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A Short History of the Future

H

ello, Simon, John Landis wants your details.’

In 2009, shortly before I flew to New Mexico to shoot Paul, I received an email from Edgar Wright just after I arrived for a four-month residency in the US, telling me that John Landis had asked to see me. I had met John a year before at a screening of Spaced at the ArcLight Cinema on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Eight years after it had aired on British TV, the show had finally generated enough interest to warrant a US release and Edgar, Jessica and I embarked on a short press tour to give the occasion a little visibility.

The LA leg consisted of a signing at film-maker Kevin Smith’s Jay & Silent Bob’s Secret Stash section of the video store Laser Blazer, followed by a screening and Q&Aat the ArcLight, moderated by Smith himself. Kevin’s support was ironic in itself to Edgar, Jess and myself, since it was his own 1994 movie Clerks that had in some ways inspired the three of us to create Spaced. It is because of Clerks’ brilliantly observed moral re-evaluation of the rebel attack on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi that I felt able to channel my love of Star Wars into writing the character of Tim Bisley in Spaced, since Smith had blazed a trail in culturally specific scriptwriting. Randal, Smith’s misanthropic video-shop philosopher asks if it was morally correct to destroy the second Death Star since it was incomplete and would no doubt have carried a population of independent contractors not necessarily politically affiliated to the Empire. After all, as Randall points out, what working-class tradesman is going to pass up a ‘juicy government contact with all sorts of benefits’?^ The whole piece is sharply funny and the argument so beautifully reasoned, it stands out as one of the highlights of the film for me. Unsurprisingly, we eventually made contact with Kevin after Shaun of the Dead and were able to tell him how much his work had inspired us. Edgar and I had even attended a screening of Chasing Amy in 1998, while Jess and I were writing the first series, and listened to him talk about film-making. Ten years later, we recorded a number of new commentaries for the American release of the show and invited Kevin along to take part, which he did with characteristically laconic profanity.

Kevin was not the only inspiration to feature on the new set of commentaries; along with comedian Patton Oswalt, South Parks Matt Stone and Saturday Night Live alumnus and future star of Paul, Bill Hader. Also a certain video-shop philosopher turned celebrated movie maverick came along and lent his enthusiastic vocals to the mix.

I had been a fan of Quentin Tarantino since Reservoir Dogs and followed his work closely thereafter. The first time Nick Frost and I visited the cinema together was in 1994 to see Pulp Fiction, an event that in many respects formed an important part of our bonding process. I took him to see Pulp Fiction with Eggy Helen because I thought he would enjoy it. The moment I met him I noticed he had an acute natural wit and intelligence and the kind of mind that would doubtless respond to Tarantino’s playfulness as a director. The following Christmas, Nick bought me a long-sleeved Pulp Fiction T-shirt featuring the image of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson as Vincent and Jules holding their guns out, demonstrating the awesome power of their partnership. The shirt said a lot about the significance of the film to our friendship. It was an affectionate reminder of our first date. We were partners and we meant business. Ten years later, Quentin Tarantino would refer to Nick as the funniest man in the world.



After Shaun of the Dead was released, word got back to us that Quentin had screened the movie in his private cinema for a select group of friends. We subsequently contacted him and secured a quote for our US poster. We were, after all, a foreign film and needed all the endorsement we could get our hands on.

From the very beginning, our own effort was to be resolutely British and the inclusion of any marquee American names would have defeated the object. The very point of Shaun of the Dead was that it was happening in a small suburb of north London and not the traditional American context for such events. For this reason, we were already at a slight disadvantage in terms of marketing the film to an American audience, since the only touchstone we had was the genre itself. We felt this was enough, as did our producers, Working Title and Universal, albeit more tentatively. I will always be grateful to Working Title Films for plucking Shaun of the Dead from the choppy waters of turnaround. The film had been developed at FilmFour, but when the company downsized, it was (thankfully) cut loose and handed back to us.

The morning Clash frontman Joe Strummer died, Edgar and I sat in an Islington Starbucks with our producers, long-time friend Nira Park with whom we had created Spaced and Jim Wilson who we had retained from FilmFour, wondering what was to become of our little film. Fortunately, Eric Fellner, Tim Bevan and Natascha Wharton at Working Title 2 offered to take up the challenge, having expressed some interest before we chose to go with FilmFour. Thus the movie was made by a very British production house, albeit for Universal Pictures in the US, and as such remained resolutely British.

