Unassuming. That’s what Shaun Of The Dead – from its characters to its makers to its whole schtick – was all about.

And that’s why it’s Total Film ’s Comedy Of The Decade.

Others have arrived with more fanfare, but in a century where the world has become even slicker, more homogenised and, yes, American, how great is it that such a globally popular movie exists, taking place in Crouch End, chomping on Cornetto and having folk fretting about getting “red” on stuff.

Just as we were when the guys were in those rented tuxes…

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