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Unlike Gary King, his depressed, almost suicidal character in his latest film, The World’s End, Simon Pegg is very happy to be a home-dwelling father and husband and a casual gardener.

Simon Pegg is a long-time collaborator of Edgar Wright and Nick Frost, the trio having worked together on the TV series Spaced (1999-2001) as well as the features Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), both of which Simon Pegg wrote with Edgar Wright. He also plays Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the recent Star Trek films (2013) and appeared in Mission: Impossible III (2006) and its sequel Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011). He also worked on The Adventures of Tintin (2011), Run Fatboy Run (2007) and Paul (2011), the last of which he co-wrote with Nick Frost. He re-teams with Edgar Wright and Nick Frost on The World’s End (2013), which he wrote with Edgar Wright, and in which he stars as the rather wayward Gary King…

Q: How did you come up with the pub names? Are they real?
A: I think they were all real but they all needed to have significance to the things that take place inside them, so when we figured out what was happening in the movie we tailored the pub names to suit the actions that take place within. So The First Post is obvious, The Old Familiar is because it is exactly the same. The Famous Cock because of Gary King (Simon Pegg). The Cross Hands is where the fight happens the first time. The Good Companions is them pretending to be friends and having a good time. The Trusty Seven is where they meet Reverend Green, this guy who is human and going along with everything that is happening. Then the Two Headed Dog is where they meet the twins. The Mermaid is where the girls, the sirens, come and try and tempt them to become part of The Network and The Beehive is where all the activity takes place, the hive mind. Then there’s the King’s Head, which is Gary King’s mind basically, where he decides to finish the pub crawl. The Hole in the Wall is where the car comes through and then the The World’s End is the world’s end. 

Q: When was your last pub-crawl?
A: Probably my stag night in 2005, which was in Belgium and a lot of fun it was too. I know we went out trying to find a gentlemen’s bar, because we felt like we should, and we ended up in a pub called The Cock. That was the last time. I do not drink now. I have not had a drink for three years. I just decided it was time to stop. I was turning 40 and I had a baby and I did not really want to drink any more. I felt liberated and a lot fitter.

Q: Is it true that you also had a ‘goth’ phase, much like your character Gary King?
A: Yes. I do not know whether I ever came out of it. I stopped dressing like it but was very happy to get The Sisters Of Mercy in this film. They were my favourite band at the time and I dressed very much like Gary King when I was young, so getting dressed up like that again gave me a huge buzz.

Q: Do you miss those days of freedom?
A: No, I don’t and Gary King does not have freedom; he is trapped. He has the opposite of freedom. He is preserved in a weird time warp, which has rendered him a child and that is the tragedy. Gary King is the way he is because he has taken a photograph of the last time he was happy and he has tried to stay in it. In actual fact, he is deeply depressed to the point of being suicidal. That is the truth of it. I do not have any nostalgia. I love where I am right now and I am glad that I got through all that stuff and made it out the other end. I am very happy to be a home-dwelling father and husband and a casual gardener. 

Q: There is a lot of male bonding and emotion in all three films you have made with Edgar Wright. How important is that?
A: It is very important because comedy is best when you hang it on something serious, when it is counter-pointed by what is underneath it. With films that are just jokes there is the problem that the minute one of those jokes does not work it is nothing. It is in free fall, there is nothing to hang on to, but if there are character and story and things you care about, you can afford to stop telling jokes for a few minutes and suddenly that sets the more serious element of the film into sharp relief because you are not laughing anymore and it packs an emotional punch. It has always been important to us to drape our comedy over more serious issues. The heart of The World’s End is quite a dark story. It is about a suicide on the run from the mental asylum — that is what it is about. Yet, hopefully, it is full of laughter.

Q: How does the writing process work with Edgar Wright?

A: We take a lot of care. It is hard work, but it is fun and we really enjoy the writing process. We have a great time writing but we take it very seriously and are very studious about it. We have done it three times and the first one [Shaun of the Dead, 2004] took a long time because we were trying to get it made and so were constantly playing with the script right up to production. The second one [Hot Fuzz, 2007] took a long time to write because it is very long and complicated. There was a fake storyline and the real storyline and it was very long when we first wrote it and we had to whittle it down. This one was probably the easiest birth we have had. We went away together for the weekend and we hashed out the rough idea. We already had the basic plot. We hashed out the conceits and the twists and turns and then we started writing at the end of 2011. Then we wrote a bit in LA and then at the beginning of 2012 when I was making Star Trek (2013). Every day when I was not working on Star Trek I would go and work with Edgar Wright and we finished it by the summer.

