If you’re ever at a Shaun of the Dead trivia night and you see Clark Collis, run. A senior writer at Entertainment Weekly, Collis has written the book on the cult classic horror comedy film. We’re serious, he literally has. With the help of Cleveland-based 1984 Publishing, Collis is releasing You’ve Got Red on You: How Shaun of The Dead Was Brought To Life ($27, 1984 Publishing) on Oct. 19. The book is a deep dive into the film through countless interviews and behind-the-scenes stories. We spoke with Collis to get his thoughts on the inspiration behind the book.
Q: Why did you choose to write this?
A: It’s one of my favorite movies. I assumed at some point in the process of writing the book that I would become sick of the film. But that really didn’t prove to be the case. Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright and I both grew up in Wells, England, so I’ve always been interested in checking out his stuff. Coincidentally, we both used to work at different times at this somewhat strange tourist attraction called Wookey Hole Caves, just outside Wells. I wrote an oral history of Shaun of the Dead a few years ago for Entertainment Weekly and thought I had done half the work I needed to write a book about it. As it turned out, I’d only done about 1% to 5% of the work because I spoke to five or six people for the oral history and wound up speaking to about 60 people for the book.
Q: What makes this the definitive book about Shaun of the Dead?
A: Edgar is a director who is very much in control of every aspect of the film, but also lets other department heads kind of show off their talents. He’s somebody who’s very keen to point out that film is a collaborative medium. He was the one that kept on saying, “You need to interview so and so, you need to interview the head of makeup, you need to interview the production designer,” and so on and so forth. So, I did that, and along the way you discover all sorts of fascinating stories about the production that even Edgar didn’t know, and frankly, Edgar knows everything about everything in his movies. I interviewed almost all of the principal cast, I think all of the department heads and the various producers and also a lot of the people who played zombies — some of whom were nonprofessionals that just wanted to be in the film.
Q: Why do you think Shaun of the Dead has become such a cult favorite?
A: I think that horror movies tend to have a lot of cult appeal, particularly horror comedies like the Evil Dead movies, which the first two were hugely inspirational to Edgar and Simon [Pegg]. I think the cult has grown as they’ve continued to release films and now you have this whole trilogy that reference each other to a certain degree. I think it’s because there’s something quite approachable about Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar. They seem like film fans that became filmmakers and that’s always quite appealing. They’re genuinely nice people and they’re genuinely friends. It’s a strange movie in as much that it’s a film made by friends that reflects their own friendship. I think that’s a wonderful thing and something which viewers can invest in.