Exclusive Simon Pegg Interview
It takes a special kind of person to make a romantic comedy with flesh-eating zombies in it. But it takes even more to create, write and star in your own hit TV series. Before he took on the undead, Simon Pegg
was making audiences cry with laughter in legendary shows like Spaced
and Big Train
. He also managed to sneak in more guest appearances in films than you might realise. Click on the link to find out where else you've seen Simon Pegg
and why we put him In the Spotlight.
To celebrate the release of Hot Fuzz on DVD, we had a chat with Simon about the inspiration behind the film, what he's been up to, and (more importantly) what video games he's got and his thoughts on having his own action figure.
Simon Pegg talks Nintendo Wii's, Star Wars, and tea with Timothy Dalton...
Amazon.co.uk (A): Hot Fuzz is now top of the pre-order charts, the fifth biggest selling pre-order DVD of the year, so I think congratulations are in order there.
Simon Pegg (SP): Thank you very much, that’s great to hear.
A: I think that potentially the pre-orders are indicative of the amount of excitement that’s built up around the film. You’ve got a huge fan following and they’ve had to wait about three years for this to come together. Clearly it’s a labour of love, very much hand crafted by you and Edgar. Is it something you actually enjoy - that development process - or is it a horrible painful streak of perfectionism?
SP: I think it’s probably a bit of both, truthfully. It didn’t take us that long, you know. Shaun of the Dead didn’t finish when it came out, we had to do international press, domestic press, we did American press and publicised the DVD so we had to get all of that done before we could even start writing Hot Fuzz or thinking about writing Hot Fuzz.
Hot Fuzz took about eighteen months. We do pay an enormous amount of attention to detail. We don’t want the camera to start rolling until we’re absolutely ready with it. You know we never go and do it half cocked, it’s important to have it all in place before we start shooting.
A: It seems that you carry that enthusiasm for crafting something goes through into your promotion. As you say you’ve been doing an enormous amount of press - you’ve done an awful lot of chat shows, comic festivals around the world. The excitement around the projects kind of waned slightly I imagine, but with that bit of hindsight, are there aspects of the film that you like doing and are there aspects that really stand out about Hot Fuzz that you’re really proud of now?
SP: I think it’s my favourite thing I’ve ever done and it’s one of those kind of things where I can watch it and enjoy it and I’m happy with it. The press thing that we do is a lot because it’s our thing and we live and die by this and we want to do it, so it’s important for us that it does well and we bite the bullet and do the press.
A: On the tour, I saw you at the Hot Fuzztival, back in February, and I think you mentioned there you were off for another two months. You were off to Australia and Scandinavia, I mean that must’ve been pretty tough, it’s kind of like doing a tour. You must be holed up in hotel rooms with Edgar for months on end.
SP: That’s exactly what it’s like. We went away to Sweden, and then we went to New Zealand and Australia, and then we went to Amsterdam, and we’ve just come back from being in America, and it’s been relentless and gruelling. We’ve barely seen anything where we’ve been there apart from hotel rooms and that can get tiring, but it’s still fun on the road, and Australia and New Zealand were brilliant. It’s always fun, it’s such an incredible place. You’ve got to keep positive, at times it just gets, it’s just overwhelmingly boring (laughs).
And you have to put on a fixed mind, just go through it. You owe everybody you speak to the same level of enthusiasm as everyone else. It’s completely self defeating to go into an interview situation in a bad mood, you know what I mean. I can’t stand it when you see people like bands being interviewed and they’re just shrugging and mumbling and you know, sell your f***ing product.
A: You remind me of Lennon and McCartney, pretty much the first three albums were written in hotel rooms just to essentially alleviate the boredom of hanging around.
SP: Yeah, absolutely.
A: Are you actually working on any future projects or are you working with some creative partners?
SP: Yeah, we kind of came up with the idea for our third project together when we touched down in Sydney. We kind of happened upon this idea but we resolved to keep it an absolute secret until we’re ready to.
A: In terms of a big project, Hot Fuzz has a lot of collaborators. It seems to follow on from Shaun of the Dead, which featured a load of British stars, you had Edward Woodward, Paddy Considine and Jim Broadbent - are you beginning to enjoy this or do you find it a little bit intimidating? Is it something that’s actually one of the perks of the job now?
SP: Absolutely, I mean it’s never intimidating to work with good people. We’ve been very lucky in that everyone we’ve worked with has been lovely. We’ve never come across anyone who’s ever been objectionable. It was great to meet the likes of Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward, Billy Whitelaw and find them to be wonderfully professional actors and people. Obviously you get nervous when you first meet them, and I think when we first met Tim, Edgar and I were kind of waiting outside the room saying, "You go first,", "No you go first", that initial period of getting to know people but as soon as the work starts, you know we had a great relationship. I mean the day we left LA last week we went round to Tim’s sort of pad in the hills in Hollywood and had a cup of tea and sat round and just had a nice chat about things. It was lovely to have got to that stage when we could just go to Timothy Dalton’s for a cup of tea!
A: That must be fantastic. Did you get on with Edward Woodward well, did you get any Wicker Man anecdotes?
