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Interview: Simon Pegg

Shaun of the Dead star on losing friends, alienating people, and wanking off to Gillian Anderson
By BRETT MICHEL  |  October 1, 2008

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Read the full transcript of Brett Michel's interview with Simon Pegg
Part 1 | Part 2
Thirty-eight-year-old British actor Simon Pegg’s US star has been on the rise since his zombie-movie parody Shaun of the Dead (directed by his old pal and fellow geek Edgar Wright and co-starring his portly friend Nick Frost) shuffled into multiplexes back in 2004. That was followed in 2006 by a brief but memorable cameo in J.J. Abrams’s Mission: Impossible III. When Hot Fuzz (directed by Wright and co-starring Frost) came out last year, I described the film as the “unholy offspring of Old Blighty and Hollywood: picture Agatha Christie buggered by Michael Bay, with (old-school) Peter Jackson administering lube.” Pegg’s beloved 1999–2001 BBC television series Spaced was recently released on DVD in the US, and he’s sure to see a rise in fame once Abrams’s reboot of the Star Trek franchise opens in theaters next summer, since he plays Scotty, the role originated by the late James Doohan. Just now, though, you can see him in Robert B. Weide’s adaptation of Toby Young’s memoir How To Lose Friends & Alienate People, headlining a cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Kirsten Dunst, and The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson, an actress he admitted as having “crushed on enormously” when I spoke with him at Boston’s Liberty Hotel. 

I just got finished watching Spaced. At the close of the pilot episode, you were about to masturbate to Gillian Anderson’s photo . . . 
The first thing Bob Weide said when Gillian sat down in the rehearsal room — with me having said, “Please don’t mention it to her” — was, “So, have you seen the episode where Simon wanks to ya?” I don’t think I’ve ever been as embarrassed. But she is such a good sport, Gillian is. She’s a boy’s girl. For someone as stunningly beautiful as she is, she’s a bit of a lad, which makes it all the more easy. We’ve become good pals now, which is bizarre for me. When I met Piper — her first child, Piper’s like 13 now, and she was conceived at the beginning of the second season of The X-Files, and you could see how Gillian grew on screen — the first thing I said to Piper was, “Ah, you must be the ‘bump’ from season two,” which she must have thought was half-geeky, half-hilarious.

Speaking of geeky and (sadly) hilarious: my notepad, as you can see here, is the one I used to take notes for my review of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. You’ve seen the film?
I haven’t seen it yet, to be honest. I, uh, . . . is it a terrible thing to say that I just don’t care anymore? There’s no question for me about the beauty and artistry of what those animators do; it’s incredible, and æsthetically, it’s a massive achievement and they should be applauded. But, if you’re going to do it, do the old characters! Do the sequel that we’ve always wanted to see, you know? Let’s pick up with Luke and Han and Chewie. I mean, Jesus!, I would care sooo much then, you know? Have you seen Patton Oswalt’s material about the prequels? He’s like [in a Southern accent]: “D’ya like Darth Vader? Y’get t’see him when he’s a kid!” I don’t give a fuck where they come from!

Well, let’s get the hell away from Star Wars, then.
Yeah, before we get bogged down.

You wrote a dissertation on “a Marxist overview of popular ’70s cinema”?
I did — with Star Wars–related works.

I think we’re bogging down . . . I guess Star Wars is in your blood; your fan base seems to be rooted in the “fanboy” culture.
Yeah. I’d really like to keep it that way. I’d just like to stay there, because I think they’re in it for the right reasons. Their enthusiasm is entirely honest, and not fickle. You never want to let them down, you never want to short-change them.

Are you interested in getting the Entertainment Weekly level of attention?
Entertainment Weekly is a cool magazine. The idea of being on the cover, you think, “Wow, I’ve achieved something.” But at the same time, you’re entering into an arena which is entirely unpredictable and, you know, hard to manage — the attention that it brings you when you do a job like this. It’s the equivalent of what radiation is to people who work in a nuclear-power plant. It’s a hazard of the job, in a way. It’s not altogether necessarily a good thing. There are no perks with radiation, obviously. You don’t get to go to parties and things.

But what about the radiation you might be exposed to from Ain’t It Cool News?
Well, you get radiation that turns you into a superhero. That kind of radiation.

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  Topics: Features , Simon Pegg , SPACED , Shaun of the Dead ,  More more >
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