Capone takes lessons from Simon Pegg on HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE!!! Like he needs help...
Published at: Sept. 30, 2008, 7:21 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
It seems like only yesterday when I sat down with Simon Pegg, along with his "Spaced" comrades Edgar Wright and Jessica Hynes (see it here), but I never miss a chance to sit down with Mr. Pegg. This is actually the third time I've talked with Simon over the years, but the first time where it's just been the two of us. Simon was in Chicago recently to promote his latest film HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE, a film in which he gets to share a significant amount of screen time with his hero Jeff Bridges, as well as Gillian Anderson, Megan Fox, Danny Huston, and Kirsten Dunst. The story is based on the book by Toby Young about his days at Vanity Fair magazine. For the film, names have been changed to protect the guilty (Pegg's character's name is Sidney Young), but the tale of this hapless tabloid journalist from the UK being recruited by a glossy U.S. publication still give Pegg the opportunity to try out a different style of acting (in general) and comedy (specifically) than he usually does with Wright.
Entering a conversation with Pegg with a list of questions seems silly at this point. The conversation flows pretty naturally at this point, but I had certain ground I had to cover and certain ground I wanted to cover, and hopefully this discussion does both successfully. Here's everyone's hero, Simon Pegg…
Simon Pegg: We must stop meeting like this.
Capone: True enough, but this is our first time one on one. Is that nerve wracking going out with Edgar and Nick?
SP: It's not nerve wracking so much as lonely. When it's me, Nick, and Edgar, or me, Edgar and Jess, you can always throw over to the other person if there's a particularly difficult question, you defer it by coughing slightly. But when you're on your own, you have to do everything. It is strange. I keep coming back to places that certainly me, Nick, and Edgar have been to, like I just was on the Mancow show this morning, the fourth time I've done that show, and it was really strange to do it alone.
Capone: If you want, you can pretend one of them is here with you and cough if you want them to take over.
SP: [laughs] If I look over there [gestures to the empty space next to him on the couch] and I'm silent for five seconds, make something up.
Capone: That's fine, I can do that. I don't know if you noticed, but the day the interview from Comic-Con went up, somebody altered Edgar's Wikipedia page to reflect his comments about directing the next STAR TREK film, the Tribbles vs. Ewoks sequel.
SP: Oh really. [laughs] That's great. TRIBLES VS. EWOKS: THE FURRYING. I remember.
Capone: How much did it hurt to have to bow out of INGLORIOUS BASTARDS?
SP: It did hurt. Just to be clear, I didn't turn it down. Quentin and I were on the phone for hours just talking through the situation. He's going to need a bunch of guys to be his for three months because…well, you've read the script, right?
SP: So you know it's intense, and there's a lot of German speaking. My character would have spoken German. I would have had to learn German extensively and be in Germany talking it. But I have something else I'm doing that I'm already locked into…a couple of things actually. I can't really speak about them just yet.
Capone: Are you talking about something aside from PAUL [a film he co-wrote with Nick Frost, to be directed by SUPERBAD's Greg Mottola]?
SP: Yeah, there's something big before PAUL, and it involves a relationship with a filmmaker that I respect enormously. Even though the work is a lot shorter than BASTARDS would have been, it was out of my hands. And Quentin was like, well, maybe we can do this and that scheduling wise, and we were pushing things around. But in the end, it just didn't work out. And Michael Fassbender, who's now playing the part, is such a good actor, and I'll be able to watch the film now at least and not be wishing my face was up there. But I made him promise to put me in the next one.
Capone: I must have missed you saying so when we had lunch at Comic-Con, but when I was transcribing the interview, I heard you say almost as an aside that you had something to do before PAUL.
SP: At that point, it probably was INGLORIOUS BASTARDS because I literally got the script on the way to Comic-Con. I'd read it the night before I saw you, and then I got to Austin the next day and was on the phone to Quentin for a half and hour, and he was telling me about the role, and I was getting excited. I was really disappointed, but it was kind of…I'd read somewhere that I'd pulled out. It wasn't a voluntary thing; it was literally a situation we couldn't get out of. There was no animosity. Quentin was so nice to me, and he sent me something. I am gutted, but it happens.
Capone: Let me ask you a couple of questions about HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS, since that's technically why we're here. Is the romantic lead Simon Pegg a different person than the action hero Simon Pegg?
SP: [laughs] I don't know if I'm any of those things. The funny thing is, in those situations, it is a particular kind of romantic lead and a particular kind of action hero. It's not like I'm Will Smith by any means, you know what I mean? This was fun in a way. It was fun to clown around for once. When we write our movies, generally, I form this serious center to them. I'm the reactor rather than the cause of the comedy, and the comedy comes out of that. It's not a one-man show ever. The comedy we write is very much an ensemble, and it happens as a result of the circumstances as much as the way the characters behave. And it's very important that Shaun is kind of a regular guy; it's very important that Angel is a stoic, unfunny person. But with this, this is something where I can be a goofball for two hours, and be an idiot and have some fun with it. And that was certainly one of the attractions of the script.