Both Edgar and I believe the decision not to contrive a way of appealing to the American audiences gave the film the precise appeal that secured its eventual success over there. It was a slice of familiar American culture viewed through a glass darkly, recognisable but at the same time fresh. We used the same approach for our next film, Hot Fuzz, despite a few early suggestions about visiting FBI agents played by the likes of Jack Black. Our intention was to be true to ourselves and hope that honesty paid off in providing foreign audiences with a different perspective on familiar cinematic ideas.

Shaun wasn’t a massive hit theatrically in the States and was considered more of a cult, word-of-mouth sleeper than a smash in the vein of The Full Monty or 28 Days Later. Nevertheless, the support we got from the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Peter Jackson, Robert Rodriguez, Stephen King and of course George Romero gave the film sufficient momentum to become a genuine smash on DVD, to the point where, according to Universal, 40 per cent of American males between seventeen and thirty-nine consider themselves to be fans of the film. How’s that fora slice of fried gold?

The relationships we cultivated as a result of Shaun of the Dead have persisted, and I firmly believe this is because all those directors recognised themselves in Edgar. A young film-maker with a singular vision, combined with the drive and tenacity to get things done. Edgar and Quentin certainly found themselves kindred spirits, and it wasn’t long before Edgar passed on a DVD of Spaced, no doubt knowing Quentin would get all the references, not least the ones to his own films.

A few years later, in a recording studio in Santa Monica, Edgar, Jess, Quentin and I sat down to record commentary on episode one, series two of Spaced, which featured a shot-by-shot recreation of a scene from Pulp Fiction, in which Bruce Willis returns home to find a machine gun discarded on the kitchen worktop and John Travolta using the toilet. In Spaced it is Daisy who finds the gun, while its owner Mike Watt is in the bog. The moment was intensely personal for me, since the scene featured Nick as the careless Uzi owner, recreating a scene from a film which had united us as friends, for the viewing pleasure of the very film-maker that created the original. I only wish Nick had been there, if only because we were knocking back the margaritas, and if there’s one thing Frost loves, it’s a salted Mexican booze bowl.

At the Spaced screening in Hollywood’s much loved ArcLight Cinema, guests including our new raft of commentators were milling around in the bar before the show. To my barely disguisable delight, Edgar introduced me to John Landis and pretty much made my night. The circularity at work here was fairly dizzying, not only because it was Landis’s movies that had so informed my tastes long ago in those darkened front rooms, but also because we had paid specific tribute to him in Spaced. At the end of episode five of the first series, an evil vivisectionist is stalked on Hampstead Heath by a feral dog and unwittingly quotes one of the victims in American Werewolf just before he is attacked. It never occurred to us as we made our very low-budget comedy for Channel 4 that we would one day be able to show it to the very people that inspired us.

The second time we met, John took me to see Terminator Salvation at the Directors’ Guild and then for dinner at the Kate Mantilini Restaurant on Wilshire Boulevard, the location of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino’s famous face-to-face in Michael Mann’s Heat. There he told me about his plans to direct a film called Burke and Hare in the UK. He said the story revolved around two notorious 1820s Edinburgh killers who, between them, bumped off seventeen people and sold their cadavers to medical science.

Less than a year later we began shooting in London with myself and Andy Serkis as the titular ‘heroes’ in a film that boasted, among its players, three

of the original cast members of American Werewolf in London: David Schofield, John Woodvine and Jenny Agutter. Even more interestingly (for me), Burke and Hare also contained four members of the cast of Spaced: Jessica Hynes, Michael Smiley, Bill Bailey and me. And with that pleasing flourish of circularities, I think it’s time to bring proceedings to a close.

Wait a minute! I hear you cry. What about [insert thing you wanted to know about here]?

Well, I probably have enough anecdotes about my professional life to fill a whole other book, but to be honest I’m not sure how interesting that would be for any of us. Unless you are blithely indiscreet or just mercenary, you have to be a little bit more guarded and careful when talking about other people in the public eye. I’m not harbouring any devastating secrets or vendettas, but the truth would have to be modified to protect others and no amount of Meredith Catsanus or Eggy Helen-style pseudonyms would fully insulate against clever people working things out or, perhaps worse, misconceiving. My professional life has been eventful and emotional and I have met a wide variety of people. It hasn’t all been plain sailing; there have been struggles and conflicts and not everyone I have met has been a delight, but I’m just not that interested in dishing the dirt, and besides, I don’t really have that much dirt to dish. The journey has been fun and exciting, but there are few things less beguiling than ‘hilarious’ celeb stories, which culminate in the crushing sensation that you really had to be there and a vague feeling of resentment that you weren’t. And anyway, as Johnny Morris used to say at the end of Tales of the Riverbank, that’s another story.

