Latest Entertainment News Headlines

INT: Simon Pegg


Simon Pegg is a true talent. His work in both HOT FUZZ and SHAUN OF THE DEAD (and let’s not forget SPACED) is incredibly layered. He has the ability to be funny while showing a more vulnerable and incredibly dramatic side. This is the kind of actor that is not only relatable, but just more interesting. He has a very honest quality about his work. And yes, RUN FATBOY RUN can now be added to the list. It was a pleasure to see him opposite the unbelievably beautiful and talented Thandie Newton.

I recently talked to him about his role as Dennis, the lovable loser who tries to complete a marathon. And I am not at all surprised about how genuinely down to earth he is. There is nothing fake or pretentious about him in any way. He loves film, and to be able to talk with him about his recent work, taking on the role of Scotty in J.J. Abrams STAR TREK, and his thoughts on the great George A. Romero, well it was an absolute pleasure.

I have no problems recommending to you his latest film which is quite different from his wonderful work with Edgar Wright. RUN FATBOY RUN is a very sweet tale of the underdog fighting back with several good performances from the entire cast. It opened this past Friday and if you are not necessarily a romantic comedy fan, just check it out anyway, because Mr. Pegg is damn good in it.

Simon Pegg

One of the things I noticed in RUN FATBOY RUN is that the relationship between the parent to the child is very well done. A lot of times you see comedies and that father and child relationship seems fake.

Absolutely, yeah.

Who wrote that relationship into the script? Was there always this kind of family dynamic?

Yeah, there was. He was kind of a presence, the idea that he was five and obviously he was inside Libby when we first see her. And he’s grown up since with his absent, but nevertheless, partly present father at least. Thandie’s [Newton] character was nice enough to give him some input. I think it also just makes Dennis… it really brings home to Dennis that he opted out of what was a lovely family and brings home his mistake. You know, it’s so much clearer to him. So those scenes are really important and we just made - Matthew Fenton played the part - we just made him feel very, very comfortable and grown up. We never talked down to him. You know, we just went out and played foot with him and got him used to us, and stuff like that. By the time we got on set, you know, he was really comfortable. Great little boy.

He did a good job. A lot of times you see kid actors and you are like, ’oh, God…’

I know. He’s not that kind of, you know, you wanna punch him in the face cute. He’s actually a… He’s funny, I remember one day, Thandie and I had this on-going battle on set. She would just constantly play tricks on me, and I one day persuaded Matthew, I [told him] I was really impressed with his hands and I said, ‘Man, your hands are brilliant, they are really sort of… you’ve got big boy hands. Show us your fingers.’ And I photographed him just holding up each one of his fingers and sent the middle one to Thandie. [Laughing] So she got a picture of a seven-year-old boy flipping her the bird. [Laughing] He never knew.

See, that’s just mean man. [Laughing]

I did it carefully.

Of course.


We talked recently and you had said that the script originally was a little bit more Americanized.

Well it was American, basically. It was an American script. And it was set in New York and it dealt with an American character. And when it came up that we would be shooting in England, it had to be changed, you know. Not just changing sidewalk to pavement and faucet to tap, you know, we had to change it culturally as well. And that just meant, it’s just tiny things. The difference British and American comedy is nowhere near as big as everyone thinks it is. People will say, ‘oh yeah, there is a massive difference.’ We find the same things funny. We might use humor socially differently. I think we are perhaps a little more free with our cynicism in the UK, we’re a little bit more self-deprecating and a little bit inclined to hide our feelings underneath irony. Where as Americans tend to be a little more emotionally grown up than we do. You know, they’re slightly freer with their emotions. But there is a big myth in England, ‘Oh yeah, Americans don’t get irony.’ and that’s just bullshit, you know. You can’t make a show like “The Simpsons” without knowing irony. You can’t make “Larry Sanders” or “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Arrested Development” or even “Sgt. Bilko” without having a firm grip of irony. It’s just that Americans don't perhaps wield it with such abandon as we do. You know, they don’t brandish it like a gun like we do sometimes. But you had to believe that the people were British. And in doing that, I had to make a few little adjustments as well. It was an interesting puzzle actually.