Capone: Whenever I see you in a film with someone that you probably…
SP: I know where this is going [laughs].
Capone: Well look, you're in a movie with Jeff Bridges or Gillian Anderson. Do you have a hard time holding back your geek enthusiasm and not say "Holy crap, I'm in a scene with Jeff Lebowski or Dana Scully!"
SP: Of course. I mean, I hold it together well, but it never escapes me. It's never not ringing in my head. When Jeff came on set, I mean, this is a film where we could buy Bob [Weide] the director action figures of every single one of the actors in the film. Because you've got Mary Jane [Dunst], you've got Mikaela from TRANSFORMERS [Fox], you've got The Dude [Bridges], Agent Scully [Anderson], there's me from SHAUN OF THE DEAD, there's the vampire from 30 DAYS OF NIGHTS [Huston].
Capone: I was trying to remember where Danny Huston might have an action figure from. "He didn't have one for CHILDREN OF MEN, did he?"
SP: Right [laughs]. Yeah, so for me, it was a fun thing. I mean out of respect for them, you have to bring your A game. You can't do anything else with Jeff. I mean, he's such an icon, and if you don't step into it with all seriousness and all of your ability then you're just going to fade away into the background of the scene.
Capone: The scenes with the two of you are my favorite, and I didn't assume ahead of time that that would be the case. They're really funny and they work.
SP: Oh good. And they were great fun to do.
Capone: Do you go through the working day looking for those moments when you can ask him some burning question about something you've always wanted to know?
SP: Oh yeah. I mean, we were talking about TRON for God's sakes. He's so cool with that kind of stuff, and he really wants to chat. And you can bring stuff up and fanboy with him, and he'll talk about it. There's no false modesty about him or any kind of "I don't want to talk about that." He's quite sort of hippie-ish, and his language is very…he's like The Dude, you know?
Capone: I just got finished reading the Rolling Stone interview with him about LEBOWSKI, and he ended the article by calling the reporter back a month or so after their final interview and saying, "I am The Dude."
SP: Yeah, yeah. Well, he is. I had that experience with him the second day I met him. He said, "Hey, Simon. I've got these tabla drums." He'd sent his assistant out to buy these drums. I went into his trailer at lunchtime, and he had these Indian drums with that lovely bended sound, and he taught me how to play them, and he said, "You have a go." So I was going, "Boom badda boom." And then I hear this noise, and I look around and he's got his guitar. So I was in there drumming with Indian drums with Jeff Bridges on the second day I'd met him, and I'm thinking, "How the fuck did I get here?" That was another one of those moments of sheer incredulity at my situation. That happened a lot with that film.
I remember seeing Kirsten in INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE when I was 22 or something, and to be dancing with her in her pajamas; that was weird. And she's similarly like Jeff, someone who has been in the business such a long time--she's been an actress since she was three--and she's very savvy and very wise, but she's still only a kid. It's kind of strange. And then you've got Megan Fox who's just breaking through, and has stumbled into the crazy fucking room that is this party we call Hollywood. And she's someone who, I think, her beauty is something she'll almost have to fight against. The day that she finished her first scene, the big scene around the pool where and has her monologue, and when Bob called cut, there was the palpable sense that "Fuck, she can act." Which nobody thought she could because she's so pretty. It was fun working with all those people in that respect.
Capone: Did you get to spend any time with Toby Young?
SP: We went out a few times, yeah. We went out for dinner and a few drinks. I just wanted to know what made him tick. I didn't want to do an impersonation; that would be annoying and weird. I always think it's strange when actors take on a figure, a real person who no many people really know and do them absolutely. I'm thinking of Nicole Kidman's nose in THE HOURS. It becomes "Why is your nose like that?" Who knew Virginia Wolfe had a big conk? Suddenly, it becomes all about the nose. And I didn't want it to become all about Toby's weird speech patterns.
Capone: That nose won her an Oscar, though
SP: I know. You can't knock the Oscar nose.
[Inexplicably at this exact moment, a light bulb in the light above our head burned out with a loud pop.]
SP: Whoa! Nicole? If we had been talking about THE OTHERS, that would have been creepy. [laughs] But no, I wanted to get an idea of who Toby was, but he wasn't really around. He came on set one day, and he insulted Bob and was asked to leave.
Capone: Okay. Obviously, you and Edgar and Nick could have continued making film in various combinations long after HOT FUZZ. Clearly, you have plans to do that in the near future.
SP: Absolutely, we will do that. We have every intention of that happening.
Capone: Was it a conscious decision for you to strike out "on your own?" Was there any kind of conversation?