In the end, this memoir has turned out to be far more personal than I ever intended. My first inclination when faced with the task of writing a book about myself was to keep it strictly professional, for fear of constantly defaulting into tales of dogs and hosiery, but the truth is, the most interesting stuff to write about, and hopefully to read, took place as a prelude to the whole showbiz malarkey. Ultimately, we are all products of the experiences we have and the decisions we make as children, and it remains a peculiar detail of the human condition that something as precious as a future is entrusted to us when we possess so little foresight. Perhaps that’s what makes hindsight so intriguing. When you’re young the future is a blank canvas, but looking back you are always able to see the big picture.

 

Epilogue

The jet lifted off from the roof of Hendon Garden Hospital, a sleek black exercise in vertical grace. Nobody noticed as the silent bird drifted into the sky, apart from a tramp but his description of events would have seemed dubious on account of him being drunk and mental.

Simon Pegg sat in the cockpit next to Canterbury, his friend and faithful robotic butler. Very little had passed between them since they delivered Murielle Burdot, aka the Scarlet Panther, to the A&E department with a gunshot wound to her back.

The doctors had whisked her away to the ICU and an hour or so later reported her condition to be stable. Pegg felt a honey warmth spread through his body at the news and fought back his tears of joy, not wanting to look like a whoopsie in front of the cops who had been called as a matter of course.

Pegg had participated in a short interview, which the rozzers kept brief because they fancied him so much. Besides, this wasn’t the first time Pegg had rocked up to an NHS hospital carrying a woman with a bullet in her back and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

Pegg looked over at his treasured friend, watching him for a moment as the android cycled through various flight procedures with obvious efficiency. A smile stretched across Pegg’s face and he found himself filled with a wave of devotional love. Was it possible to love a robot? Pegg mused to himself as he considered his friend. There had been that incident with the BJ5000 at the Birmingham NEC in 2005, but that was hardly love, more like gratitude.

‘Is everything all right, sir?’ chirped Canterbury, breaking Pegg from his reverie.

‘Yes,’ said Pegg, ‘I was just thinking how much it sucks.’

‘What sucks, sir?’ enquired Canterbury.

‘Murielle’s going to be in hospital for at least six weeks,’ Pegg sighed. ‘What am I going to do?’

‘You could always write your book, sir,’ suggested the intuitive automaton, a hint of amusement in his smooth synthetic tones.

‘Is that an attempt at humour?’ asked Pegg, fighting to conceal his smile.

‘Not at all, sir,’ replied Canterbury. ‘I was just thinking, with the benefit of a moment’s solace, you might finally find the motivation to put finger to iPad.’ ‘What shall I write about, though?’ asked Pegg honestly, reminding his mechanical companion of the young man who put him together from a shop- bought robo-kit so many years before, ingeniously adding a number of specialised modifications without invalidating the warranty. In fact, with the exception of the flashing earring and the spray-on tits, Pegg’s additions to Canterbury’s hardware and programming had created a unique individual, whose experience and ability to learn at a geometric rate had made him all but human.

Canterbury looked at his master for a moment and felt a fizz of data sparkle across his silicon synapses. If he didn’t know better, he would have concluded it to be love, little knowing how much it was reciprocated.

‘Write what you know, sir,’ said Canterbury. ‘Write what you know.’

Pegg laughed, an explosive chuckle that surprised even him.

‘Perhaps Ben from Century wasn’t as mad as we thought,’ mused Pegg. ‘I suppose, in the end, he helped me more than he knew. It’s funny, but I wish he was here so I could thank him.’

‘Perhaps you should have thanked him when you pulled the knife out of his brain,’ suggested Canterbury helpfully.

‘It slipped my mind,’ admitted the handsome adventurer and sex expert.

‘Much like that blade slipped his,’ quipped Canterbury.

Pegg roared with laughter for six minutes. When the laughter subsided, Pegg and Canterbury looked at each other for a moment, Canterbury’s ocular illuminations pulsing in the moisture across the surface of Pegg’s crystal-clear eyes.

‘I’m sorry I doubted you,’ Pegg said suddenly.

Canterbury said nothing for a few seconds, his fixed face unreadable. Then he spoke.

‘I forgive you, sir.’

Pegg smiled, a look of relief melting through his expression of concern.

‘When we get back, I’m going to give you a full overhaul,’ Pegg enthused. ‘I’m going to paint over those tits, and get rid of that earring, I don’t care what those wankers at Comet say, they can go fuck themselves.’

