By Sean Willett
Simon Pegg is an oddity, as far as actors go. He started his career as a cult movie hero, with only a handful of small yet critically acclaimed films to his name. Now he’s starring alongside Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol and helping to break new ground in motion capture technology with Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin.
In the span of under 10 years, Pegg has risen to the upper echelons of Hollywood stardom. Yet this change of pace has not heralded a change in attitude. Pegg still retains the same bright-eyed enthusiasm and genuine love of film that he has had since the very beginning.
While most people only recognize him for his film work, Pegg’s first big acting role was on the British television series Spaced. Nick Frost and Edgar Wright, both close friends of Pegg’s, also worked on the show. After Spaced ended, the trio went on to make the horror-comedy film Shaun of the Dead, which proved to be a major critical success.
Pegg has continued working with Frost and Wright, both of whom were also involved in The Adventures of Tintin. After their second film together, Hot Fuzz, Pegg began to take on more roles in larger Hollywood productions. He has since appeared in everything from J.J. Abram’s Star Trek to the latest instalment of the Ice Age franchise, bringing his sharp comedic timing and natural British charm to every part he plays.
Approaching each new challenge without hesitation, Pegg is not shy about taking on roles outside of his comfort zone. For the upcoming Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol, Pegg had to go through a significant amount of training to play the part of a secret agent. “I had to look like I was a bit of a lean, mean killing machine,” he remarks. “I did some extensive fight training and weapons training with the stunt team, and that was hard in the best possible way.”
Pegg faced another challenge while filming Tintin, albeit a very different one. While he is no stranger to voice acting, having provided voices for characters in several popular movies and video games, it was his first time performing using motion-capture technology. “With Tintin it was more than voice acting because we were actually physically acting as well,” Pegg explains. “But it’s different [from] live-action shooting in that you don’t have real props and costumes. You’re working in a very imagined environment.”
Pegg wasn’t the only person having to learn how to use this new technology, however. “It was very new for everybody, even Steven Spielberg,” he admits. “I think we were all . . . on our first day of school to some degree. Every day we were making new discoveries about the technology and about how to perform within it.”
A huge Spielberg fan, Pegg has had to stop himself from “geeking out” around the legendary director, or any of the other celebrities he has worked with. “I think you learn to moderate your behaviour,” Pegg explains. “You don’t have a big fit and squeal over them. You just sort of say ‘hello’ and ‘nice to meet you.’ And you behave like a normal human being. And then when you leave the room, you jump up and down and scream.”
Pegg’s favourite moment while shooting Tintin was one he and Frost shared with Spielberg. “Nick and I did a particularly long scene with Toby Jones which required a lot of self-choreography, and we did a particularly good take one day and Steven was so pleased with us [that] he did a little dance. And to make one of your heroes so happy that he performs a small dance is quite a wonderful thing.”
While it sounds a bit odd for a star to be star-struck themselves, Pegg believes that it’s important to remain a fan of the business. “I personally hope that I never lose that,” he says. “I hope that this industry never stops sort of entertaining and enthralling me.”
With The Adventures of Tintin past its filming stage, Pegg, Frost and Wright will now be able to begin work on their next film together, currently titled World’s End. Pegg is excited to be working as a writer with his friends again on this new project, which will be the final instalment in what they call the ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.’ The trilogy, named as such because a certain character purchases a different flavour of Cornetto ice cream in each film, started with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. “I feel like those guys are my homies, and that’s what I’d like to go back to,” says Pegg.
Having roles in two big-budget movies being released in the same month, it would be easy to mistake Simon Pegg for another aloof Hollywood star. Yet a closer look will reveal a relative rarity– an actor who isn’t afraid to show how much he loves what he does.