We at StarTrek.com love any excuse to chat with Simon Pegg, who’s not only great as Scotty in the new Star Trek adventures, but is an entertaining, tell-it-like-it-is interviewee. Pegg is currently making the promotional rounds on behalf of The World’s End, his new sci-fi/comedy – out TODAY and in a theater near YOU! – and he set aside some time to talk to us about The World’s End, Scotty, the fan reaction to Star Trek Into Darkness, the Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray and J.J. Abrams’ decision to direct the next Star Wars movie, as well as about his upcoming film Hector and the Search for Happiness. Below is part one of our exclusive interview, and visit StarTrek.com again tomorrow to read part two.
The World’s End is opening this weekend. You play Gary King, a 40-something guy who reunites with several very reluctant mates (Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine) from his youth in order to compete an unfinished pub crawl, only to stumble upon an alien invasion. The film is funny, action-packed and pretty sentimental, too. As you and (director and co-writer) Edgar Wright wrote it, how surprised were you just how steeped in heart and feeling the story became?
PEGG: That was actually always our intention to try and tell stories of real human emotion, but use things like zombies or action films or science fiction as metaphors. That’s what they have always been used as. You only have to look at Star Trek for a great use of science fiction as a metaphor. It’s a great tool for telling truths about ourselves. So it’s always important to us that we punctuate the comedy with reality, and I think that often makes the comedy more funny.
You and Edgar co-wrote this and you’ve been friends and collaborators for a long time now. How much of you guys is there in Gary?
PEGG: Gary is an amalgam of people we’ve met and known and people close to us. There’s a serious side to Gary which we didn’t want to shirk away from, which is the fact that he’s an alcoholic. We’ve had people in our lives who’ve suffered this and we wanted to say something truthful about that as well. I think Edgar is probably a bit more nostalgic than I am. He hasn’t settled down yet. I’ve got a wife and kid now, and all my years of carousing are very much behind me. Not that Edgar is a frat boy or anything, but he doesn’t have those responsibilities yet.
How easy or hard is it to play blindingly drunk when you’re stone-cold sober?
PEGG: Drunk acting is an art. You can overdo it. You can oversell it. A lot of drunk people do their best to try to seem sober because they want to continue doing what they’re doing. So it’s something you’ve got to pitch very, very carefully. So, yeah, it takes some restraint to do it for a movie.
Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End are part of what’s called The Cornetto Trilogy. Other than the connective thread of ice cream, how of a piece are the films?
PEGG: The three films, we’ve sort of half-jokingly made much of them being a trilogy. Trilogy is a lofty terms, but they’re all films that use a genre trope in order to tell stories about smaller things, about friendship and protracted adolescence and the struggle of the individual against the collective. In every film, it’s us facing off against some homogenizing force, whether it be zombies or whatever. They all deal with similar themes and tones. They’re all set in the U.K. They all feature a similar cast. They all have a big joke about jumping over a fence in them. It’s a loose trilogy. We actually have some screenings of all three films together, and I think people will get something out of viewing them as a piece. We jokingly say they’re like the Sankara stones from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where they’re three individual things, but if you bring them together they sort of glow and throb and burn threw your bag.
The World’s End wraps up the trilogy, but can we assume that doesn’t mean you won’t ever again work with Nick or Edgar?
PEGG: Exactly, it does not mean we won’t work together again. We will absolutely work together again, but maybe in different combinations. It might be that all three of us write something together, but whatever else we do won’t need to be bound to the rules of these films. These three films had certain criteria that we created ourselves. Anything we do after them, we move away from that. We can shoot a film not set in the U.K. or set in the past or make it more serious. I don’t think I’ll ever stop working with Nick and Edgar because they are my dear friends and my oldest collaborators. It will be a sad day when those relationships end.
Let’s talk Trek. Two films in, what do you appreciate most about how Scotty has been written as a character and utilized on screen?
PEGG: It’s really fun to play Scotty because what I think what the guys have done with the modern iteration of the story is kind of try to isolate certain dynamics that came up in The Original Series and further them a little bit. I try to see Scotty as the pragmatist. He’s a more-mature member of the crew. He’s less of a superhero than everyone else. He’s more of an everyman than Kirk. Kirk is exceptional. Spock is exceptional. I think Scotty is one of the guys. He’s a workhorse at his job. He’s a serious guy even though he’s lighthearted. People always say, “Oh, Scotty’s really funny.” I never see him as being a comedic character. Maybe his outlook is amusing. He’s definitely reacting to extraordinary situations as any of us would, and therein lays the comedy. But I never would want him to be a joke character, do you know what I mean? I like that they keep him light while managing to not make him a joke.
Case in point, he played a pivotal role in saving the day in Star Trek Into Darkness...
PEGG: It was lovely to run around and keep the Enterprise from being destroyed. Generally, he’ll help save the day by fixing something, but for him to actually be out in the field and mixing it up with Kirk, that was fun. I like that relationship as well, Scotty and Kirk. In this situation, in this universe, there’s a bond between them because they sort of had that moment in the last film. So they have a quite close friendship and it was tested in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Let’s talk about a different relationship for a minute: Scotty and Keenser. What does Scotty get out of having Keenser for a friend, and vice-versa?
PEGG: I think they spent a lot of time on Delta Vega together. They’ve probably got a system going on. That happens when you work with somebody that much, that long. I think Keenser is obviously a highly skilled technician. As Scotty’s sort of second-in-command, they’ve got a good shorthand. The whole reason this came about is because we’d shot our scenes in the 2009 film and established this grudging friendship. It seemed to me a bit sad that we were just leaving him on Delta Vega. He was just being left there on his own. So I said, “Let’s have him on the Enterprise at the end.” J.J. and I were just laughing about it. “Wouldn’t it be funny if we had him come on the Enterprise?” It was more because we felt guilty about abandoning this character. So we asked Michael Kaplan, the costume designer, to come up with a Starfleet costume for him, which Michael did. Then, once we had him in the closing part of Star Trek (2009), that meant “Oh, well, he’s going to have to be in the next one.” So we did develop this idea that, “If I’m going to take over this ship, I’m going to need my right-hand man with me. He knows me. He knows the way I operate.” That’s the way their relationship is. They’re buddies. He just happens to be a 4-foot alien.
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