‘I’d appreciate a lick of fresh paint, sir, but you can leave the earring. I’ve grown to like it.’

‘Whatever you say,’ said Pegg, grinning broadly at his best friend.

They sat in comfortable silence for a minute or two.

‘I was thinking ...’ Pegg began hopefully. ‘When Murielle is fully recovered, I might ask her to come and stay with us fora while.’

Canterbury couldn’t be sure but it seemed as though Pegg was almost asking his permission.

That sounds like a capital idea, sir,’ said Canterbury, as if Pegg hadn’t been thinking about it since he discovered Murielle was still alive. ‘Shall I make up the guest bedroom in the east wing?’

That won’t be necessary,’ said Pegg.

Canterbury wasn’t looking at his master but he could hear the slight smile on his face.

‘Perhaps you could start thinking about some recipes,’ suggested Pegg. ‘I’d like to put on a nice dinner for heron her first night at the manor.’

‘How about quail tagine with prunes and almonds?’ Canterbury offered.

‘Perfect,’ said Pegg.

Pegg stretched and looked out of the viewscreen into the darkness of the night. The future seemed full of potential, full of warmth and even fun, not just the grim promise of danger that usually haunted the time before him.

‘Where shall we go now?’ Pegg asked absent-mindedly.

‘Zihuatanejo,’ said Canterbury.

‘Zihuatanejo?’ replied Pegg.

‘Mexico,’ continued Canterbury. ‘Little place right on the Pacific. You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?’

‘You keep asking me that,’ said Pegg, a note of frustration in his voice.

‘Might I suggest we just go home, sir?’ Canterbury said happily. ‘Ithinkyou earned yourselfa rest.’

And with that, the sleek black jet cut into the velvet blackness and slid away through the night, towards Pegg’s top-secret hideout in Gloucester, between Brockworth and Upton St Leonards, nearthe ICI factory but with nice views of the Cotswolds and a huge swimming pool.

 

Appendix

I

wrote this shortly after playing through Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on the PS3. It features the characters of Rahm Kota, Kazdan Paratus and Shaak Ti, the last remaining Jedi Knights after the execution of Order 66. Shaak 7i is glimpsed in Revenge of the Sith', the other two exist within the expanded universe of the game which charts the rise of the rebellion between Episodes III and IV. The other characters should be familiar to anyone who has watched the original Star Wars saga more than three times. If that criteria fits you, read on; if not, I’d give it a swerve.

The Plan

Massassi Temple, Yavin 4. Mon Mothma and Bail Organa are seated around a large stone table discussing the aftermath of Order 66 wth the last remaining Jedi: Shaak Ti, Kazdan Paratus, Rahm Kota, Obi-Wan Kenobi and a holo-transmission of Yoda. Captain Madine enters looking worried.

IMDINE

Our spies bring disturbing news from the Imperial Sector. Anakin Skywalker is alive.

KOTA

What?

MON MOTHIM

How can this be?

KENOBI

But I stood on the lava banks of Mustafar and watched him die.

SHAAK TI

I still don’t understand why you didn’t help him. He was your padawan.

OBI-WAN KENOBI shrugs.

YODA

Master Kenobi?

KENOBI

I was tired.

YODA

Grave news, this is.

KENOBI

I wouldn’t worry. He was in a terrible state when I left him. Both his legs were off and he was on fire.

KOTA

That’s another thing. Why did you just leave him there?

KENOBI

I dunno.

PARATUS

If what Obi-Wan says is true, can Skywalker really be much of a threat?

IMDINE

The Emperor has rebuilt him. Apparently he’s more machine now than man.

KENOBI

Creepy.

IMDINE

What is more, intelligence reports suggest that he has been reborn as the Sith Lord, Darth Vader.

KENOBI

Cool name.

YODA

Feared this, I did. A terrible ally the dark side has found

MON MOTHIM

What about the babies? Surely he will seek them out.

YODA

Hidden, they must be.

KOTA

Hidden and separated.

KENOBI

Awwww.

YODA

Right, General Kota is. Strong is their bond, easy to sense.

ORGANA

I will take Leia. My wife and I have long yearned fora daughter. We will raise her as our own. Concealed by the bright light of royalty.

KENOBI

Nice.

MON MOTHMA

What about the boy?

PARATUS

He needs to be hidden as far away as possible.

 

KENOBI

How about Tatooine? I have a friend there who has always said, if there’s a bright centre to the universe, Tatooine is the planet that it’s farthest from.

