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As part of the vanguard for Hollywood’s current embrace of geekdom – he co-created the genre-minded British sitcom “Spaced” in 1999 – Simon Pegg is now living both the fanboy fantasy, with roles in power franchises like “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek,” and the industry dream, as an accomplished screenwriter and in-demand actor.
During a press roundtable for the darkly comic crime thriller “Kill Me Three Times,” in which he plays an amoral but charismatic hitman, Pegg took a few moments to look at his career, to sound off on the jaw-dropping first trailer for “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” and provide a sense of what’s been on his mind while crafting the screenplay for the third “Star Trek.”
For the past few years you’re in that very desirable place that many actors hope to get to, where you have a wealth of opportunity. Do you have an approach as to how you’re trying to balance those opportunities, from your own projects to the big studio films to exciting smaller-scale projects like “Kill Me Three Times”?
Simon Pegg: It’s kind of like juggling – you’re constantly catching and throwing, and sometimes you’ll drop it because you get the timing wrong. I, obviously, always want to make time for my own stuff with Edgar [Wright] and Nick [Frost], but at the same time, when something like this comes along, I want the opportunity to do that. Similarly, I love working on big movies like “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek.” So it’s just a juggling act, and today, Edgar’s calling me saying – because he’s here [in Los Angeles] developing something, and so as soon as I got into town, he’s like, “You’ve got to come around. We’ve got to brainstorm!” And I’m like, “I can’t! I’ve got all this stuff to do!”
But you just wing it. It’s the only thing you can do. I want to do films like [“Kill Me Three Times”], smaller-end surprises, which is always fast and passionate and there’s so much commitment from everybody. Not that it’s not like that on the bigger films, but the bigger films, there’s a bigger crash mat. You’re working with bigger resources. And there’s a longer period of time. But at the same time, during a film like this, which was just so much fun and intensive and really gratifying, I don’t want to not do those films as well.
That “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” trailer was insane. When you watch it, what kind of excitement do you get as an audience member – and did you get to see any of the plane scene?
I was on the plane, actually. Well, they did a couple of circuits of the airfield because it would take off, and it would always have to fly in a circle and land again. And because I shot my stuff at a different time, they were like, “You want to come on?” And so I came on to set. I did one when I sat in the cockpit, just watch it going round. And then I sat and watched Tom outside on the monitor. And I was there when the back door opened. And it was hilarious. It was just like, the only way he could top climbing the tallest building in the world is to be on something that isn’t attached to the ground and higher up, and it was like, “Well, that’s a plane.” The only thing you can do is an airplane, and he did it [laughs]. And a gaffer tapes him to the side of it and off he went.
It was extraordinary. And it’s funny. When you watch it in the trailer, when you do it on a working day, it’s like, “Wow! That’s amazing …Yeah, OK. Move on. What’s next?” Whereas you see in the trailer, it’s like, ‘Fuck – that’s insane!” So I’m very excited for audiences to see it. And there’s more. I only wrapped two weeks ago. So there’s stuff that’s not in the trailer. There’s set pieces that aren’t even glimpsed in the trailer which are extraordinary.
Did you pay attention to the reaction on social media?
A little. [Director] Chris McQuarrie just texted me actually and said, “It’s 1.2 billion hits!” Or something ridiculous like that. Yeah, from a distance.
What got you excited about the opportunity to write the next “Star Trek” movie, and can you talk about the sensibility you want to bring to it?
It just came out of conversations I was having with J.J. [Abrams] and Bryan Burk, and they decided to kind of like restart the process. Because I’d been on the set with Burk-y on “Mission: Impossible,” he said, “Maybe you should come on and write it with Doug and Justin and him and Lindsey Weber. And I was a bit, “No. I don’t want to – it’s too much pressure!”
But I think we just want to take it forward with the spirit of the TV show. And it’s a story about frontierism and adventure and optimism and fun, and that’s where we want to take it, you know. Where no man has gone before – where no one has gone before, sensibly corrected for a slighter more enlightened generation. But yeah, that’s the mood at the moment.
Keep an eye on SPINOFF ONLINE for more in-depth coverage of “Kill Me Three Times,” which opens April 10. “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” arrives July 31.