Simon Pegg has come a long way since Channel 4’s cult show ‘Spaced’ catapulted him to stardom, never in his wildest dreams did he see himself writing the new ‘Star Trek’ movie or as an action hero fighting alongside Tom Cruise in ‘Mission Impossible’ but that’s exactly what happened. It’s been almost 10 years since the comedian first popped up in 2006’s ‘Mission Impossible 3’ as Benji Dunn, an IMF field agent. He returns to the role this month in ‘Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation’, which is helmed by Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie.
Pegg is currently living out his own impossible mission, as well as appearing in three other 2015 movies ‘Man Up’, ‘Kill Me Three Times’ and ‘Absolutely Anything’ he’s currently writing the latest ‘Star Trek’ movie. We met up with the comedian to find out how he finds time for it all…. Cue the Mission Impossible theme tune!
You’ve been playing Benji in the ‘Mission Impossible’ films for nearly 10 years. How did it feel to go back into the role this time?
It’s nice, as an actor, to get to play a character for that long. You only really used to be able to do that in TV over time in series, to play him from this schlubby lab guy to this ass-kicking agent (to adopt the American parlance) has been really good fun. He’s evolved from being this star truck nerd around Ethan, to being this star struck agent, which he is now. It’s really nice to play his growth as a person, and physically as well. He’s gone from… I look like a potato in ‘Mission Impossible 3’ and now, 10 years later, it’s all about how many sit ups I can do! [laughs]
Presumably all the scenes of you and Tom Cruise in the car, he was driving…?
Tom did all the driving, and is an incredibly accomplished stunt driver. He’s genuinely extraordinary. I didn’t have to do much acting at times because we were just tearing around these corners [laughs]. It was easy to bring the emotions because they were quite close to the surface, but I never felt unsafe. He’s so in command of that car.
Every director brings something new to the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE films. How would you define Christopher McQuarrie’s touch?
With ‘Mission Impossible’ you have a series of films which has had arguably, the most eclectic series of directors in film history, for a franchise of this kind. ‘Alien’, possibly you could say similar, but I think with De Palma right through to Chris you have a really interesting selection of directors with different voices and different visions. I think what Chris has done is look back across those, taken into account the history of this series, and embraced all of them, and also brought something of his own style and touch to it. It’s nearly 20 years since De Palma’s original ‘Mission Impossible’ and this film is almost like a retrospective of all four of them. I think there’s a little something from every film in this film, if you look carefully. Chris is very aware of what’s gone before, but at the same time, he’s put his own stamp on it.
When you were working on ‘Spaced’ did you ever think this far ahead, and that you’d be working on ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Mission Impossible’? How far did your dreams realistically extend back then?
Back then, the end of the shooting day; it was just about getting the series made. There’s a line in ‘Spaced’ where I say ‘As sure as day follows night, as sure as every odd numbered ‘Star Trek’ movie is shit’… I am writing ‘Star Trek’ 13 right now, so if I could possibly have known that, maybe I would have said even numbered! [laughs] Although it wouldn’t be true! I don’t remember, I look back sometimes and think ‘What did I expect from my career or my life?’ I didn’t really have any plans. You just do whatever you’re doing at the time. I don’t know what the future holds really, you just keep working and we’ll see. There are huge ironies in terms of looking back at ‘Spaced’, which was very much a love letter to popular culture – it’s about a bunch of 20-somethings living their life through the prism of popular culture – and now, being part of certain aspects of popular culture, things like ‘Mission Impossible’ and ‘Star Trek’, it’s kind of hilarious! [laughs]
Starring in them is one thing, but now writing ‘Star Trek’, how does that feel?
It’s great! To actually be given a pre-existing set of characters to write with, that pretty much everybody knows – even people that are only slightly familiar with ‘Star Trek’ probably have an idea of the central dynamic at least, between Kirk and Spock. It’s not like we have to blue sky much, it’s all about putting those characters in a new situation. It’s becoming more and more fun. It was very daunting at first, but now the story is taking shape…
Now Scotty is controlling everything…
SP: Now Scotty is the main character, it’s going to be amazing! [laughs]
You have had a lot of highs in your career; have you ever had a ‘champagne moment’, where you have felt compelled to pop open a bottle of champagne because something truly great happened?
[laughs] No because I don’t drink, but the figurative bottle of champagne… Many, many, many times. I feel very lucky to be participating in the world that as a child, as a young person I viewed from afar and wanted to be part of. To get to the stage when I can do these kind of movies, and also smaller films, or be around the kind of people that I admire… I feel very lucky. To be in a film with, bless his heart, Robin Williams, who is in ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING and someone who, as a child, I utterly idolised. ‘Mork & Mindy’ was my favourite programme. He was like an alien and I remember doing impersonations of him in the playground at school; to finally get to be in a film with him and then tragically, obviously, to lose him was a great shame. I am very proud that I got to have that moment.
What do people quote at you when they see you on the street?
It’s mainly ‘Shaun Of The Dead’, or ‘Star Trek’… Or ‘The Worlds End’… ‘Hot Fuzz’ I get a lot of ‘Morning Angle’. That’s nice though, it’s lovely to have yourself quoted back to you! It’s quite extraordinary! [laughs] You realise how what you have done might have affected people, if they can remember what you said, it’s nice. The worst thing you could do is be mediocre… I’d much rather have a seismic effect on one person’s life than mildly entertain millions.
Do you have plans with Edgar Wright and Nick Frost at the moment?
Yeah, that’ll happen, without a doubt. I don’t see myself not working with Edgar ever. We will probably be making films together when we’re old and useless. We got a lot of free Cornettos, so we’ve learned our lesson; we’re going to do a Ferrari Trilogy now, or a Rolex Trilogy. Something a bit more forward thinking [laughs].
What else do you have coming up? Probably a holiday!?
SP: You’d think! I actually had a holiday in the middle of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, I went snowboarding for a week, which I’m surprised they let me do because I could have broken my leg. ‘Absolutely Anything’, which is the Monty Python film coming out in August. I have seen a little bit of it, and it looks really fun. ‘Kill Me Three Times’ has come out in the US, which was a little Australian indie I did, which was a lot of fun. So just those films coming out, and writing ‘Star Trek 3’, so not much, no! [laughs]
Words: Brogen Hayes
MISSION IMPOSSIBLE – ROGUE NATION is In Irish Cinemas July 30th