Edgar Wright has many friends from the UK comedy scene, many of whom – such as David Walliams, Dylan Moran, Martin Freeman, Mark Gatiss and more – have had cameos in his TV series Spaced, as well as in The Cornetto Trilogy comedy movies. One such cameo that you may have missed was Ricky Gervais in Spaced, as this was before either Wright or Gervais were particularly well known.
Spaced is one of the best comedy series of all time, and it came out just before Gervais hit the big time with The Office. Spaced was aired in 1999-2001, and starred future Cornetto Trilogy regulars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as well as Jessica Hynes (who was known as Jessica Stevenson at the time).
As Wright recalls in Clark Collis’ book You’ve Got Red On You, “I ran into Ricky Gervais in 2001. He had been in Spaced, and I ran into him in the street, back in those days when he could walk down the street. We both ducked into The Groucho Club to have a drink. He said, ‘What are you doing?’ I told him, ‘Well, me and Simon are writing this zombie movie called Shaun of the Dead’. Ricky Gervais goes, ‘That’s not actually the title, is it?’ He thought I was kidding.”
We’re all so used to the title Shaun of the Dead now, that we don’t ever really question the fact that it’s such a simple (and stupidly funny) pun on Dawn of the Dead. It is a perfect title for such a British take on the zombie – a classic movie villain which had never before faced one of its fiercest foes – deadpan British humour.
The zombie movie has always been an American phenomenon, from its origins in the 1932’s White Zombie, then of course with its launch into mainstream success with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later preceded Shaun of the Dead as a British take on ‘zombies,’ but of course that was a serious drama movie. There has since been a few more British takes on the genre, such as The Girl with all the Gifts. And let’s not forget 2016’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – a title which Gervais would probably also presume was a joke.
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