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Of course, in a way, Gary is a lot like Shaun and even Tim, the hero of Spaced. There’s even a scene in the bar in Spaced that's very similar to one here. What makes Gary seem more of an antihero or more tragic than Tim or Shaun?
Well, the thing about those three characters is that Simon and I put a lot of ourselves into each of them. Tim is basically what we were like at the time when we were making that series. Shaun, on the other hand, is what we were worried we would become. Shaun is a guy who has let ambition slip away, who’s happy to settle for less and become lazy and complacent, until his amazing girlfriend just up and walks out the door. Both Shaun and I went through that sort of situation, where we both had something great in our lives leave us, and it makes you think that you need to sharpen up and take life by the reins and be a better person. Gary, I think, is sort of a horror-movie version of us if life hadn’t gone our way. I had an old friend who told me, just after Spaced had come out, that he could have had my career if he’d been as lucky. And I sort of though, well, hard work goes into it, determination goes into it, tenacity goes into, and talent goes into it, but he’s not wrong: luck does come into it too. Big time. You have to be in the right place at the right time.
So you feel lucky in that way?
I always feel in my career I’ve been extremely fortunate that a number of lucky breaks have come my way to get me here. Gary King is just one of those people who never got a lucky break. That’s kind of the reason I have sympathy for him: I could be that guy. I see a lot of myself in that. We used to think of it that, in Shaun of the Dead, Pete is probably what Shaun should aspire to professionally, Ed is what he should not be, and currently he’s somewhere in the middle. Is he going to be a professional or is he going to be a stoner for the rest of his life? Here, for the adult characters, like Martin Freeman, Nick, Eddy, and Paddy, Simon’s character represents like the Ghost of Christmas Past. These are your teenage years coming to haunt you and drag you back into the mud. I think there’s an idea of a parallel reality: if I hadn’t had those lucky breaks, would I be Gary King? I used to date a girl in band who knew a lot of people who were in bands themselves. I always found it fascinating that those who’d had some small success, like a Top 40 single, would deal with it in different ways. Some would think it was cool and have moved on with their lives. But then there were those people who sort of hung onto their past success. They’ll never be happy: you can’t cling onto some former glory. And that’s what Gary is doing.
And his glory is much smaller than a Top 40 hit.
But at the end of it he’s become the ultimate legend!