MONMOTHIM

Who is this friend?

KENOBI

His name is Owen Lars.

SHAAK TI

Can he be trusted?

KENOBI

Oh yes.

PARATUS

How did you make his acquaintance?

KENOBI

He’s Darth Vader’s stepbrother.

EVERYONE

What?

KENOBI

It’ll be fine, seriously. He won’t think to look there.

ORGANA

Are you sure?

KENOBI

Positive.

KOTA

Master Yoda?

YODA

Out of ideas, lam.

PARATUS

Very well. Leia Organa and Luke Lars -

KENOBI

Skywalker.

EVERYONE

WHAT?!

KENOBI

He should be called Luke Skywalker. Come on, it sounds cooler.

MONMOTHIM

What is it with you and names?

KENOBI

I think it’s important. Why do you think I changed my name to Obi-Wan? Nobody’s going to be frightened of a Jedi called Benjamin.

YODA

Fear leads to aggression...

KENOBI

Yeah, yeah. If I had a credit for every time you wheeled that one out -

YODA

Up shut!

MONMOTHIM

Really, this bickering is pointless.

YODA/KENOBI

Sorry.

KOTA

Doesn’t keeping his name defeat the object of hiding him?

MONMOTHIM

Yes, what if Vader vanity surfs?

ORGANA

Mon Mothma is right. He may have a Galactanet alert attached to his name. What if he checks to see what people are saying about him and happens upon an article about Luke winning a spelling competition or a pod race or something?

KENOBI

Never gonna happen.

KOTA

Very well, if you’re sure.

KENOBI

Hey, have I ever let you down?

YODA

Anakin Skywalker, did you train?

KENOBI

Oh, throw that in my face, why don’t you!

 

Silence. General Kenobi, we will abide byyour wisdom ... kenobi makes a nah-nah face at the holographic yoda.

KOTA

But you have to go and live on Tatooine.

KENOBI

WHAT (

KOTA

You have to go and live in a little house on Tatooine and keep an eye on him.

KENOBI

Oh man! It’s boring on Tatooine. And what about all the sand-people? You have to make that funny noise to scare them off and I can’t do it because I’ve got a deviated septum.

PARATUS

You’ll have time to learn.

KENOBI looks sulky.

KOTA

It’s either that or we change his name and hide him somewhere less obvious.

KENOBI

All right then, I’ll go.

ORGANA

Good.

KOTA

Then it is settled.

PARATUS

Very well.

SHAAKTI

Let us ready a shuttle.

YODA fizzles out.

9. have a bad feeling about this.

MONMOTHIM

 

 

Footnotes

To return to the corresponding text, click on the asterisk and reference number.

Chapter 1

J_ I should point out that the reason I was dog I ess as a child was simply because we had cats instead; two beautiful seal point Siamese called Bonnie and Clyde, who lived well into feline dotage and whom I loved immeasurably The whole ‘wanting a dog' fantasy was simply a consequence of wishing I could take the kitties everywhere with me, a notion they would quietly laugh at were they able to understand the suggestion. Despite Bonnie and Clyde being incredibly affectionate and devoted, they were still cats and as such were possessed of that wonderful aloofness their species often projects. If you call a dog's name, the response is ‘What?' as in ‘Yes, what do you need? Where are we going? Shall I bring this sock?’ If you call a cat, if it even acknowledges you at all, the response is ‘What?’ as in ‘Are you talking to me?’ Clyde died in 1989 after losing a brief scrap with a tumour. I came home from university to say goodbye to him, knowing he was to be put to sleep the following week. It was the hardest door I ever closed. Bonnie followed not long after, such was their symbiosis - they were Siamese after all. I miss them even now.

2. Tonto was the faithful, monosyllabic Native American sidekick to the Lone Ranger. I had poseable, dies sable action figures of them both. Tonto had pigtails and looked fa iriy feminine and stripping him naked gave me a strange thrill. I'm guessing this may have been an early indication of my sexual orientation, since I did not feel the same way about the Lone Ranger and he looked like a member of the Village People.

3.1 remember being collected from one such event by a friend’s father, who stepped into the living room to discover eveiybody just lying around in silence, snogging. I myself was on the floor with my hand up the back of Ann Tickners T-shirt, having adapted very well over the course of the evening to the concept of ‘open-mouth kissing’. IVV friend’s dad coughed pointedly to break the spell (although I don’t remember any of the other revellers stopping what they were doing), forcing metogetupand sheepishly follow him and my friend out to the car. He never commented on what he saw, or informed my mother what I had been doing, but I’m sure things would have been wildly different if he’d had a daughter rather than a son.

