Orbiting secrets, 'Star Wars' and fandom with Simon Pegg

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Simon Pegg has too many state secrets to keep track of, and most of that is J.J. Abrams' fault.

Ever since the prolific director saw Pegg in Edgar Wright's zombie comedy "Shaun of the Dead," the British actor has become tethered to some of film's biggest franchises. First it was "Mission: Impossible III," as Benji, the tech turned field agent, then came "Star Trek," and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which Abrams casually asked him to be part of over dinner.

Pegg is now on his third film in both the "Mission: Impossible" series ("Rogue Nation," in theaters this weekend), and 2016's "Star Trek Beyond," which he's co-writing.

With his deft comic timing and expressive eyes, whether as franchise sidekick or leading man, Pegg enlivens every frame. He's also become a singular cultural force via his website, thoughtfully examining fandom, internet culture and how films fit into the world.

Pegg spoke to The Associated Press over Skype from New York about this moment in his career.

The remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: Is there a type of film you prefer?

Pegg: I'm not one of those people who do one for me and one for them. I love doing the big films — it's a thrill ride to be in a movie with Tom Cruise — and to do my films with Edgar. It's just a question of getting to fit them in.

AP: What's it like knowing Cruise personally and seeing the media scrutiny around him?

Pegg: It annoys me when I hear someone say something about him that's just utterly unfounded...I'll find myself saying, "no he's just a regular guy," but he's not a regular guy. He's exceptional. He lives an exceptional life, but he is aware of that fact. He knows what he sacrificed, what he forgoes to be who he is. But he's still essentially a human being at the heart of it. He's not some spaced out guy who has no concept of reality — he does and he's quite philosophical about it... (His Scientology beliefs have) never come up. We've never spoken about that in 10 years. I'm an atheist so I think all religion is a bit crazy. Whether it's Xenu or Jesus it all sounds a bit daft to me.

AP: What are you hoping to bring to "Star Trek Beyond?"

Pegg: It's going to be spectacular, but we're going to underpin that with some genuine 50th Anniversary ideas about what's happening in our world and the "Star Trek" world and try to make it a bit thoughtful too. Cake and eat it.

AP: Is it difficult to be involved in so many secretive projects?

Pegg: It is difficult because you want to sing it to the world. I've had a picture on my phone of me hugging Chewbacca that I'd been holding on to for months that I haven't been able to show anybody. But these days there's a culture of spoiler-ism that exists because people want to get their websites's a little selfish.

AP: How so?

Pegg: You're essentially destroying that very thing by increments. That's always been J.J.'s thing — protect the film. If you're going to go see "Star Wars," don't watch the trailers. Just wait. Be patient. Sit in that movie house and let it all be a surprise. That's the best way to watch a movie.

AP: Can you say how long you were on the "Star Wars" set?

Pegg: I was there even when I wasn't working. I was just happy to go and watch it all happen.

AP: Were you there when Harrison Ford got hurt?

Pegg: The day before. Everything had been going so well. The first day that Harrison came out in costume and Chewie was there, I've never seen so many people around the monitors watching. It was just a joyous time and then this setback hit. The guy has the recovery of Wolverine. It's insane. For a man who's 73, he is so resilient.

AP: And then the plane crash.

Pegg: I kept in touch with J.J. throughout Harrison's convalescence. He landed that plane like an expert. He is a hero in life and in fantasy.

AP: How do you engage with fans now?

Pegg: I was on Twitter for a long time and I thought it was time to back away. I felt too available. As an actor you need a degree of mystique and have to stay a little bit removed. But if people are willing to go through the rigmarole of sending a little stamp addressed envelope and a little note, I'll always get back to them. I try to keep that empathy — knowing what it's like to be a fan and hoping to treat them the way I'd expect to be treated.


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