He may be hobnobbing with Cruise, Spielberg and co, but SIMON PEGG is still holding on to his indie roots. Paul Byrne approves. Strongly.
No matter which way you dress up Simon Pegg, the man always – always – looks like the cuckoo in the nest. Not so much in those cool little indie films he and his friends make, of course. I’m talking about the dirty great big Hollywood blockbusters that this little nerd from Gloucester has somehow managed to infiltrate. Whether it’s being the techno-nerd for Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible franchise or being the, well, techno-nerd for J.J. Abrams in his Star Trek reboots, Simon Pegg seems to be Hollywood’s idea of the perfect square. Pegg. Square. I’m sure there’s a pun in there somewhere. “I think there might just be a strong idea in Hollywood of the sort of roles that I’m good for,” nods the 42-year old actor, “and, you know, I’m okay with that. Cast me as the martial arts hero, and it’s going to raise a few laughs right from the first half-assed high kick. Cast me as the romantic lead who saves the world and gets the girl, and again, I’d be there more for chuckles than for the cheering.
“To be honest, if Hollywood decided I was only good for elevator operator roles, I’d happily play them in whatever movies they saw fit. It’s just a blast being able to work with people that I thought I’d never even be lucky enough to meet. More remarkably, I’m getting to make the kind of movies that I would normally just be sitting back on my couch ripping inside out for hours on end with my mates.” Still, you have to admire just how far this self-confessed movie geek (his 2011 autobiography is wittily called Nerd Do Well) has come ever since his big-screen breakthrough, Shaun Of The Dead, the 2004 movie that put young co-stars Pegg and Frost, and director Wright (who co-wrote the script with Pegg), on the radar. As a supporting player though, our boy is turning into something approaching a lucky charm. Both the Star Trek reboot of 2009 and the Mission: Impossible comeback in December with Ghost Protocol proved to be global box-office sensations, bringing Kirk, Spock and even Cruise back from the dead. Having just completed playing Scotty again in a second Star Trek outing with Abrams (the untitled sequel due out here on May 13th next year), Pegg bravely takes another shot at leading man status in this month’s Brit comedy A Fantastic Fear Of Everything.
The poster for this Dahl-meets-Comic Strip tale about a former children’s author who goes a little loopy investigating Victorian serial killers features a very hairy, wide-eyed and scared Pegg in his best yellow jumper and Y-fronts, screaming hysterically. It’s pretty much all you need to know. “Getting to move between these wonderful big Hollywood productions and small, low-budget, kind of DIY affairs is a great luxury,” says Pegg. “Mainly because one feeds the other. You get a sense of perspective, and a realization that all that ever matters is what goes up there on screen. The size of someone’s trailer, or the amount of globe-trotting you had to do for a shot, all of that is largely irrelevant. People just want to connect, and be moved in some way, and that’s really all down to good ideas, good direction, and a good performance.” With more than a shade of Bruce Robinson’s short story Paranoia In The Laundrette, Pegg’s latest is also back in the horror genre he loves so well. “Yes, I have to admit I’m a sucker for some good horror,” he smiles. “To me, horror and comedy are very, very closely related. You scream, and you laugh, almost instantaneously. We know it’s a movie, we know we’re being silly when we actually get frightened, but it’s all part of the joy of horror.”
Coming up for Pegg is the lead in Frank Darabont’s TV movie L.A. Noir, plus the final part of the Cornetto Trilogy, At World’s End, following on from Shaun Of The Dead and 2007’s Hot Fuzz. Fans of Pegg, Frost and Wright have spent the last five years speculating exactly what genre the trio might be spoofing in their third big-screen outing together. “It’s wonderful, having those kinds of fans who really, really want to know every little thing that you’re doing,” says Pegg. “But then, it can be annoying, having those kinds of fans who really, really want to know every little thing that you’re doing. Because it becomes incredibly difficult to surprise audiences. “It’s why I avoided Twitter for so long – I just don’t believe in giving too much away before a film is out there. If you know that Spielberg is going to pop up in Paul, it won’t be all that much of a kick when he does. We’ve always been determined to hold back as much as we can.
“Which is why, my friend, I’m going to tell you absolutely nothing about what we’ve got planned for At World’s End…” That’s all right. I read the script on the net. “I blame that Nick Frost meself. Can’t keep his big mouth shut…”
Words – Paul Byrne
A Fantastic Fear Of Everything is now showing at cinemas everywhere