Chapter 4

10. According toCNNIVbney.com, adjusted for inflation, the Six Ml I ion Dollar Man would cost closer to $100 million today. I'm sure the price of a mint-condition Steve Austin action figure, Bionic Repair Station and ¹skatron have increased just as prodigiously from the retail price in 1976.

11. The Unexplained was published in the eariy eighties and covered every aspect of the paranormal. The pages were filled with grainy images of flying saucers, alleged ghosts, Big Foot and partially burnt pensioners, the latter being the supposed victims of SHC (spontaneous human combustion). Even as a child, I remember noting that in all the pictures, the charred body (usually complete with one intact, slipper-clad lower leg) would be lying next to a fireplace ora three-bar electric fire. Some years later, I saw a bizarre public service announcement, warning old people to practise care with their heating appliances as every year (and this is a hell of a statistic) an average of sixty old-age pensioners burnt to death as a result of negligence. I leapt up triumphantly and shouted, ‘Yes! I knew it! ’ Then I felt bad that I had celebrated the annual incineration of sixty old people so enthusiastically.

12. The Clangers was a peculiarly atmospheric stop-motion animated TV series, which ran as part of BBC Television’s afternoon children’s programming from 1969 to 1972. It centred around a community of pink knitted alien mouse/elephants living on a moon-like planet in the furthest reaches of space. The Clangers were accompanied by a mechanical chicken, a horde of frog-like creatures appropriately called ‘froglets’, and a single-parent family of dragons consisting of a mother and son whose life revolved around the mining of soup from the depths of the planet's core. The show had a unique ambience, which thrilled me as a child. The echoing whistle of the Clangers in the vastness of this magical model space, combined with Vernon Elliot's oddly affecting score, would drive my infant self into paroxysms of glee, whenever it flickered from the television. Conditions had to be just right for viewing. The room darkened, my feet tucked up beneath me away from the floor. This is probably my earliest memory since I cannot have been any older than three. Peril a ps it was something to do with the endless potential of the cosmos that so inspired my euphoric enjoyment of the show; the boundless possibilities concealed in the blackness of the unknown; a metaphor for the future, played out jerkily with pink wool and tinfoil. I can still locate that sensation in the recesses of my memory and feel it still under particularly starry skies.

Chapter 5

7,Technically that wasn’t the first time I had set foot on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. In 2002, I attended the premiere of the last StarTrek movie before the one I was in, Star Trek: Nermsis. The party forthe event took place at a Star Trek exhibition at Hyde Paik in London, which featured a full set of the Enterprise from The Next Generation, which my sister and I ran around, pretending to be in StarTrek.

8^ The decision to join INF was an act of atrocious hypocrisy on my part. While doing press forthe release of the Shaun of the Dead DVD, I had said in an interview that I wasn’t going to desert the UK to go off and do, oh, I don’t know . .. Mission. Irrpossibte III. What’s odd is that at this point I didn’t even know there was going to be a Mission Irrpossibte III. It was an imaginary block-buster that I plucked out of the air to demonstrate my disdain for Hollywood ephemera and my loyalty to the British film industry It turned out to be a naive comment on a number of levels. Firstly the movie turned out to be a cracking adventure flick, wound taut by JJ's flair for action directing and a characteristic all-or-nothing action performance from Tom Cruise, not to mention the rest of the cast, including me as a nerdy IT guy called Benjamin Dunne, which also happens to be the name of the man who commissioned me to write this book (this really is a labyrinth of coincidence, isn't it?). Secondly, because you don’t have to defect to America to participate in the hugely prolific Hollywood movie machine, you can just as easily commute. We have an odd attitude towards our actors here in the UK, which condemns them to a sort of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ limbo. Working in Hollywood is sometimes seen as simultaneously the pinnacle of achievement and the height of self-seiving treachery The truth of the matter is that Hollywood is simply a place where a lot of films get made, where there is a lot of money to make films and where there are a lot of people who want to make them. Any actor looking to work regularly in film and diveisify beyond the limitations of their own creative environment is bound to want to go there at some point. Of course, I wasn’t of this considered opinion as I sat on my high horse and proclaimed my reluctance to cross the checkpoint into Tinseltown, never to return. A year or so later I boaitied a flight to LA destined to work for two days on the movie and eternally render myself an enormous hypocrite.