Did you work at all with Michael [Ian Black, the co-writer]?

Not really, I mean, I spoke to Michael originally you know, as a writer, I know how tough it is sometimes when someone else gets hold of your stuff and it feels slightly precious and you feel reluctant for people to have a go [at it]. So I said, look, I’m going to do this, are you okay with it. And he was fine. Michael’s a great writer and he agreed with everything with my notes on it. It was only his first or second draft of the script and the changes I made I'm sure he would have applied naturally anyway, know what I mean.

So we didn’t actually work together, but I think we were all on the same page.

I tend to agree with you, I think that Michael is very funny and terribly underrated.

Yeah, absolutely.

Obviously there is a big difference between this and HOT FUZZ or SHAUN OF THE DEAD. This is a straight romantic comedy.

Yeah, very much so.

Were there any fears going in and doing a romantic comedy, thinking that maybe your typical audience won’t get it?

Well I kind of… the idea of doing something like this, slightly broader, interests me, I kind of thought, ‘let’s have a go at this.’ And the challenge of actually making a romantic comedy and not undermining it was interesting to me. Obviously, romantic comedy is something you could quite easily send up and we did in SHAUN OF THE DEAD. People always think that SHAUN OF THE DEAD is a zombie movie spoof, it really isn’t. It is a zombie movie. If anything, it’s a spoof of romantic comedies. And because romantic comedies have to follow a certain criteria, it would be very easy to, sort of tear them apart. I think the hard thing to do would be to actually try and do one properly and also retain at least some sense that the filmmakers knew what they were doing. And I love romantic comedies, I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. I love to sit back and watch NOTTING HILL or FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL and really just have that kind of joyous abandon that romantic comedies do. They’re very, almost emotionally manipulative films in a way. They’re there to tweak your emotions. So the idea of actually creating one was interesting to me. And I don’t just want to be the guy that does those kind of films, you know, the guy that sort of does edgy, cult movies. I want to do lots of stuff and everything from SHAUN OF THE DEAD right up to STAR TREK on the kind of blockbuster side of things, you know.

It's really funny that when SHAUN OF THE DEAD hit it big, you were like, I'm not going to do MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3 and then, there you are.

Well that came out of the fact that in the UK there’s this sort of… they have this odd love/hate thing with people who do well in the UK, like, they don’t want you to leave, but… I don’t know, there’s people that kept saying, ‘oh, your going to go off to Hollywood.’’ like it’s some kind of… like you go through some door like at the end of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and you never come home again.

Or you just join Scientology.

[Laughing] Yeah, exactly. But it’s this idea that Hollywood is some kind of Neverland that only a few people are let in to. It’s not. It’s just a place where lots of films are made and I did say, like, my thing was I’m not going to just go off and do any film. And I picked Mission Impossible 3 out of the ether, it wasn’t even on the cards. I think it might’ve been, the Joe Carnahan version might’ve been around. But, you know, it wasn’t the J.J. version. And when J.J. Abrams called me and someone said he’s on the phone, I thought, ‘f*ckin’ell’’ [Laughing] And he said, do you want to be in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3, and the minute it was him, I thought yes I do. So I had to literally eat my words. Well not literally, but kind of literally. [Laughing]

Well it’s kind of cool because you have RUN FATBOY RUN and you have HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE… you have STAR TREK coming out. You really are running the gamut with the films you take on.

Yeah, it's fun. It’s nice to… I mean, HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE was a wonderful experience. It was great to work with Bob Weide who is obviously one of the co-creators of "Curb" and I get to work with actors like Jeff Bridges and Kirsten Dunst who I found to be really inspirational.