SP: I don't think it was ever discussed. We've all pretty much done separate things all along, and the stuff that we're really known for, we've done together. Edgar has several films in the works, and those opportunities came up, SCOTT PILGRIM came up. And I realized that I'd have time to do something else perhaps, rather than something together. But the next time we get into the office will be when the stars align and we actually have time to do that, and we will do that, soon. And we're making time. Nick and I have written something, as you know, PAUL. But it's an open relationship. I think what's nice is coming home; I think we're happiest when we're in that environment, because we have a very easy way of communicating with each other. We are completely on the same page; there's never any confusion about what anyone wants.
It's interesting because Greg Mottola came over to the UK last week to do some shot tests for PAUL, and it was really interesting having a new third person in that dynamic. To get going, you have to take a run at it, because whenever it was the three of us, it was just off. But Greg had never directed us before, so he was being careful about how he spoke to us. And that dynamic will work very well, because we will get up to speed. And there was another actor there who was helping us out that Greg has worked with, and it was interesting to see when he directed that guy, he would just nod at him and that was it. So you do have your comfort zones.
Capone: At the time of Comic-Con, you mentioned to me without naming names that Greg had been spotted on the show floor shooting some footage, and someone put two and two together. And I actually hadn't heard that story yet when we had lunch; I had just heard that the three of you were spotted at some party. Is this something you guys can time so that you'll be able to shoot at next year's Comic-Con?
SP: It will. Hopefully, next year. Or maybe we'll have to recreate it. But there are scenes at it. I don't know how easy it will be logistically. I know that shot some of COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE, but that was on video, wasn't it? I think logistically, it will be difficult.
Capone: Have you seen FANBOYS? When I first read what PAUL was about, the similarities struck me.
SP: I have. I saw the first…well, this was way back when it was about cancer.
Capone: It's still about cancer. It's back to cancer.
SP: They should call it FANBOYS: BACK TO CANCER.
Capone: Seth Rogen called it a hybrid of the cancer story with the reshoots that were done that feature celebrity cameos.
SP: Is it going to come out, FANBOYS?
Capone: It's supposed to. Last I heard was September 19. I don't know if that will change. We were told by Kevin Spacey himself that date.
SP: I'll have to have a look at it. From what I saw, there was no crossover. Certainly in terms of the main thrust of the film, there's no crossover.
Capone: Is the fact that it's about two Brits taking this journey across America something that's dealt with in PAUL?
SP: There's something about the fact that they are aliens. They're not American in this very American world. When I saw "aliens," I mean non-nationals. [laughs] Simon Pegg is making a film about two aliens!" Our Britishness will be in there; we're not playing Americans.
Capone: You are one of the few actors who can actually say that you have a working relationship with J.J. Abrams, film wise.
SP: Yeah. [laughs] Me and Greg Grunberg [who had roles in "Alias" and MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III].
Capone: And being in M:I III with Tom Cruise, maybe you assume that you really can't get any bigger than that, and you've managed to find a way with STAR TREK. Are there things about Scotty's storyline or history that we're going to be surprised by? I know J.J. loves his secrets and surprises.
SP: Obviously, there's nothing I can tell you in terms of that. But in terms of Scotty, absolutely. But it's extremely true to the original show. There's nothing you're going to find out…there's no sort of secret history or…aaaagghh, I can't tell you. J.J. showed me a bit of footage, and it's great and I can't even tell you why it's great. What's interesting to me, and I understand the consternation among the fan community. And I know why, because people have been bitten before with other things, most notably STAR WARS. But everything is…I mean, don't hate it until you've seen it. If you don't like it after you've seen it, fine. But don't get angry about it before you've seen it because it's going to be fucking brilliant. I really do think it's going to be amazing.
And I get and I embrace and I want to say don't worry to people who think [about me] "He's a comedy guy; he's going to make Scotty funny." I mean, "Star Trek" has always had a lightness to it. STAR TREK is not a comedy, but there always has been a lyrical sort of humor in it. There are some amazing scenes in the original series with some sensational little dialogue bits between McCoy, Spock, and Kirk, and they have this almost Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn kind of wordplay going on. And there is room for that. But this film is not a comedy, and I have not been brought in to be the light relief. Scotty is a lighthearted character because he's an optimistic character. But it's not like… [for about two words, Pegg begins to talk in the Scotty voice, but it's so brief, even listening to the recording, I can't tell what he's saying] Whoa, I nearly did the voice there.
Capone: Watch out! That's going to land up as my outgoing voicemail message if you're not careful.
SP: I've been so careful about that.
Capone: Well whenever anyone has said anything about you playing Scotty, I always point them to THE GOOD NIGHT. That's a really great, mostly serious role for you that has a bit of humor.
SP: Oh wow. Cheers! Oh good, thanks.
Capone: Really good seeing you again.
SP: You too, man. Always a pleasure.