This is too much of a digression to have put into brackets while I was in mid-flow above, but I wanted to share a memory of Debenhams that encompasses both Debenhams and the Wombles and is thematically linked to the events I have described. One afternoon, presumably to promote something or other, the Wombles visited Debenhams. They weren’t the real Wombles, they were tiny and fictional, although the success of Mke Batt's Womble music did lead to the formation of a Wombles band forthe purposes of appearing on Top of the Pops and the like. Just put ‘The Wombles’ into YouTube and you’ll be able to witness the bizarre spectacle of grown humans in fuiry suits miming to catchy pop standards in front of gambolling seventies teenageis. It isn't all that weird, considering the Teletubbies had an unforgettable number-one single in 1997, but then Tinky Winky Dipsy Laa-Laa and Po (see?) weren't presenting themselves as a jobbing band. Anyway the Wombles band, which to some degree were the real Wombles (it was a complicated mythology), visited Debenhams, presumably for an album launch, and arrived in a van at the back of the store, visible to myself and my dad in the shop. At the time, soon-to-be briefly popular TV show band and Clap-o-meter victors, Pendulum had a number of Wombles songs in their Saturday-night repertoire and kept a Wombles costume in their dress in g-up box, which also included a Telly Savalas bald cap for‘If’ and a monkey outfit for‘King of the Swingers’. On the day the Wombles came to Debenhams, Pendulum’s mischievous diummer, Paul Holder (he of the ñock-in-the-hand incident) decided to don the costume, and crash the Wombles party, presumably to try and get into the Gloucester Citizen and drum up some publicity forthe band (Pendulum, not the Wombles). I watched excitedly from my bedroom window as Paul, dressed as the timid, studious Wellington, crossed the road and intercepted Orinoco as he left the building. I remember Paul’s costume looked decidedly shabby and threadbare next to the real thing, which was plush and expens ive-looking. There was an odd poignancy to the scene, as if Paul's Wellington was an old friend, down on his luck, trying to derive some reflected glory from his more successful friend. ‘Orinoco, it’s me, Wellington. Do you remember? We used to hang out in south-west London and pickup litter? No? Come on. Orinoco? Fuck you!’ That isn’t what Paul said. Actually, it might have been, I was watching from some way off.

£Letraset was a brand of dry rub-on transfers, which primarily provided lettering for posters and artworks, etc., before computer printing made it obsolete. Letraset also produced a number of action transfer sets in conjunction with various film and TV merchandising campaigns.

Chapter 6

J_0 While writing of my childhood love for Came Fisher, I remembered that I follow her(@CanieFFisher) on Twitter and broke mid-flow to checkout the list of people she follows, on the off chance she might be following me (@simonpegg) now that I’m more well known in America. She’s an intelligent and culturally s a wy woman, I felt certain she would have a penchant for British comedy Tums out I was absolutely right, except that she doesn’t follow me, she follows fucking Russell Brand! As if that immaculately scruffy Lothario doesn't get enough love from the ladies, without snaffling the affections of my boyhood paramour. Damn you, Brand, with your charming and charismatic comedy stylings, damn you to hell!

11 http://www.s I as hfl I m. ñ om/2 007/02/11

Chapter 7

J_2 Popular manufacturer of spirit gum etc.

J_3 IVVIove of robotic dancing eventually gave way to an interest in body-popping and break-dancing, after a item on John Craven's Newsround left me gobsmacked by this new wave of urban street dancers who took the jerky movements of the robot dance to all-new levels of mesmerising fluidity It wasn't long before this dazzling means of easing tension in the American inner cities reached the lanes of Upton St Leonards, and although we peitiaps lacked the tensions of habitualised gang culture, we did have a few spare bits of linoleum and a couple of ‘ghetto blasters' between us. I spent many an evening down at Safeway carpark, spinning on my back and rocking my body to whatever breakbeats we could recoiri off the radio. We even formed a posse called the Galaxians, which consisted of me (Retroshock) and Sean Jeffries's older brother Gavin's best mate and fellow Star Wars nut, John Guy (Gizmo), who would occasionally throw down in the dining hall at lunchtime but mainly just sit around at John's house during lunch breaks, watching the brilliant Arena documentary ‘Beat This' from 1984, then attempt to do the ‘helicopter in John's dining room where there was a small area of floor space. I buried my skills as a body-popperas I went through the intense goth period of my late teens during which I was much happier spending my leisure time listening to Sisters of Ìçãñó and searching tor the perfect leather jacket from the Oasis Centre in Birmingham. Eventually as I realised that aligning myself with one subculture at a time was unrealistic (and when it became sort of cool again), I re-embraced my childhood dance skills and put them to use at work. IVV signature move, an arm wave, kicking off a double body wave, terminating with a reveise wave through the other aim and developing into a three-point float, can be witnessed frequently through out my work, including the sketch show Big Train, Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and an appearance on the American chat show Jimmy Kimmei Live. I really need to get a new routine.

