Jonathan Crocker

Editorial Director | Journalist

Simon Pegg: Nerd Do Well

Posted by Jonathan On October - 15 - 2010

Is there anything controversial in your new autobiography?

No, not really. I mean, there’s whole thing about Meredith Catsanus… I’m sure that particular girl wouldn’t have minded me telling the story.

Go on…

I kind of say, ‘This isn’t going to be a tell-all. I’m not going to talk about my first sexual experience.’ But then I do, about touching this girl’s boobs. And I didn’t want to name her. I do name a lot of friends from childhood – because I didn’t touch their boobs.

Why call your book Nerd Do Well?

That’s where the word ‘Nerd’ comes from. The word Nerd is a shortening of Ne’er Do Well. It’s a bit self-aggrandising actually…

Well, touching boobs probably makes you a high-functioning nerd…

Yes! Haha. Yes. I’m not like the kind of anorak, basement-dweller archetype. I mean, I marvel at the level of some fan dedication. There’s a whole regiment of Stormtroopers called the 501st, who have garrisons all round the world.

Don’t those hardcore geeks scary you a bit?

No, I think it’s inspiring.  I love it. It’s so honest. I think part of the reason why Star Trek attracted such a following is because it’s a universe where everyone’s accepted. It’s this incredible utopia where you can be different and you’re still included.

Did you steal anything from the Star Trek set?

You know, Star Trek was the hardest thing! I nick stuff from my own films, because they can’t stop me. But Star trek, every night I checked in my phaser and my Star Trek ring with props. No, I didn’t.

Definitely?

Do you know what, I genuinely couldn’t have done. JJ Abrams is a master secret-keeper. He really is. I used to try to get stuff about Lost off him on set and he would not give a thing away.

You’re back for Star Trek 2?

Oh yeah. Yeah. It’s being written now and Scotty’s still in there. I spoke to Damon Lindahoff, who’s one of the writers, and it’s about them all getting to know each other, becoming friends and learning to trust each other.

You’re in Mission: Impossible 4 too. Do you keep in touch with Tom Cruise?

I sent him a message to say hi at the ITV Movie Awards because I missed him – he was there and I went home. And he sent me one back saying, ‘You’ve avoiding me.’

Is he a nice guy in person?

The sweetest thing he did once was when they asked him to present a comedy award to me at the ITV comedy awards. He wasn’t selling anything at the time and it wasn’t even televised, so he wasn’t going to do that. But he sent me this big Fortnum & Mason’s hamper to say sorry I didn’t do that but good luck. So all Christmas, we had The Tom Cruise Marmalade in the fridge. It was just a really thoughtful thing to do.

Did he ever try to convert you?

He never mentioned any of his beliefs when he worked together. There was never any Scientology tent. There is a lot of mythology surrounding him. He’s lived an extraordinary life and he is the product of that life. He’s quite otherworldly, Tom Cruise.

Does it amaze you that you’re working with people like Cruise and Spielberg?

If I could have known that when I was young, I would have just been running around screaming with excitement. I mean, the first time I met Spielberg, I almost crashed on the freeway back, because I was kinda like, ‘Yaaarrggh!’

Are you the only British actor who’s managed to avoid appearing in any Richard Curtis films?

Richard Curtis had a big read-through for Love, Actually and I went along to that and I read the part that Rowan Atkinson eventually played. That was when the script was really big. It was like THAT thick. As opposed to that thick.

Now you’re famous, do you get weird fan mail?

I get off pretty lightly actually. I get a lot of fan mail because I’ve become attached to big fan-bases  like Star Trek, Doctor Who and Narnia now as well. Occasionally you get odd letters.

For example?

Well, I know there’s a guy who writes to actress and always asks for pictures of their hands. He’s in prison.

You’re a big tweeter. What’s your favourite Twitter moment?

We did a real-time twitter Paranormal Activity play. I tweeted one morning that my attic was open and I didn’t know why. I did know why, it was a faulty catch. Everyone was going, ‘Oh that’s really creepy.’ So then I started to lie… I tweeted that my dog was sat underneath it barking. Then I said, I’m going to go up there and check it out. I’ll be back in five minutes. And I didn’t come back for two days.

And you got Nick Frost involved too, right?

I said to Nick and my sister Kate, ‘If people ask you where I am, say you don’t know, then say you’re going to come round my house.’ And then they all vanished.  And we vanished for two days. Then the only thing I tweeted after disappearing was this phrase in Ancient Greek: ‘They’re my children now and you will never see them again.’ It was really creepy. Then three days later, exactly five minutes after I’d gone up before, I tweeted, ‘There’s nothing up there. It’s fine.’

