Shaun Of The Dead’s Doppelgänger Scene: An Oral History

Shaun Of The Dead

by Chris Hewitt |
Updated on

Originally published in Empire in October 2021

It lasts roughly a minute and consists of only a handful of shots (and none of Edgar Wright’s trademark visual wizardry), yet the moment in Shaun Of The Dead when Simon Pegg’s hapless hero and his group of survivors round the corner and bump into another group is possibly the film’s most ambitious gag. Mainly because the other gang is played by a who’s who (then and now) of British comedy: Martin Freeman, Reece Shearsmith, Tamsin Greig, Spaced mainstay Julia Deakin, Matt Lucas and, at the vanguard, Pegg’s Spaced co-creator, Jessica Hynes. A finer cavalcade of cameos, you’ll never see.


Shaun Of The Dead

Edgar Wright [co-writer/director]: We used to call it ‘Shaun Of The Dead Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’. You’re watching one story and the idea is, “What if they bumped into another film?”

Simon Pegg [co-writer/Shaun]: We just thought it’d be funny if Shaun met a bizarro version of his own group. And we immediately thought, “Well, let’s try and cast people that are perceived as our counterparts, in a way.” You know, me and Martin were always going out for the same roles.

Kate Ashfield [Liz]: I remember thinking, “I’m glad [my counterpart] is Martin Freeman, because I think he looks as intelligent as Liz. He looks like he could handle the situation.”

Reece Shearsmith [Mark]: I did the very early read-through of Shaun Of The Dead. It wasn’t definite, but they had me going that I was going to be David. Maybe I really was, because I ended up doing the crossover bit.

Wright: Reece had been one of the people to maybe play David. It’s tough when your friends are in the running. But nobody should take things personally. It’s just the way things shake out. Dylan Moran was a really interesting choice for David. And I came back to Reece saying, “Hey, I know you didn’t get this, but would you do this?”

Pegg: We filmed it all in North London, apart from the exterior of the Winchester.

Nick Frost [Ed]: It was Finchley. Maybe Hendon-y way as well.

Shearsmith: That day was in the back gardens of Finchley on this very rainy day. There are some pictures of us all under brollies, because it was pissing down and we had to keep stopping.

I was fucking nervous and didn’t really talk to anyone – Nick Frost

Pegg: It was a party. I remember we had someone’s back garden as a green room/seating area. We all sat around on deck chairs in various combinations.

Julia Deakin [Yvonne’s mum]: I felt very honoured to be among that group. I just turned up and somebody put me in an outfit I couldn’t understand, which presumably was the same as Penny Wilton was wearing.

Penelope Winton [Barbara]: It was a very amusing concept. I got the joke, but didn’t know everyone was going to be there on the day.

Matt Lucas [Cousin Tom]: We were filming Little Britain and there was one Sunday where we weren’t filming. That was the day they filmed the doppelgänger scene. Edgar said, “Would you come and be Nick’s doppelgänger?” I was thrilled.

Shaun Of The Dead

Wright: His T-shirt says “I Heart Pussy”. It was one of the potential T-shirts for Ed. And it’s a picture of a cat.

Frost: I didn’t get to speak to Matt Lucas a lot. I was fucking nervous and didn’t really talk to anyone.

Lucas: I was very happy because I wore a wig. I remember thinking it looked like Ben Folds’ hair.

Frost: It’s a bad wig Matt’s got.

Lucas: We had just filmed some Lou and Andy sketches and I remember telling Reece about that and doing the voice. I feel like me and Reece spent the day doing Andy from Little Britain.

Shearsmith: I think I was doing Pam Doove to his Andy. There were a lot of stupid things going on.

I always had an off-the-scale amount of fun working with Simon and Edgar – Jessica Hynes

Lucy Davis [Dianne]: My main memory is trying not to laugh. But it’s such an economical scene. That’s what makes the best comedy work.

Pegg: We wanted Jess [Hynes] to be in it.

Wright: Originally, we had written Diane for Jessica. She didn’t really want to play that part. Maybe she thought it was too on-the-nose for her, or she didn’t want to be in support to Simon after Spaced, which I totally understood.

Shaun Of The Dead

Pegg: We asked, “Will you do a cameo?” We wrote Yvonne specifically with that in mind. She carries so much weight because of the shared history we have. That moment has an extra layer of poignancy.

Jessica Hynes [Yvonne]: Of course it had a layer of poignancy, and I was fully aware of that. But I always had an off-the-scale amount of fun working with Simon and Edgar. They’re like joyful children.

Wright: There’s even fan art — a great poster I have on my wall in my house, with a split of Shaun Of The Dead and then an upside down ‘Yvonne Of The Dead’, so you can have it both ways.

Hynes: [laughing] I did it on the explicit understanding that there would be an ‘Yvonne Of The Dead’. It never happened. When are we shooting it? Everyone keeps asking. Maybe it’s time.

Shearsmith: It’s been a lovely thing to have over the years. It’s so blink-and-you’ll-miss-it that people are finding it even now.

Lucas: One of the things Edgar did was, whenever he showed it to someone like Tarantino, he would always say, “Oh, you got a laugh from Quentin!” He didn’t need to do that.

Wright: That was one of the more fun days, because suddenly you got ten very funny actors on set together. It was just sweet and funny.

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