Simon Pegg Exclusive

SFX recently caught up with alpha geek Simon Pegg for a natter about upcoming projects. Here he shares his thoughts on working with Spielberg and Jackson on Tintin, his new Stateside SF comedy Paul, the state of play on the Cornetto Trilogy… and why you probably won’t see him in the Star Wars TV show.

You’ve just filmed Tintin. How was your experience with motion capture?

It was a weird experience. It was quite hard as an actor, because you have to totally pull it out of somewhere. You’re dressed in what looks like a bizarre scuba-diving outfit with a helmet on, with a camera and a light pointed at your face the whole time. And you’ve got dots all over your face! So me, Nick [Frost], Jamie Bell and Daniel Craig were all doing scenes together, taking it very seriously – although it’s a light-hearted adventure, you have to take it seriously – and we just looked ridiculous. We were in this massive grey space called The Volume that represents an area of the studio that can be rendered digitally. Once you enter The Volume you see yourself on the monitor as your character. So Nick and I looked at the monitor and we were the Thomson Twins, although nowhere near as good as it’ll eventually look… It was better than an N64 game, but nowhere near as amazing it will be. So you can look at yourself and move around and see the characters moving, which is how Nick and I can look absolutely identical.

And how was Spielberg as a director? Surely that’s a pinch-me moment.

You get it when you meet him. When you watch him work and you hear him speak and you see him having ideas, you completely understand why he is where he is. He’s such a clever man. And Peter Jackson was directing us on iChat, from New Zealand, so Steven would come out and go “Great… Now try it this way” and then you’d hear this other voice go “Hello guys, it’s Peter!” And he’d be coming over the tannoy like God. And him and Steven work really well together – there was never any “Oh, shut up, Steven!” They took each other’s ideas onboard.

Was there much opportunity for a good geek-out?

He was so willing to talk about stuff. We had a great chat about Close Encounters, about George Lucas coming to see him on the set, just after he’d finished Star Wars, and seeing the Devil’s Tower set and all the extras and just being so depressed, because he totally thought Star Wars was a piece of shit. And he said to Steven “Do you want to swap points?” So they gave each other two points from each other’s films, and Steven made a fortune from Star Wars! It’s so funny to talk to him about that, and ET and Raiders… to have that level of access to someone of whom I’m such a huge fan is such a privilege. Nick and I left the room that day and jumped up and down in the corridor. We couldn’t believe that we’d had this talk.

What’s the latest on Paul, your new SF comedy movie with Nick?

We’ve just been greenlit. I think we start on June 8. I’m really happy with the script. It’s obviously going to be different for us because we’re shooting over in the States, and it’s going to be a completely American cast apart from Nick and me. But in terms of the finer details I’m trying to keep it as secret as possible. I think Nick blabbed a whole bunch of stuff the other day. And I was like “What did you do that for?!” [laughs]

It’s supposed to be a small scale comedy with a CGI alien, right?

Well, not entirely. That’s not a requisite of the film. I know it’s out there now that Paul is from another planet. It all depends on how we can make him work. And however he can work the most effectively and convincingly is how we’ll do it. That might take some CG, it might take some animatronics, it might take some people in costumes… We’re working it out.

Are you talking to effects houses?

Yeah, we’ve been working with Double Negative and Spectral Motion in LA, and they’re fantastic. I love going to those places – I think it’s what I would have liked to have done if I hadn’t been an actor. I was always interested in maquette making and special effects when I was a kid, so I love going to these workshops in LA. They do all sorts of things; they sculpt action figures as well as stuff for movies, so there’ll be Abe Sapien stood in the corner and some guy next to him will be working on a 3:1 scale Boba Fett. It’s really great. You just lap it up.

You’ve done Doctor Who, you’ve done Star Trek. Have you got your sights set on the Star Wars TV show?

I don’t know… I think I’d be a hypocrite, to be honest, because I’ve been fairly outspoken – at least artistically – about the prequels. I haven’t seen The Clone Wars. I didn’t even go and see it in the cinema. I just don’t know if I care anymore. I guess I’d have to address it as a script… It might be brilliant. I’ve heard some stuff about the new TV series and it sounds like an interesting idea. I think people are at their wits’ end. I think there might be one chance left. But I honestly don’t know if I care – and that’s incredible, because the first three meant so much to me. But it’s like, you know, eventually you leave an abusive partner… [laughs] You don’t stay and get beaten.

Are you still reteaming with Edgar Wright for a follow-on to Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz?

Edgar’s away doing Scott Pilgrim at the moment. We’re just gathering ideas. I think it’s going to be good. We’ve always seen it as being the logical end to that series of films. It’s going to be Shaun Of The Dead x Hot Fuzz. It will be the answer to that equation. If Shaun Of The Dead was about being in your late 20s and Hot Fuzz was about your early 30s, I think this film will be about getting a little older, and the effects of that on you as a person… probably in an extraordinary situation, we’ll see. I don’t know yet!

Could you do Spaced in your 40s?

We could, but it would have to be about being that age. Spaced was very much of its time and about a specific period of your life when you don’t know what to do with the time you have. It’s like “Well, I don’t have to get married right now, and I don’t have to have kids, so what the fuck do I do?” So you just fill it with more kiddish stuff, you just extend your youth. It would be interesting to see those guys facing up to their 40s. And it would have to be a show for people of a similar age. One thing that Spaced succeeded in doing, which we always really wanted it to do, was talk very personally to the generation that it was about. Another one would have to do that too. So you never know. Maybe in twenty years!

Join us again soon as Pegg talks Star Trek: “It took me three days to say yes…”

Nick Setchfield