Spacing Out with the Creators of "Spaced"

Fri, August 15th, 2008 at 11:36am PDT | Updated: August 15th, 2008 at 12:09pm

TV/Film
Remy Minnick, Guest Contributor

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"Spaced: The Complete Series" now available on DVD in North America

Before the hit fims “Shaun Of The Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” there was “Spaced,” a British television sitcom written by Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes and directed by Edgar Wright. The show was based about two twenty-somethings Tim and Daisy -- played by Pegg and Hyne, respectively --sharing a flat in North London and was steeped in pop culture references from “Pulp Fiction” to “Murder, She Wrote” to “Tomb Raider.” The series also offered a glimpse into the future of the team of Pegg & Wright with the episode featuring Pegg fighting zombies, a la “Shaun of the Dead,” and the wannabe military buff character of Mike Watt a precursor for everything that is “Hot Fuzz.” Now with the long awaited American release of “Spaced” on DVD, Hynes, Pegg and Wright have got the band back together for a reunion tour that stopped at Comic-Con International in San Diego last month, and CBR News was there.

The “Spaced” crew has been undertaking a North American trek, playing the series in cinemas across the continent. “We had a fantastic screening in New York at the Village East which was incredible,” Wright said. “[It] had a line going around the block and we had to turn away over a hundred people. We did another one in the Arclight in Los Angeles with Kevin Smith moderating which was very fun. Last year in London we did a ‘Spaced’ marathon screening at the National Film Theatre which was the first time we'd seen all of the episodes on the big screen and it was amazing watching it at the Arclight on a huge screen with stereo sound. So it's great to be sitting there, seven years later, eight years later, with a packed house watching something that was originally intended for the small screen.”

The cast of characters in "Spaced"

Even though they finished working on “Spaced” seven years ago, the project has not left the creators’ lives. “It's the first thing that we did and for me, and I'm certainly sure for Jess as well, it has such significance in terms of our lives,” Pegg said. “It was such a passion project. I look back on how it got made, and how we did it, and we were just feeling our way a lot of the time. The whole thing was incredibly serendipitous in that it actually got done. When we were writing the first series we [would] just hang around at each others houses writing a TV show, get some food maybe, and then next thing we knew we walked onto the set and we were in this apartment building that we'd written about vaguely that the production team had put together and it was happening. Seeing Edgar's storyboards as well, was like, ‘wow this is going to happen,’ and that feeling has never gone away, we owe it a lot.”

As for the early beginnings of the show, the process wasn't what American television fans were familiar with. “We didn't know what a fucking greenlight was,” Pegg joked. “I just thought, 'Yeah it's gonna be on, it will be on.' The notion of a greenlight was like, I didn't know what the term meant. I assumed we had it.”

Simon Pegg stars as fanboy and aspiring comics artist Tim in "Spaced"

“Spaced” had little to no interference with any of the executives from the original network; no requests to change the content or cut any scenes, though they were limited on how many times they could say “fuck” in an episode. “It was a low budget show so the fact that we were slightly under the radar in the terms of cost meant that we kind of had carte blanche, within the budget and the schedule, to do whatever we wanted,” Wright explained. “It's one of those experiences that you look back and realize how fortunate you were that we were that age and had this show where we could kind of do anything within reason, reason being time and money but still really did not have any scrutiny in terms of the content.”

Hynes recalled one experience she had with a producer who made a rather odd request. “I do remember one producer sort of questioning my usage of fifties style horned rimmed glasses without the glass in them,” she said, referencing an affectation her character Daisy wore. “He was like, 'I just don't understand' and I told them 'trust me it will be fine.”

“No one said a thing about having an episode where everyone is clearly off their head on ecstasy,” Pegg remarked, referring to a classic episode in which the “Spaced” gang go clubbing. “A lot of the time we were talking about things that were very specific that age group and a lot of times things just went over their heads and they didn't realize. In the clubbing episode of 'Spaced' it was very much a love letter to the fact that you could go out, take drugs and come back and not die. In every TV show there had to be some moral message, some punitive act.”

Directed by Edgar Wright and co-written with and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, "Shaun of the Dead" grew out of "Spaced"

“A very special episode of 'Spaced,” Wright joked.

“There was an innocence about it, it just kind of happened,” Hynes said. “They all went out together as friends, they came back as little gang and that was the night. Many people only have one or two nights like that ever and that's the whole point about it it's not a show that then becomes about hardcore drug use.”

Pegg did note that while they didn't vilify drug use, they didn't promote it either. “It wasn't about saying, 'Do this it's great,” he sad. “It was just like, ‘this happens.’ The whole show was about 'this happens.' People spark up a joint in the afternoon sometimes and don't crash their car and kill some children. It happens and that was important to just show things how it was.”

