After having disappeared from our screens for nearly two years following the muted release of “Star Trek Beyond,” actor Simon Pegg returned in recent months to seemingly appear in every other film release. From the Steven Spielberg spectacle of “Ready Player One,” to his upcoming return to the “Mission Impossible” series and to his performance in the independent film “Terminal,” Pegg is reminding audiences all of that he can do in succinct order. A filmmaker, writer, and actor, Pegg has starred in some of the biggest franchises being released today (along with his necessarily heralded work with often collaborators Edgar Wright and Nick Frost) and “Terminal” see’s him slipping into a role more stripped down. He spoke about the most recent news about the Quentin Tarantino “Star Trek” news, to the frustrating nature of “click bait” articles and his love of broken characters.
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How did you first get attached to the film?
I was sent the script and a little description about what was going on and I really liked the idea that this group of people, you know it was a long time before “I, Tonya” came out, were sort of this budding group of ADs and decided to refer to themselves as producers and get a film made. Obviously with Margot [Robbie] attached it gave it some heft which is good for them because it’s not always the case when you’re trying to get a film made that you have that extra push.
But I was intrigued and heartened by that level of industry you know, it feels like it doesn’t happen enough these days. I’d done a few big movies in a row and I just thought this would be an interesting read. I read it and it was very dialogue heavy and I liked the idea that it was very theatrical in terms of how it could be staged and it required heavy dialogue learning and some big dialogue scenes and I didn’t feel like I had done that for a long time and it just felt like an exciting prospect. Margot was attached and the idea of sparing with her and my character interaction with her just felt like it would be really fun. It was a tiny movie and it felt like I hadn’t acted in a while so it felt like the right move.
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The director Vaughn Stein has a very distinct vision – how easy is it to just hand yourself over to it?
As an actor I sort of think it’s my job, if I agree to be involved then that’s what I have to do, just give myself over to the director’s vision and not be obstructive or complicate the process. I really liked Vaughn when I met him, he’s from the same university as me, Bristol, and I really liked him and how passionate he was about cinema so we bonded on that and it was easy for me to get on board with that and enjoy the process. So it was pretty easy. We rehearsed and I’d offer some things now and again or we’d discuss certain character beats and he was very up for collaborating. I feel like as a director your job is to oversee everything and you should usually have a specific vision, which ideally is open while still being decisive.
Was it exciting getting to work with a director who was going through the process of making his first feature-length film?
Absolutely, I really liked that. I remember what it was like for us when we made “Shaun of the Dead,” Edgar [Wright] was already pretty experienced by the time we made that film having already shot a single camera TV show, and made a feature on a shoestring budget already but it was still that freshness of discovering the process as you go and the heartache as well as the joy, it was really fun. I love the way that everybody was so on board with it, and I think when you’re making small films and only have 19 days to shoot it feels so much more like a cottage industry effort with everyone pulling together and it’s not like you can just fix everything later, it’s all gotta be nailed in a day and it was fun seeing people going through that.
He was so supportive. Chris Ross our DP was superb, I mean he really did make magic with what we had in those environments, even though they were already beautiful and Budapest has incredibly dramatic landscapes. It was really fun to just kind of be on the ground and everyone rolled their sleeves up and no one was just going to their trailer, it was always work, work, work.
It is definitely a very visually impressive film to the point where you would never be able to guess that it was made for such a small budget.
It’s amazing considering what we had, it’s seriously fantastic and looks a hell of a lot bigger than it really was.
There’s a lot of buzz circling the Quentin Tarantino “Star Trek” project and your recent comments about not knowing if you’d appear in it.
I know absolutely nothing about it, but it is a Kelvin generation/timeline story apparently but we know absolutely nothing about it. They don’t tell us anything because we’re all so nice that we tend to constantly blab about whatever we know. Anyone really in a blockbuster movie should be put in witness protection to stay safe from clickbaiters.
On a similar note, a few months ago you mentioned that JJ Abrams had different ideas for Rey’s parentage following ‘The Force Awakens.’ What has the reaction been like?
Well, it’s annoying because it was a long time ago, way way before Rian [Johnson] came on board. I was just chatting the other day about how people have been so desperate for information and not just to read it but to disseminate it. It’s very difficult to actually do interviews these days because I don’t like to be rude and if someone asks me a question I don’t want to just go “no comment” because that’s obnoxious. All screenplays go through evolutions and that stuff was all just very long ago.
You mentioned you had been in some big budget type films before doing “Terminal.” With that, “Ready Player One” and “Mission Impossible: Fallout” coming up you have a very eclectic group of movies coming up followed by the indie you were mentioning. Is that becoming more purposeful, trying to find the breaks in between the blockbuster films or is it more of a choice on a script by script basis?
I don’t want to lose touch with the kind of filmmaking I started with. I am incredibly lucky to be in Mission and “Ready Player One” and I had a fantastic time on both of those films. Getting to work with Steven Spielberg is a dream come true and working with Chris McQuarrie again was such a joy. I love Chris, he’s such a clever writer and it was a delight to see him actually write and direct this time even though it was like, over 100 days due to Tom’s [Cruise] mishap. I also want to do smaller films where you have those sleeves rolled up and having the variety in characters. Often times in the bigger films I tend to be reacting to things you know, there’s something crazy happening and I’m dealing with it or telling someone how to defuse a bomb, so the film I’m making at the moment is great and a gift for an actor because it is small and personal and that is something im at pains to try and maintain as well.
I’m really excited to hear that, I suppose one of your last big featured leading role was as Gary King in “The World’s End.”
It’s fun to play characters that are broken in some way and also I like in some aspects my character Bill in “Terminal” Is a little bit similar to Gary in that in terms of the audiences’ journey with them. With Gar,y you think he’s just a pain in the ass but by the end, you realize he’s an addict and in a lot of pain so that the feeling you have for him initially develops into pity for him. With Bill, you spend most of the film thinking he is a bit of a sad sap and then realize he might be fundamentally evil, and you have to change your opinion of him. I like the process of that where you can play a character that you can play one way and then reveal something about them that completely changes the audience’s opinion.
“Terminal” is in theaters and on VOD now.