Q: Did you write with specific actors in mind?
A: Yes, to the point in LA where we had the script and where it should have said Oliver it said Martin Freeman and where it said Steven it said Paddy Considine and where it said Peter it said Eddie Marsan. We did not even have them cast at that point. It was like, ‘Who would be great?’ We always wanted Eddie Marsan to play Peter because Eddie always plays bad people — in all his love scenes he has never had consensual sex on camera! We wanted him to play someone sweet and nice because he is really sweet and nice, an incredible actor and a lovely human being. Paddy Considine, we had worked with before and we love him because he is extraordinary. Martin Freeman is a mammoth talent and we just wanted to flirt with the idea that we might get this cast together, which would be like a dream come true, to the point where we were wishing it by putting their names in the script. 

Q: Is your character Gary King the villain of the film or is it the The Network?
A: I think there are two villains in the film. One is Gary King and the other is this benign force of change. All The Network wants to do is make Earth a better place and bring us into line with the other planets that have already undergone this transformation, so that the galaxy can become a peaceful place. But really this is at the expense of our freedom, because we do not have a choice. So what Gary King actually says is, ‘Do not try and change it because it is our right to find our own way.’ So even a force that is essentially trying to make things better for us is not good if it subjugates.

Q: Is it very different working on a huge blockbuster like Star Trek (2009, 2013) and then coming back to a smaller British movie?
A: It is remarkably similar, really, because when you get into the eye of the storm of filmmaking, it tends to be the same, no matter what size the film. The sets get bigger but the middle of it is always the same: the camera, the director, the crew, the DoP. The catering gets better on the bigger films. The catering in the US is amazing and it is fun to play with props, like in Star Trek. J.J. is very keen to work with physical props. We are always in a set and we always have props to play with, the same with Mission: Impossible (2011). But it is nice to get back and work with your friends. It is like coming home, like slipping on a T-shirt that you love. 

Q: Did you ever imagine when you started out in acting that you would come as far as you have?
A: No. Not really. I never looked that far ahead, to be honest. I was thinking this earlier on. When I was a stand up comedian I never thought, ‘I want to be on a sitcom,’ and when we had the sitcom I didn’t think, ‘Oh, really I want to be in movies.’ I am always about what is happening now. I do not know what is going to happen next. I do, though, to a degree because I have to do another Star Trek and another Mission: Impossible and another Tintin. But other than that I do not know what will happen next. Hopefully, I can do what I love to do which is to work and feel good about what I do. That is all I can wish for, really. Success is less important than happiness and I want to be happy.

Q: Do you feel as though you get stereotyped in Hollywood, as the underdog kind of guy?
A: You play to your strengths and as a British actor going over to Hollywood I am not Tom Cruise, I am not Brad Pitt. I am a British guy who is kind of convincing playing the nerdy underdog so I wind up playing Benji in Mission: Impossible (2011) because that role suits me and Scotty in Star Trek (2009, 2013) because, again, it is something that I can do quite well. Hopefully, I won’t do that forever. But if it means I can participate in these fantastic big films, I am quite happy to do that.

Q: And they are usually likeable and amusing characters… 
A: In a film like Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), both those films are wound so tight with tension that you need to release it every now and again and the audience drink up the comedy like thirsty people needing water. These films get so tense that comic relief is vital. It is not only from me. There are some great moments of comic relief from Jeremy Renner, Tom Cruise and Paula Patton and in Star Trek (2013) all the other cast have great moments of comedy. 

Q: What are you doing now/next?
A: I have just completed a film called Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014), which we filmed in Vancouver, London and South Africa as well as China and Tibet. It is a German production, which I cannot wait to have out there because I am very proud of it. I am doing a thriller in Australia in September called Kill Me Three Times (2014) and I am rounding of the year shooting a romantic comedy here in the UK. 

Published December 5, 2013

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Simon Pegg

Dir: Edgar Wright
20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King (Simon Pegg), a 40-year old man trapped at the end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their home town and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub, The World's End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind's. Reaching The World's End is the least of their worries.

Australian DVD release, December 5, 2013

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