Pegg, Wright and Frost’s Best Movie References, From ‘Spaced’ to ‘Hot Fuzz’
The World’s End, now in U.S. theaters, is the third film made by the team of Simon Pegg (writer/actor), Edgar Wright (writer/director) and Nick Frost (actor) — with 2004 “zom-rom-com” Shaun of the Dead and 2007 action comedy Hot Fuzz following on from the early 2000s Channel 4 sitcom Spaced (which also co-starred and was co-written by Jessica Stevenson).
If there’s been one constant element throughout the group’s career — aside from the mentions of Cornetto ice cream that give the trilogy its “Three Flavors Cornetto” nickname — it’s the persistent showing off of their encyclopedic movie knowledge, with visual and dialogue-based gags that pay homage to a wide variety of classics. They arguably rival only The Simpsons in terms of the sheer volume and quality of their movie homages – so in honor of The World’s End, here are just some of our favorites.
The Shining in Spaced Season 1, Episode 1, “Beginnings”
Stanley Kubrick‘s horror classic is referenced a few times throughout the gang’s seminal TV sitcom, but the first occurrence — and also one of the series’ first major shot-for-shot homages — comes early in the first episode, as Tim and Daisy are exploring their potential new abode.
Green Card in Spaced Season 1, Episode 1, “Beginnings”
“I was thinking we could do that thing, like in that film with Andie MacDowell and Gerard Depardieu, you know, where they get married so that she can keep her house and he can get an American work permit.”
“What, a green card?”
“Yeah! What’s it called?”
“I don’t know.”
Pulp Fiction in Spaced Season 2, Episode 1, “Back”
Another great frame-for-frame homage, as Daisy returns home from her time-traveling to find Mike has taken up residence in the flat. The equivalent scene in Quentin Tarantino‘s Pulp Fiction was blackly humorous anyway — but the added detail of Mike reading Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit tips this version over the scale.
Manhattan and Goodfellas in Spaced Season 2, Episode 1 “Back”
Having already established a knack for clever movie parodies in the first season, Spaced needed to kick things up a notch with the second. What better way than by opening the first episode with two for the price of one? While Daisy’s reintroduction to London recalled Woody Allen‘s memorable moody black-and-white intro — complete with Gershwin draped over the top — Tim brought viewers up to speed on his and the other characters’ lives with some Martin Scorsese-inspired words: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a graphic novelist…”
The Terminator in Spaced Season 1, Episode 4, “Battles”
Terminator 2 was the very first movie cited in the very first scene of Spaced, and there was also a terrific visual homage to the film in the fourth episode of season two. The fan-favorite paint-balling episode, however, ended with this fantastic reference to the very end of the first film, instead.
Fight Club in Spaced Season 2, Episode 3, “Mettle”
“The first rule of robot club is, you do not talk about robot club. The second rule of robot club is, you do not talk about … wait, I got that wrong. The second rule is, no smoking.”
“Why aren’t we allowed to smoke?”
“Not allowed to talk about it.”
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in Spaced Season 2, Episode 6, “Dissolution”
If there’s one thing more ever-present in Spaced than Edgar Wright’s trademark quick-cut editing, it’s references to Star Wars. George Lucas‘ original trilogy is a major part of the life of Tim Bisley – and the first season even manages to reference The Phantom Menace prior to its release, by parodying a scene featured in one of the early trailers. By the time season two began, the film had debuted to widespread disappointment – and the fact that Darth Maul voice artist Peter Serafinowicz was a guest star in the show didn’t prevent there being numerous references to the film’s quality, or lack thereof.
Towards the very end of the second season, however, references to the saga hit a particular high point with an absolutely note-perfect homage to the closing moments of The Empire Strikes Back — complete with John Williams’ musical score and a Lucas-esque wipe to the closing credits. Even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, it’s a pretty magical moment.
Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead in Shaun of the Dead
Of course, simply the title and premise of Shaun alone show that the most pressing influence is the zombie films of George Romero – and there are references, small and large, throughout. The film generally steers clear of doing actual frame-by-frame recreations, though – wisely choosing to leave the jokes there for hardcore horror fans to spot, without their interfering with the film itself. A notable exception, however, is the grisly death of David (Dylan Moran) – which we won’t show a clip of, because it really is rather unpleasant – which is a direct take off a similar scene in Dawn of the Dead. Meanwhile, Nick Frost’s immortal line “We’re coming to get you, Barbara!” is a lift from the original Night of the Living Dead.
Reservoir Dogs in Shaun of the Dead
While Shaun drew almost entirely upon zombie films for its cultural stew, there were still a few other differently-flavored ingredients added to the pot. The tense Mexican standoff at the Winchester owes a particular debt to Tarantino, particularly as the line “Stop pointing that gun at my mum!” feels like a direct nod to Chris Penn saying the same of his dad in Reservoir Dogs.
Point Break in Hot Fuzz
Hot Fuzz saw Pegg and Wright pour their love of action films onto the screen, with just about every major high-octane flick in their respective memories getting a nod at some point. Point Break is, along with Bad Boys 2, actually watched by Pegg and Frost’s characters – marking the first time that a particular scene is shown within one of their films before then later being directly homaged.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet in Hot Fuzz
The funny thing about Sandford’s local theater group taking more inspiration from Baz Luhrmannn’s brilliant 1999 modernizing of Romeo and Juliet than from the original Shakespearean text is that nobody in the film ever actually remarks on the fact.
Even funnier, of course, is the curtain-call take on the song “Lovefool” that accompanies it…
Léon: The Professional in Hot Fuzz
It’s a smaller reference in the great scheme of things, but it’s a nice touch that the plant to which Pegg’s cop Nicholas Angel shows so much care, a Japanese peace lily, is the same variety as that owned by Jean Reno in another great action thriller: Léon: The Professional.
Shaun of the Dead in Hot Fuzz & The World’s End
Having spent over a decade paying homage to other people’s films, it’s only natural that Pegg and Wright would eventually turn to self-reference. Shaun of the Dead‘s original “fence gag” was a masterpiece of comic timing, and the follow-up in Hot Fuzz worked by subverting expectations not once, but twice in the space of the same scene. By using it in Fuzz it naturally became a common element of the trilogy, and as seen from the trailers, there is indeed yet another fresh take on it in The World’s End…