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The Good, the Bad & the Badass: Simon Pegg

It's been a couple of weeks since the last Good/Bad/Badass due to the Toronto International Film Festival. Our last column was on Robert Downey Jr., whose film, THE JUDGE, was the opening movie of the fest. This week's subject had not one, but two entries into this year's competition...

Simon Pegg

Before 2004, I had never heard of Simon Pegg. SPACED had never really crossed over in North America at the time, and pretty much the only modern Britcom at the time that had made any dent (as far as I was concerned) was Ricky Gervais' original version of THE OFFICE. That all changed one summer night when the Fantasia Film Fest in Montreal hosted a special early screening of SHAUN OF THE DEAD, which had been picked up by Rogue and was due to hit theaters several months later. I'll never forget sitting in the audience for that, and I don't think I've ever laughed as hard in a movie theater as I did that night. Like many fanboys, I felt like I was watching myself up there – that was how strongly I related to Simon Pegg as the harried Shaun. I went back to see SHAUN several more times in theaters, and I've owned it on DVD, HD-DVD, Blu-ray, and I'd wager it's in my top five films of the aughts.

While I think SHAUN is a movie that's all but impossible to top, Pegg (along with co-star Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright) didn't let us down with the other two entries into the THREE FLAVORS: CORNETTO trilogy, HOT FUZZ and THE WORLD'S END being worthy follow-ups, and strikingly different in their own way. Pegg has since become a kind of Walter Mitty-esque figure for a lot of us, as he's a real, honest-to-God fan who's not only been able to indulge his inner geek by playing opposite people like Tom Cruise and Jeremy Renner in the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movies, or playing Scotty in STAR TREK, but he's become a full-on star himself.

Pegg has gotten so good that clearly he's going to have a long career-ahead of him in all kinds of things. While his movies with Wright and Frost would have been enough to get him featured in this column, Pegg isn't one to coast, and his latest, HECTOR & THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS marks an important step for him in that he not only carries the large-scale movie, but also mixes things up a bit in that it's not strictly a comedy. Rather, it's a kind of adventure-romance-drama evocative of stuff like THE RAZOR'S EDGE and, of course, THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY (only better). Pegg's the real deal folks, and he's capable of all kinds of roles, even straight drama if that were to appeal to him.

His Best Performance

For me, the definitive Simon Pegg performance will always be SHAUN OF THE DEAD. It was the film that first put him on the map for me, and I truly believe that as far as horror-comedies go it's on par with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Pegg's performance has a lot of humor and a lot of heart, with his mounting desperation as the people he loves start to die-off being palpable. The scene where he's forced to kill his zombie mother is extremely heartfelt, as is the gag ending where he find out he's got the now-zombified Nick Frost out in the shed so they can still hang every now and then. His chemistry with Frost established them as one of the all-time great comic duos, but Pegg also proved himself a more-than-capable romantic lead as well as an easily relatable everyman hero.

His Most Overrated Film

I hesitate to call any of Pegg's films overrated. If anything, his movies are consistently underrated. He's struck out a few times (notably HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE) but the only film I'd actually call overrated is RUN FATBOY RUN. It was a perfectly serviceable rom-com, but while it only had a short life in theatres in the US, in the UK it was a blockbuster and I'd wager that's entirely due to Pegg's charm. The movie itself is – meh, so-so. It's worth a one-time watch, but maybe a little over-celebrated in the UK.

His Most Underrated Film

I'm going to cheat here. Instead of a film I'm going to throw in SPACED, which – for those of you not in the know – was the Britcom that Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright all worked on before making SHAUN. Visually, it's pretty radical for a sitcom, with Wright often-shooting in scope, and staging a lot of setpieces that in hindsight, seem like a practice run for SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ. If any of you neglected to pick up the special DVD set, it's a must-own.

His Most Memorable Scene

While I've already highlighted SHAUN OF THE DEAD here, my favorite scene of Pegg's is still the bit in the garden where him and Frost lob vinyl albums at the zombies. Pegg nails the whole fanboy thing here, begging Frost to only throw disposable records (like “The BATMAN soundtrack” but NOT Sade or The Stone Roses' infamous second album).

His Top-Five Films 

5. STAR TREK
4. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL
3. THE WORLD'S END
2. HOT FUZZ
1. SHAUN OF THE DEAD

Up Next

Simon Pegg's a busy guy these days, with HECTOR AND THE SEARCH FOR HAPPINESS in theaters, a voice-part in THE BOXTROLLS out this Friday, the Aussie-thriller KILL ME THREE TIMES out later this year, as well as the Monty Python reunion flick ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 5 and more!

Source: JoBlo.com

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