He might be breaking box office records this week with his role in “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” but British actor Simon Pegg says he’ll always keep independent film close to his heart.
In his new indie British romantic comedy “Man Up,” Pegg, who broke into the mainstream in 2004 with the zombie parody “Shaun of the Dead,” stars as Jack, a 40-something guy trying to land on his feet while maneuvering through a messy divorce. Making a first attempt to meet someone new, he agrees to a blind date with a woman only to see it get hijacked by another girl (Lake Bell) who finds herself in the middle of a case of mistaken identity.
During an interview with the me, Pegg, 45, who has been married for 10 years, talked to me about how thankful he is not to be part of the dating scene, dancing on film to Duran Duran, and what was up with all the “Silence of the Lambs” references in his new rom com.
What do you think the biggest difference is between British romantic comedies and ones made in the U.S. and what was it about “Man Up” that you found so interesting?
I don’t know if there is a huge difference, really. I mean, it’s dealing with the same thing, which is the quest for love and the kind of misadventures we get into on that road. Obviously the attitudes are different slightly. The British…there is a lot of drinking involved in this one. (Laughs) People seem to rely on that in order to loosen themselves up socially. I think ultimately, though, they tend to be about the same thing. It’s a very human idea – the search for love in a sea of confusion and mistakes. [“Man Up”] is particularly full of those things because the whole thing starts with a misunderstanding or a deception and takes place over one crazy night. It was a real fun screenplay to read.
What characteristics, if any, do you think you share with your character Jack?
Well, I’m happy married. Jack is a 40-something divorcee. I can only imagine what it must be like to suddenly be “out there” again like Carrie Fisher in “When Harry Met Sally.” The idea of your entire reality sort of breaking down and you suddenly being back out in the trenches having come away from all that to settle down, I can’t imagine how awful that must be. (Laughs) I’m sorry if you’re going through that. So, one thing you can look forward to is a lot of meaningless relationships for a while before you try and find “the one” again. It’s a terrifying world, I think, for people who are dating.
How do you think you’d fare if you were thrown back into the dating scene today?
I don’t know. I was never really out there anyway. A lot of girls I had relationships with I had met at parties. I didn’t do that thing where you designate a time and place and you sit opposite each other and decide whether or not you want to have sex, which is kind of what a date is, really. (Laughs) I just went straight to the sex. I don’t know. I think I would probably be terrible. I think I would try and use my meager celebrity to impress girls and go home miserable when it didn’t work.
If you were a single guy and you decided to hang out with Jack for a night on the town, who would have better luck with the ladies?
Well, Jack is not as famous as me, but he might get a lot of the backwash. (Laughs) I’m really making myself laugh. I don’t know. Jack is very damaged and burned from his previous relationship. But there is something vulnerable and sweet about him for that reason. Once he stops trying to be someone he’s not, he’s actually a sweet guy who is just trying to find his partner in the modern world. I think that’s an appealing thing. He’s not as funny as me. And funny is the key. Looks fade, man. Funny is forever.
What would be your first instinct if you were at a club in real life and someone started playing Duran Duran? Were some of those your best moves we saw in this movie?
Yeah! That was something [screenwriter] Tess [Morris] came up with. At this point Jack and Nancy (Bell) are at odds and arguing. The deception has been revealed. But somehow they find themselves in sync by this weird dance routine that they somehow remember from their younger days. It’s a way of showing Jack and Nancy in perfect harmony as well as having a fight. It’s really a clever little device. We choreographed the dance. If you hear the song in a discotech, you would, of course, jump up. When I was 16 and that song came out I was like, “Ugh, Duran Duran.” Now it’s a stone-cold classic.
Instead of Duran Duran, was there ever any talk of you dancing to “Goodbye Horses” since there are so many Silence of the Lambs references in the film?
(Laughs) With my tail between my legs? Yeah, I think that might’ve been just too creepy. (Laughs) That would’ve just pushed it one note too far.
Are most people picking up on the “Silence of the Lambs” edit in the final scene?
Yeah, I think that’s a lovely little nod. Obviously the film is referenced early on in the movie. It pays off. I’m a big fan of that sort of foreshadowing. I know for a fact that Tess, who is currently in Los Angeles, is screening Man Up as a double bill with “Silence of the Lambs.” It’s one of the most eclectic double bills in film history, but not without some sort of connective tissue.
Is it pretty effortless at this point in your career to go back and forth between smaller projects like “Man Up” and then jump into things as massive as “Star Wars” and “Star Trek?”
Yeah, it seems to be. It’s not like their different buses, really. You go script by script. It’s not like I specialize in blockbusters. I’ve been fortunate enough, maybe because of J.J. Abrams and my friendship with him, to latch on to some of these huge movies. I’m from independent film. That’s where I started. I always want to have some place there. I love the industry and the passion that goes into independent filmmaking. It’s something I want to stay with.
This interview first ran at sacurrent.com.