What might you have been if you’d never made it as an actor?

There was a time when I wanted to be a vet. But I don’t have any technical mathematical skills. I don’t have a brain like that. It doesn’t do maths. I was always very interested in special effects. I might have gone into prosthetic makeup. I was always building little heads and filling them with blood and squashing them in vices when I was a kid.

Who would play you in a biopic of your life?

I don’t know, I don’t know… I’m trying to think of an actor the equivalent of me at 20. Somebody…  I’m so out of touch with the youngsters now. Maybe Michael Cera seeing as Edgar’s replaced me with Michael for Scott Pilgrim.

Now that you’ve ticked off Star Trek, would you like to star in Superman or Bond?

Only to play a villain, I could never play either of them. We were at Comic-Con recently and we saw Daniel Craig and he is a leading man. He’s just got the look, he’s built, he’s got the requisite. I don’t. I’m just a regular guy.

How about Q?

Oh, that’d be fun. Somebody said that to me. You should be the new Q. It depends. Now I’m a voice in the new Narnia movie, I’d like to do something that’s not attached to a known brand.

You’re starring with Craig in Steven Spielberg’s Tintin. Maybe you could text him about Q?

Yeah! Yeah, I could actually. ‘Hey Daniel…’ I dunno what’s happening with Bond. That’s all up in the air. He’s got about a million things on so he’s not worried.

What was it like getting the call from Spielberg?

I remember the night I came back from seeing Raiders for the first time. And then, 30 years later, him calling the house and my mum hearing his voice coming out of my phone. And me thinking, ‘Wow, do you remember that night when I came back and said how amazing Raiders was and how brilliant that guy was? Here he is. We can hear him in our house. That’s the guy.’

What’s Spielberg like on set?

There’s no false-modesty there. He’ll just tell you a story about making Close Encounters, because for him it was just making a film. He would always say, ‘That’s in the movie!’ That’s his way of saying, ‘You did a good take.’ He started calling me and Nick ‘his boys’, too: ‘Here’s my boys, here’s my boys…’

How awesome was it being directed by him?

It was awesome on a daily basis. Me and Andy Serkis were doing a scene where Captain Haddock is shaking me. Steven goes, ‘No, no, no. Try and do it like this.’ So Steven got on top of me and he started shaking me. I was just lying on the floor being beaten up by King Kong and Steven Spielberg.

Has he shown you any footage yet?

I’ve only seen what was up on the screen when we were shooting, which was very crude kind of N64 level version of what we were doing. But it’ll look like Herge’s drawings in 3D. As real as Avatar, if not more so, because technology has advanced.

What’s the latest on your next film with Edgar Wright?

Edgar blabbermouthed this ‘World’s End’ title and I phoned him and said, ‘You IDIOT. What have you done? That’s exactly what we said we weren’t gonna  do.’ Because suddenly it becomes a thing, an entity. At the moment, there’s no entity.

Is it a disaster-movie parody?

No, I don’t know what it is. We’ve got a rough idea. I think it’s just going to be another film about where we are in our lives right now. About growing up. It’ll be about being 40.

What’s it like turning 40?

My 40th birthday was the most bizarre thing. I was stood on a gallows with a noose round my neck, my hands tied behind my back and 500 warty peasants singing me happy birthday. I was filming Burke And Hare that day and the scene was my own execution. I don’t feel any different. It’s a milestone, figuratively. Such a long way from 28, which is what I was when I made Spaced.

Have you had a mid-life crisis yet?

Yeah… I think I’m having one. I really want to buy a Porsche. That’s probably what that is.

What’s the most outlandish thing you’ve bought?

I’m not very outlandish. I bought a massive TV for my house. I have a room in the house especially for watching films.

How massive are we talking?

It’s like, 65ins, plasma. You know, HD, all that kind of stuff. Gives off quite a lot of heat, actually. It’s quite a warm room. But I’m just not very extravagant.

So you’ve never blown a couple of million of a Superman cape or something?

I’ve got a customised Darth Vader helmet which I bought at auction. But I don’t have a Stormtooper outfit in a glass case or anything like that.

Not even one?

No, I don’t. I genuinely don’t. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have much money growing up, I guess. I’m not a hugely materialistic person. I’ll buy shitloads of stuff for the dog.

Publication: ShortList

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About Me

Following a decade’s experience as a journalist, Jonathan currently specialises in editorial and brand storytelling as Editorial Director of London-based creative agency Human After All. He continues to write about life and film on a freelance basis.

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