The American release of the DVD contains some features that the original British release lacks, including additional commentary tracks by some super fans of the show: Kevin Smith (“Clerks”), Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live,” “Superbad”), Patton Oswalt (“Ratatoullie”), Quentin Tarantino (“Kill Bill”), Diablo Cody (“Juno”) and Matt Stone (“South Park”). All this star power wanting to be a part of the show’s American debut created an amazing experience for the cast. “Quentin Tarantino has become a friend of ours recently,” Pegg said. “Edgar's such firm pals now [with him] but to be commenting on the episode where we do the ‘Pulp Fiction’ thing --where Daisy finds the gun and it's Mike in the toilet-- with [Tarantino] in the room talking about it was the most incredible moment of circularity perhaps in my entire life. To have done that in honor of him and then to have him come in and speak in honor of it, it doesn't get any better then that.”

“Meeting these people over the last couple of years you realize who the big fans are and stuff,” Wright said. “So I thought lets get them all on this commentary track it will be fantastic and it was really fun doing it.”

Nick Frost's character of Mike Watt is a seeming precursor to "Hot Fuzz," also created by Pegg, Frost and Wright

Wright explained that the hold up on the American DVDs was mostly centered around the musical rights, to which the gang found an unlikely ally in the project. “It was just some music licensing stuff,” Wright explained. “So it was a lot of hard work by our producers, like Nyra Parks and Karen Beaver, and the distributors just to get a handling [on it]. Ironically, one of the people who helped with a sort of crucial bit to get the music cleared up was the real Nicholas Angel -- Nick Angel, who's a music supervisor.”

“Whose name we stole,” Pegg said. For those not familiar with “Hot Fuzz,” Nick Angel was the name of Pegg's character in the film. “It was highly ironic that the real Nick Angel came to our rescue,” Wright said with a laugh.

Hynes also added that they had to clear the Elvis impersonation she did in season two. “I like the fact that they had to clear my Elvis impersonation with the Elvis estate,” she explained. “I am proud of the fact that they approved it.”

Another factor was Pegg's and Wright's growing presence in Hollywood. “Obviously the demand for it has grown with the success of the two movies as well,” Pegg said, “and has created an awareness and people have kind of decided that perhaps they want to go back and see. Like when you discover a band and you think I wonder what they were doing before I found them. It just took a long time for all the right conditions to arise and here we are so.”

“It's much like if you were a fan of Aerosmith through Walk This Way,” Wright said comparing it to the classic rock band's catalog, “and then you discovered Toys In The Attic.”

To which Pegg could only agree, “That's exactly what it is.”

As for whether the trio wants to return to the world of “Spaced” at some point, the idea has been brought up but there was some trepidation about it. “Our fear is that if we went back to it now we wouldn't be qualified to do it,” Pegg said. “It would have to be different.”

“It would have to comment on the fact that we were older but I definitely think Daisy is still living in that flat,” Hyne added. “I think Tim might have moved out but she's living there.”

“Tim's here somewhere at Comic-Con,” Pegg joked about the comic book artist he portrayed on the show. “He's got a book comic. He's doing a panel later on, let's go see him. We can ask him what happened.”

"Spaced" stars and co-writers Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes at Comic-Con International 2008

As for Pegg's upcoming projects, he has had the tendency to contradict himself. After “Shaun Of The Dead,” Pegg was asked what he would do next and he joked that he wouldn't go Hollywood and you wouldn't see him in “Mission: Impossible 3” or anything like that. At the time, “Mission: Impossible 3” was not even being discussed by the filmmakers but lo and behold when the movie was made, Pegg had a part in it. “I keep eating my words, there’s a line in ‘Spaced’ when I say 'sure as eggs is eggs, sure as day follows night, sure as every odd numbered Star Trek movie is shit!’” Pegg laughed, as next time moviegoers see him will be in the next Star Trek movie, and an odd numbered one at that. “I can just say that that rule has been thoroughly reset man,” Pegg added. “The rule doesn't exist anymore. I've had a bit of a fanboy's kind of dream, really, in being able to be in shows and films. Jess and I were both in ‘Doctor Who,’ which we loved as kids, then to do Star Trek.”

Speaking of the hit British science fiction show, there have been rumors of Pegg himself picking up the role of the next Doctor. “There was a poll and I was like number two,” Pegg said, “and I really don't want to ruin that show. It was bad enough when I saw ‘Mission: Impossible 3,’ I was enjoying it so much and suddenly there's my big potato face.”

As for the chance of seeing Pegg taking on the role of Ant-Man in Edgar Wright’s forthcoming film, the actor said, “Too old.” Although he added with a laugh, “Edgar doesn't talk to me about that film anyways.” He did let on a bit about his next project after “Star Trek.” “Nick and I have written a film called 'Paul,’” he said, “which we’re going to shoot next year and it starts here [at Comic-Con], so [comic books] will be in it.”

TAGS:  cci2008, spaced, simon pegg, edgar wright, jessica hynes

 
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