And Gillian Anderson…

And Gillian Anderson who I’ve always loved. I’ve kind of had a crush on her since God knows when, and suddenly work with her. And meet people like Megan Fox, you know, who came out of TRANSFORMERS and suddenly you see her being the most amazing actress and think, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize that she could do that.’ And Danny Huston, who is obviously the son of one of the greatest filmmakers America has ever produced. So it was a really great experience.

When is that coming out?

Fall, I think.

Now what happened with STAR TREK man? How did that come about?

That was just a hilarious kind of… probably the most underplayed moment of my career, where I switched on my phone and I had an e-mail from J.J., as I do occasionally because we stayed in touch and we get along very well, [it] was just one sentence, it said, ‘Would you like to be Scotty?’ And I had heard stuff in the press about [James] McAvoy, and a few other people being up for it, and I hadn’t even considered it really. And then suddenly the e-mail came through and I was sort of floored by it. And I showed it to my wife and she looked at it and just burst out laughing. She’s actually from Glasgow you know, she’s Scottish. And I agonized over it for a couple of days, ‘should I do this, is this the right thing for me to do?’ And eventually I decided it was because, you know, I love my job and my job is pretty much as much as I can about having fun. And this seemed to be a really fun thing to do.

Are you filming now?

I finished, I finished last Monday.

You finished already?

Yeah, yeah, I did my last day last Monday. Its still going on, its going until April but because of my availability, I had to do my stuff within a certain period.

Well what was the experience like?

It was a great experience. It really was an enormous amount of fun and a great cast. With J.J. at the helm, its like, the guy is a machine, he’s an engine of enthusiasm. Its great to have him working on the project. I said to someone recently, I think if I wasn’t in the film, as a fan of STAR TREK, the one person I'd want to be at the helm is a fan. And J.J. is most certainly that. He's the guy that you would want to be making this film if you were a STAR TREK fan. So I think the people out there who are concerned, you know, have to understand that it is in the hands of someone who loves the franchise and you really couldn’t have it better then that.

I'm kind of middle of the road with the STAR TREK franchise, but for some reason, I think this is going to be really cool.

That's one thing it really is, is cool. It really is very, very cool. And I was a fan of the original series and I dipped in and out of “The Next Generation” and the following spin-offs. All of which I enjoyed to a degree. But I was particularly a fan of the first series, so its lovely to be re-visiting those characters, I feel an enormous amount of privilege and some, not a little responsibility as well.

How long did you shoot?

I did about five weeks. I was on set for a long time and I got to see a lot of cool things.

Well, forgive me for being a little fanboy-ish, but what is refreshing about you is that you do choose fun roles. And honestly, I thank God that you are making movies.

Well I see myself as a fanboy very much and I don’t try and set myself aside from the people that go see my films because I am those people. When actors refer to people as “the public” I just think, ‘well what the f*ck are you?’ you know, ‘You are the public.’ Just because you have a job that puts you in a situation where a great amount of people are looking at you, it doesn’t take you out of that group of people. My group of people, is the fan community, you know, I’ve grown up as a big STAR WARS fan, I’m a big horror fan, I’m a big STAR TREK fan, I'm a big movie fan basically. And I’m very fortunate that I’ve got to actually participate in the world that I love, you know.

I think what does help particularly with RUN FATBOY RUN, is that your character is extremely relatable.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. And that kind of comes from, I think… there’s an interesting sort of movement in films recently. In culture overall, I think because of the rise of reality television, where the sort of ordinary person replaced the Superman. The kind of, particularly male - when you look at films like KNOCKED UP and SUPERBAD in comedy, you know - you have Seth Rogen being the romantic lead. And he’s just a kind of regular guy. And I think its because of reality television., It’s like the rise of the normal human being. And I think that has definitely influenced contemporary culture hugely.

I think that is the only good thing to come out of reality television.