SP: I’d describe Edward Woodward as being a gentleman you know, he’s such a lovely man and he’s great. We’d always have at least half an hour before we started rehearsing or shooting when we’d just talk and Edward’s got such great stories, his professional life, and working with Olivier, and Wickerman, and the similarities between Hot Fuzz and Wickerman. Straight away, you know what I mean, he came in after he’d read the script and we offered him a part and he said, "It’s quite similar to a film I did some time a go", like we didn’t know. We obviously are huge fans and Wickerman was probably the first film we sat down and watched when we were starting to think about our new project and, reason being it was the last serious British film to feature a uniformed officer in a central role.
A: I got ya, obviously no naughty, cheeky wall rubbing scenes with Britt Ekland though?
SP: No, but we did talk about that!
A: In terms of comedy, obviously you’ve got Bill Bailey and Martin Freeman, and I think Steve Coogan’s got a little role. From the outside looking in, it looks like some sort of Masonic inner circle of British comedic talent? You’ve got the best job in the world! Is it like you sit together and make each other laugh and figure out who’s going to figure in whose films?
SP: Well I think, for a start the comedy community isn’t massive anyway, it’s not acting. Obviously there’s thousands of actors. You just want to work with the best people and the alternative to not hiring Steve Coogan is hiring someone who’s not as good as Steve Coogan and that’s not an alternative at all. It’s not like an ‘in’ thing, it’s not like jobs for the boys. Steve Coogan is where he is because he’s brilliant, Martin Freeman similarly and Bill Nighy. The idea at the beginning of the film was to have Angel sent away by a really intimidating group of people, some form of like, each one trumps the next one and that’s why that’s the way it is.
A: Someone pointed out that’s it like seeing an emergence of a British equivalent of the sort of Wilson, Farrell, Stiller group who keep popping up in each other’s films. Do you think that’s going to carry on like that or do you think people make their own, or is that a terrible comparison to make?
SP: No, but I don’t know what the alternative is. Do you work with people you don’t know or like because you don’t think that? I mean the reason those guys all work together is because they get on and they have a good working relationship and they make each other laugh. It’s probably one of the most productive working environments you can have. Particularly in comedy, a lot of it’s down to chemistry you need people around you who you can bounce off.
A: Onto recent British comedy - series like Peep Show, Mighty Boosh, Extras, are you a fan of those?
SP: I know Peep Show’s a great show and I haven’t really watched it to be honest but I know Robert and David are great...
A: They’ve got their film coming out very soon...
SP: They’ve got Magicians coming out but I love The Mighty Boosh, that’s a great show. It’s got a wonderful nuttyness to it and a great sort of identity. And I prefer The Office to Extras.
A:Have you seen the US version of The Office?
SP: Yes, it’s fantastic.
A: Sorry to move over to Spaced but was there ever talk of a US version?
SP: Yeah. We didn’t want it to happen because they just wanted to change it so much and they didn’t want any references to casual drug use or they didn’t want my character to be interested in guns. It just seemed like they were ripping the heart out of it. Unfortunately, I think the pilot was written by the guy that wrote that show Dinosaurs but it was so sh*t it didn’t get picked up. We were quite happy with that.
A: That’s probably just as well. I think The Office stands out as an anomaly really in being a good cross over.
SP: Yeah, it’s accurate, I mean they’ve really taken the ball and run with it and I really think they’ve done a great job.
A: What about sequels because Shaun came out after 28 Days Later and now they’re doing 28 Weeks Later. Have you ever been keen on or ever considered doing a sequel of Shaun of the Dead?
SP: No, because I think sequels are just a cash in, you know. It’s not like, if you’ve got a story to tell, if it’s part of an ongoing story line - Lord of the Rings or Star Wars or whatever - then fair enough, but if you’re just doing it again because the last one made some money then I just think that’s a waste of three years to be honest. Everyone dies in Shaun of the Dead, there’d be no point making a sequel to that.
A: They could come back from the dead!
SP: In Hot Fuzz, really the joy is Angel and Danny getting to the point when they’re 'Hot Fuzz'. The title of the film doesn’t come up until the last second and it’s because it’s not until then that they become Hot Fuzz. It would be less interesting to pick up from there.
A: You talk about sequels, but is it the same reason you’ve not done any spin off games, because obviously you’re a big game man?
SP: Actually that’s just down to merchandising not coming up with it, you know, we’ve only just finally got the Shaun of the Dead action figures out, which is obviously a big thrill for me as a big geek collector - to have my own action figure. But it’s just crying out for a video game.
A: Hot Fuzz would be fantastic for the Nintendo Wii - have you tried the Wii yet?
SP: I have one, yeah.
A: Have you got a PS3?
SP: Yeah. I think it’s gonna be formidable when it finally is serviced with good games but at the moment there’s nothing really out there. At the moment the Xbox 360 is so far and away superior to it just because of the choice of games but I’ve got it there sitting, waiting to have a game worth playing on it.
A: What games have you been playing recently?
SP: I’ve been playing Lego Star Wars II and Dead Rising, mainly on the Xbox.
A: One thing we kind of wanted to do was to set up the Hot Fuzz weekend for all the Amazon customers - so how should they get Hot Fuzzed up? What should they be watching, what sort of films do they need to watch to do their homework?
SP: I think the key is to put hot cop action into the search engine on Amazon and see what comes up. Get down and dirty with your Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, Danny Glover and Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, and enjoy - just sit back and let it wash over you...