10 Questions with Simon Pegg

Simon Peggand Nick Frost’s(Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) newest filmic collaboration is Paul, a movie about two Sci-Fi Uber-Fans that encounter extra-terrestrial activity after attending Comic-Con here in San Diego. Below is my interview with Pegg. However, there is no way to post this interview without giving the background story as to how it came to fruition.

My second assignment for a film website was to perform the script review for Paul. I tweeted about it and happened to name-check Simon and Nick’s Twitter accounts. Almost immediately I got direct messages from Simon and Nick, asking why I was reviewing their script. I was in a bit of a panic. The last thing I wanted to do was start a snowball down a hill. After Simon followed me on Twitter, we had the chance to converse in 140 characters or less at a time about the situation.

He had some very strong opinions on the process of Script Reviews (see the interview below). I asked him if he’d be willing to share that opinion in a short interview with me and to my surprise he accepted without any reluctance. The following is the result of that interview.

NOTE: #9 involves Scott Pilgrim and it had not been released at the time of this interview

1. What are your thoughts on “script reviewing?”

I think script reviewing is fine as an exercise in screen writing study and only then if the draft is finished and not leaked. For me as a writer/performer the script is an ever evolving thing and at no point prior to the film being locked in the edit could be considered a finished piece of work. Reviewing it then would be similar to reviewing a painting by the list of colors and brushes that will be used, or a book before it’s been edited and proof read.

Every film I have written, I have written additional dialog or scenes after filming has been completed, so even the shooting script is not entirely a faithful representation of what the eventual film would be. I guess the most productive script review would be in hindsight, looking back at the shooting script in light of the finished film, to see how it turned out. A script reviewed before a film is out is simply ‘spoilering’ masquerading as critical study and unfair to the creatives involved if they have not given their permission for the work to be evaluated. More one-upmanship than valuable study.

The leakers are the real villains though. People that leak scripts should be forced to eat their contraband like Ash sticks that magazine down Ripley’s throat in Alien.

2.Paulcenters around two friends going to Comic-Con in San Diego. I know you two have done panels at previous conventions, so did any of your experiences color your portrayal of it from the “other side” of the autograph table?

Absolutely. We love Comic Con and I’m a big fan of those events in general. There’s something honest and uplifting about unabashed enthusiasm and that’s what conventions are all about. I love those people, they are anything but conventional.

3. I loved AdventureLand, and I’m a big Freaks and Geeks guy, so what did you think of working with Greg Mottola, director of Paul?

Greg is a kindred spirit. I’m not a big fatalist but I think there was something inevitable about our paths crossing, if only because shared interests brought us together. He’s very different in approach to Edgar but no less focused or gifted. His approach is gentler but still infused with a wonderful comic sensibility. If Edgar is Biff! Bang! Pow! Greg is tickle, tickle tickle.

4. Whatever happened with the rumored Pegg/Steinberg/Peter Jackson project that was floating around? (Note that I’m referring to Steven Spielberg, the most recognizable name in modern cinema; but this is what happens when auto-correct spell checking goes awry!)

Do you mean Spielberg? If so, that would be Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn which we shot last year. It’s a performance capture movie so it will be on post production for a while before anyone sees it. I spoke to Peter last week and he seems very excited about it. If you do mean Steinberg, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Ha Ha.

5. I’m a giant comedy-nerd, so Michael Ian Black is big in my universe. What was it like working with him on Run Fatboy, Run?

I didn’t really work much with Michael. I basically got handed his script and asked to make it more British. I really can’t take credit for that story as it was already there. I guess it would be an interesting exercise to compare and contrast the two. Much of the Michael’s dry sense of humour was already there; I just ethnicized it really and added the phrase “monkey balls”. I really like Michael though. Working with Joe Lo Truglio on Paul, I discovered The State and so went back to the early days of Mr. Black. There are some brilliant sketches on that show.

6. Any planned further collaborations with Nick and Edgar Wright (director of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz)?

Always. They are my homeboys. That triumvirate is where I feel most at home. We are old, old friends and our working method is very fluid. We don’t have to say much to each other to understand what’s going on. We’re like those psychic nodders from Beneath The Planet Of The Apes but with better skin.

7. Two words, ending with punctuation: SpacedReunion?

Not for the show no. The time has passed; it would be a completely different show now, since we have all grown up. Spaced was about being in the netherworld between childhood and adulthood. I’m forty now. Tim and Daisy would have settled down, had a couple of kids and probably got divorced by now. Who wants to watch that?

However I would work with every actor on that show in a heartbeat. It was a great group and I miss working together.

8. Speaking of Spaced, did anyone ever approach you to bring Spaced over to America, a la The Office? I’ve always wondered. That show was perfect as it was, but it would’ve been interesting to see who played Tim and Daisy.

A pilot was made by Fox without our permission or consultation. It was hideous and thankfully didn’t get picked up. Spaced was an incredibly personal show, not some franchise that could be transplanted to different territories. I love The Office but the storyline is more conventional and universal so it was easy to create incarnations of it elsewhere.

Spaced is just way too specific to travel successfully. Perhaps with the right actor/writers, something could be done in the spirit of it but it would take a lot of work and we would have to be involved. Ultimately though, I don’t think it would work. That show was a televisual manifestation of Jess, Edgar and my personality, anything else would be someone else’s and so not Spaced.

Witness a clip of the remake here.

9.I have to assume you’ve seen (at least a few times) a cut or two of Scott Pilgrim, any thoughts on it? Did you do any work on that film, since Edgar Wright directed?

I haven’t seen it yet. Edgar wanted me to see it when it was completely finished so we agreed that I would watch it for the first time at the premiere. I am very excited. It’s going to be extraordinary. Edgar’s talent is prodigious and I love the idea of him being let loose with a bigger budget. That kid will go far.

10. If I didn’t ask at least one question about Shaun of the Dead, I’d be very upset with myself. Your performances in Phillip’s death scene and the final scene underneath the pub carried serious emotional weight. Any plans to do some roles of a more purely “Dramatic” nature?

Absolutely. Acting is acting, whether it’s comedic or serious. People tend to assume if you are a comedy actor, then what you do is clown around. That’s not really the case unless you are actually a clown and we all know those guys just aren’t funny. Comedy acting is about timing and emotion and reaction and generally, to work at maximum effectiveness it has to be delivered convincingly, otherwise it won’t be funny. Sorry, what was the question again.

You can follow Simon Pegg on Twitter @SimonPegg and Nick Frost @NickJFrost.