Yeah, absolutely, its funny in a way, its like when you look at a show like “The Office”. “The Office” is a show that because the reality TV star started to take the place of the sitcom star on British TV, Ricky Gervais very cleverly then made a sitcom about a reality TV star and then hit pay dirt. Its kind of interesting in that way that it’s had such an effect. And also, that’s because of the rise of the video camera and the demystifying of film and TV is something that somehow, unattainable to ordinary people, suddenly it isn’t. With YouTube as well, with us having access, to everybody having access to media, to everyone having access to put themselves into that frame. You know, suddenly that’s not elitist anymore. It’s for everybody.

Even the online journalist community is getting much more acceptance with studios.

Absolutely. And kind of, say when you look at a site like JoBlo or the classic example is Ain’t It Cool because at the helm is Harry [Knowles], this great big ginger guy with a beard and glasses who has now become a feared entity by the movie industry. ‘Gotta please Harry! Gotta please the website boys!’ because they’re really sort of setting the standard. And it’s true because all these websites are run by fans. And the fans are the people that they want to please. Suddenly I think the movie heads are realizing the kind of, you know, the importance of your opinion.

Well it does help that, I think, more and more filmmakers like Edgar [Wright] and a few others are just really making movies that they would want to see. It’s not just for the almighty dollar. It is so frustrating to see filmmakers going, ‘Oh, I made a horror film because I knew it would make money.’

Exactly. Our whole sort of raison d’etre if I can use a French phrase, is that we are, as you say, making the films that we want to see. And that is part of the undermining, defining point of SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, in that they're kind of American, traditionally American films, but set in a very British context. And that then draws attention toward the kind of, the interesting things about those kind of films. And we wanted to make a zombie film so we did. It wasn’t because we thought… at the time, there weren’t any zombie films in production. When we came up with the idea, it was an odd kind of synchronicity to it learn about 28 DAYS LATER and the remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD, the continuation of the Dan O’Bannon series and it was an odd kind of coincidence. We didn’t think, ‘Right! Make a zombie film ‘cause everyone else is.’ We really wanted to make a zombie film. [Laughing]

And you got to be a part of LAND OF THE DEAD which is just f*cking cool.

Yeah, that was great. That was really funny because, you know, we went over and we did the little documentary for the LAND OF THE DEAD DVD and met George. And then have since became great friends. And when DIARY OF THE DEAD came around, he called me up and said do you want to do a newscaster voice, and I was like, ‘Of course.’ And I literally called him and spoke for like twenty minutes, caught up, and then went, ‘Oh you better do the voice.’ and I read off a piece of paper and I get another Romero film on my IMDB page. It was the easiest job I ever did.

What was your take on DIARY OF THE DEAD?

I’ve only seen a rough cut, I liked it. I think it’s a shame in a way because George being ever the sort of innovator, I think he had this idea for a long time, we’d spoken about it awhile ago. It was slightly overshadowed by CLOVERFIELD, which is a similar and very well executed film.

I agree.

I think its probably quite frustrating for George because, also with the DAWN remake, a sort of flashier, larger set thing will come and slightly overshadow his own stuff, you know. Like DAWN OF THE DEAD kind of did a little bit with LAND OF THE DEAD. Which essentially kind of took his idea. But yeah, it’s good, I liked it. I think it was a nice return to form for him because he was getting back to his roots kind of thing, you know.

It really is refreshing to see George Romero back making movies.

Yeah, absolutely. It’s great, he’s one of the great American innovators. And its good to see him behind the camera again.

Are there any plans for you and Edgar to get back together soon?

Absolutely yeah, Edgar and me are just waiting for the window to open up… Nick [Frost] and I just wrote something which we’re going to go into production hopefully before the end of this year. Edgar’s obviously doing SCOTT PILGRIM and he’s busy with that. But the second we can get together and get writing again, we will, because we have the third story to tell and we can’t wait to get it on paper and then on film.

It's a Jane Austen story isn’t it?

It’s a Jane Austen drama. Very serious, no jokes. [Laughing]

Let me know what you think. Send questions and/or comments to [email protected].




Latest Entertainment News Headlines


Featured Youtube Videos

Views and Counting