Chapter 8

14 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is a particularly juicy text forthe film theorist, since the principal terroriseris Leatherface, a hilariously stroppy matriarch dispensing his/her punishments like a flustered fifties ‘mom’. ‘Hacked off' probably being the most suitable description of his/her mood.

Chapter 9

J_5 Brilliant if short-lived eighties indie music satirists responsible for such gems as ‘I Left Ì/ Heart in Papworth General’, ‘All I Want for Christmas Is a Dukla Prague Away Kit’ and ‘Trumpton Riots’.

J_6 ADR (automatic dialogue replacement) is the name for dialogue added to a film or TV show in post-production.

Chapter 10

17 I remained hooked on Northern Exposure almost until the show ended for good, In 2009, Maureen, then heavily pregnant, Mnnie and myself moved into a house in wife Debbon made us a compilation CD of nuisery itiymes, which we still play at Fleischman?

Chapter 11

18 A ‘Gooner is a term for a supporter of Arsenal Football Club and is derived from the club’s nickname, ‘the Gunners’, itself derived from the team emblem of a cannon. Presumably the term started off as an insult but was appropriated by the Arsenal fans in much the same way that rappers hijacked the woiti ‘nigger as a means of disempowering its negative effect. I might be wrong. I don’t like tootball.

J_9 Stuart's work can be purchased from Crouch End and at www.stuartifree.co.uk.

20 Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1. Thought I’d temperthe nerdy shit with a classical reference. Shakespeare fans can be nerds too and vice veisa.

21_ Our adventure in Toronto was filmed by our long-time friend and collaborator Dan Mudfoirl, and can be found as a short film called When Shaun Met George among the extra features on the Land of the Dead DVD.

drifting away from it after the actor Rob IVbrrowleftto pursue other things. The show became a major influence on my own writing and figured as an example of the magical realism we wanted to convey in Spaced when we pitched it to the execs. Santa M>nica, California, to live while I shot the movie Paul. Much to my extreme shock and delight, I discovered my neighbour was none other than Rob M>rrow. We became friendly and as a gift to us after the birth of our daughter, Rob and his bedtime a year later. A trip in the ESTB back to Northern Exposure nights in Bristol or to the pitch meeting for Spaced with news of this strange coincidence would have surely blown my mind. How the hell did I end up living next door to Dr

13. I actually wrote a little fan fiction about this inconsistency for my I^VSpace blog, which I dabbled with for a while. I'll stick it in the appendix in case you fancy leading it. The blog was moderated by Harmony Cairigan who founded and continues to preside over Peggster.net, a website about me, which is far better than anything I would hope to produce myself. I made contact with Harmony shortly after I came across the site and we have since become friends. She lives in ¹mphis, Tennessee, in the US and I'd be lost without her.

14. Performance capture is quite a hard concept to grasp, let alone to explain. Basically performers wearing special motion-capture suits and headgear act out scenes in a ma iked -off studio area called the volume. The volume is defined by the maximum amount of space that can be captured and rendered as a three- dimensional environment inside the computers. The scenes are stored as a 3-D event and can then be viewed and manipulated using the performanc e-capture camera. This means that you only ever need one good take of any scene, which you can then ‘shoot' again and again inside the camera from any number of view-points. When shooting a live-action scene, the director will usually at the veiy least, shoot a master or wide shot, a medium close-up and singles on all the actors, requiring the scene to be performed several times, with complex lighting turnarounds between set-ups. Performance captuie eliminates the need forthis as once the scene is complete it can be shot from any angle. This means that despite the complexity of the technology perfoim an ñ e-capture filming moves quickly The average low-budget film will have a principal photography period of about forty days. The principal photography on Tintin and the Secret of the Unicom took about thirty days, although the entire process will take more like three years in the end.

15. There are actually three Oscar winners in Hot Fuzz, two of whom aro heavily disguised and seldom recognised. Jim Broadbent is on clear display as Inspector Frank Butteiman but tucked away in the cameo drawer is Peters muirlerous Santa and Cate Blanchett as Angel's estranged girlfriend Janine, concealed under full CSI protective clothing.

25. Clerks, 1994.

 

Table of Contents

Cover

Nerd Do Well Copyright Dedication Acknowledgements Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Epilogue Appendix Footnotes 1

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