Simon Pegg can pretty much do it everything.
The British actor and filmmaker has come up through making small, highly impactful comedies like "Shaun of the Dead" to become a surprising Hollywood heavyweight, thanks to his iconic, star-making turns in the "Star Trek" and "Mission: Impossible" franchises. (He's got new entries of both coming soon; "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" arrives July 2018 and Paramount recently announced a fourth "Trek," this time directed by C.J. Clarkson.) It's that versatility that continues to make him one of the most exciting actors to watch and what makes his performance in "Terminal" (out today in theaters and on VOD) particularly electric.
In "Terminal," he plays a man who is down on his luck and who encounters a seductive waitress (Margot Robbie) in a rundown train station diner. It's there that they start to explore the darker aspects of each others personalities, which leads to some very big surprises. (We can say no more!) It not only marks a return to the smaller movies that Pegg started in, but also a more mature, layered, and complicated character than we've seen him recently (his last film was "Ready Player One" and, for most of the time, he played an animated robot butler).
So you can imagine what a thrill it was to get to chat with Pegg about his new film, announcements in the "Star Trek" universe, and why he's done with "Star Wars."Moviefone: What drew you to "Terminal?"
Simon Pegg: When I read the script, I just loved that there was so much dialogue in it -- it kind of felt like a play. I'd felt like I hadn't done any acting in that vein for a long, long time. It had speeches and back-and-forth. I'd done a lot of reacting in things -- and delivered a lot of exposition -- but I hadn't done something as chewy as that. I liked the prospect of that and sparring with Margot. It just felt like a fun thing to do.
It's also the smallest movie you've done in a while. Was that part of the appeal?
Absolutely. That's where I'm from as a filmmaker and something that I always want to stay in touch with. I love that it was a group of young film professionals who decided to call themselves producers and got this film together. Vaughn, who is the director, had been an AD and this was his first feature. It's so important that it happens in this industry, that people get ideas and get them made. I really loved the drive of that. It just felt really great and I wanted to be a part of it.
What was it like working with Margot, especially as both an actor and producer?
Well, we actually had a lot of rehearsal time before going out to Budapest -- which was a really nice change of pace. On the bigger films, you usually show up to set and rehearse on the day and then you do it. So it was nice to get into a room with her and establish our rhythm and get to know her a little bit. Her dual role in the film ... we know she's a really good actor, but it was great to see her as a producer. She's great and very serious about it and down to earth. Her ego doesn't come into play, it's all about the film. I was impressed by her; I was impressed by her pragmatism and intelligence. When Margot walks into a room, the first thing you see is her face because she's very beautiful -- and it's very easy to underestimate people who are visually striking. But she has real chops when it comes to the practical aspects of filmmaking. She's awesome.
"Terminal" director Vaughn Stein said that he had a "Shaun of the Dead" poster up on his dorm room wall. Is it weird working with filmmakers who have been inspired by your work?
Well, one of the reasons we bonded was because we went to the same university. We did the same theater, film, and television course. So we found a shared love of film together. He didn't tell me that for a while. But I think it's wrong to underestimate anybody, and it's flattering that somebody would have appreciated your stuff. You immediately like them as well, because you're an insecure person and think, "Somebody liked me." But I could tell that he had a real passion for film; I liked his ideas, he spoke very passionately about what he wanted to do, and it's rare to be in that situation these days.
It's hard for young, first-time filmmakers to get films made. And to work with someone who was doing that was really exciting. It reminded me of when I was making "Shaun of the Dead" and we didn't know where we were going, or if it was going to succeed.You have a new "Mission: Impossible" coming out this year. When you signed on for the third one, did you have any idea you'd still be making these so many years later?
No. Absolutely not. I did "M:I:III" as a favor to J.J. Abrams, who was doing his first feature. He'd seen "Shaun of the Dead" and I think he was just trying to get people around him who related to him. I think at the Saturn Awards, in 2005, he'd seen me but didn't come up and introduce himself because he was nervous. So he called me. And I thought it was funny. It was like I had a little competition to be in a Hollywood film, so I'd go away and come back. And, of course, I became great friends with J.J. and got "Star Trek" as a result of that. And, one day, he emailed me and said: "What do you think about Benji being an agent?" And I said, "I'm in." Not knowing that we'd do another one after that, or another one after that. It just happened and I'm very happy that it has.
One question about "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" ... does Benji get to wear a mask in this one?
I couldn't possibly tell you. It's a spoiler. It's been a running joke. I did get to wear one in a hypothetical cut-away in "Rogue Nation," but it doesn't count because I didn't get to actually wear one.
There was obviously the very exciting announcement out of CinemaCon that "Star Trek" is getting its first female director. Are you excited about this? And what does it mean for the franchise?
I'm very excited about it. It feels belated, for a start. It's about time. I can't wait to see what she brings to it as a director, irrespective of her gender. She's done some fantastic work, I think her ideas are really inspirational and it feels like a perfectly timed thing. And so right that it's "Star Trek." Embarrassingly, in 2018, it should have happened a long time ago. I can't wait to meet her and give myself over to her ideas.
And the Quentin Tarantino project is something you're aware of, but possibly not involved in, correct?
No, well -- we don't know anything about it. Because they know that we'll get asked about it all the time and they protect us from ourselves. I know as much as you do. I just know that Quentin came in with an idea and I'm excited to see what fruit that bears. I know there was some kind of consternation from the fans. But he's a devoted "Star Trek" fan and an incredibly gifted filmmaker, so I can't think of anything more exciting than him having a crack at it.You made a comment recently about being done with "Star Wars." Why is that?
After being in "The Force Awakens," it was like getting to literally be in "Star Wars." I was in the desert of Abu Dhabi in the workshop. It was like being in a 3D environment. And I guess, getting to glimpse behind the curtain, it stopped being something that I was watching from afar -- like I did as a kid -- and more something that I was involved in. I had an odd sense of ennui afterwards, like I had fulfilled my destiny. And then afterwards, I haven't felt particularly compelled to have anything else to do with it. It's a weird feeling. It's no disrespect. I just felt like I'd done what I always wanted to do when I was a kid, which is be in a "Star Wars" film. And now, I don't give a shit anymore.
So if Unkar Plutt appears in the third one ...
I'd say, "Make him CG this time, because that suit is hot." No, of course. J.J. is a dear, dear friend and anything he needs from me, I'll be there. I owe him so much. He's responsible for so much of my navigation through the Hollywood movie machine. I'll always be there for him, just because it's J.J.
"Terminal" is in theaters and on VOD starting today.