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Sunday 17 December 2017

Square Pegg really fits

SIMON PEGG'S A HOLLYWOOD STAR, BUT HE'S HOLDING ON TO HIS NERD STATUS. PAUL BYRNE APPROVES

NO matter which way you dress up Simon Pegg, the man always - always looks like the cuckoo in the nest. Not so much in those cool little indie films he and his friends make, of course. I'm talking about the dirty great big Hollywood blockbusters that this little nerd from Gloucester has somehow managed to infiltrate.

Whether it's being the techno-nerd for Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible franchise or being the, well, techno-nerd for JJ Abrams in his Star Trek reboots, Simon Pegg seems to be Hollywood's idea of the perfect square.

"I think there might just be a strong idea in Hollywood of the sort of roles that I'm good for," nods the 42-year old actor, who keeps his wife Maureen and their three-year-old daughter out of the spotlight. "Cast me as the martial arts hero and it's going to raise a few laughs right from the first half-assed high kick. Cast me as the romantic lead who saves the world and gets the girl, and again, I'd be there more for chuckles than for the cheering.

"To be honest, if Hollywood decided I was only good for elevator operator roles, I'd happily play them in whatever movies they saw fit. It's just a blast being able to work with people that I thought I'd never even be lucky enough to meet. More remarkably, I'm getting to make the kind of movies that I would normally just be sitting back on my couch ripping inside out for hours on end with my mates."

Whether or not Simon Pegg rips out the insides of those blockbusters he -- and his golden-ticket mates, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright -- have been involved in over the last few years is something that he's not about to reveal here. Not completely.

"We talk about our movies, of course," he nods, "but we've come to realise just how ridiculously hard it is for someone to have complete control when it comes to making a big movie -- so, we don't tend to automatically blame the director or the leading actor anymore. There are so many other factors that can strangle a movie.

"Having said that," Pegg adds with a smile, "there's nothing like ripping into a really bad movie every now and then. Just letting the screen have it with both barrels, as you laugh your way through a ferociously misguided mess." Still, you have to admire just how far this self-confessed movie geek (his 2011 autobiography is wittily called Nerd Do Well) has come since his big-screen breakthrough, Shaun Of The Dead, the 2004 movie that put Pegg, Frost, and director Wright (who co-wrote the script with Pegg), on the radar.

Beyond Shaun though, Pegg has yet to carry a movie to any great success, with even 2011's US love-in Paul failing to find a big audience. As a supporting player though, our boy is turning into something approaching a lucky charm. Both the Star Trek reboot of 2009 and the Mission: Impossible comeback in December with Ghost Protocol proved to be global box-office sensations, bringing Kirk, Spock and even Cruise back from the dead.

Having just completed playing Scotty again in a second Star Trek outing with Abrams (the untitled sequel due out here on May 13 next year), Pegg bravely takes another shot at leading man status in this month's Brit comedy A Fantastic Fear Of Everything.

The film debut of one-time pop prince Crispin Mills (son of director Roy Boulting and Hayley Mills, and grandchild of John Mills), the former Kula Shaker frontman writes and co-directs this Dahl-meets-Comic Strip tale about a former children's author who goes a little loopy investigating Victorian serial killers.

The poster for A Fantastic Fear Of Everything features a very hairy, wide-eyed and scared Pegg in his best yellow jumper and Y-fronts, screaming hysterically. It's pretty much all you need to know.

Pegg signed up for Mills's curious little comedy partly because it was the first project to be backed by Pinewood's new drive to support low-budget British films.

"Obviously, I really liked the script," he states flatly, "and I wanted to work with all the wonderful people involved, but it's great to see a big studio like Pinewood get behind small films like this. Because it's with small films like this that talent is able to flourish. You can learn your craft, you can have your voice heard, and you get to take a shot at the target. Which is the audience, of course."

Pegg's latest is back in the horror genre he loves so well. "To me, horror and comedy are very, very closely related. You scream, and you laugh, almost instantaneously. We know it's a movie, we know we're being silly when we actually get frightened, but it's all part of the joy of horror."

A Fantastic Fear of Everything hits screens on Friday

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