Simon Pegg: 'Hollywood is like being in a waxworks come to life'

Simon Pegg tells James Mottram about the tribulations of adapting to life as the toast of Los Angeles

If Simon Pegg hadn't already realised he'd made it, then it must've dawned on him when he took part in a recent 100th anniversary photograph for Paramount. The studio behind Star Trek and Mission: Impossible – two of the Hollywood franchises Pegg has landed in – invited him to stand alongside everyone from Mickey Rooney and Kirk Douglas to Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford. "It was like being in a waxworks museum that had come to life," says Pegg. "I sat with them having my picture taken thinking 'I'm from Gloucester! What the hell is this all about?'"

With the exception of Sacha Baron Cohen, Pegg is arguably the most successful British comic export working in Hollywood right now, ahead of Steve Coogan, Matt Lucas and even Ricky Gervais, who despite his popularity in the US for Extras and The Office has yet to manage a major movie hit. Much of it can be attributed to Pegg's affectionate zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, which caught the eye of J.J. Abrams, who cast him as tech-head Benji in 2006's Mission: Impossible III and then Scotty in his Star Trek reboot.

Having since worked with Spielberg on 2011's Tintin as ineffectual detective Thompson, Pegg can virtually call Los Angeles his second home. When we meet, he's just back after filming a TV pilot for a 1940s gangster series L.A. Noir, not to mention completing work on the sequel to Abrams' Star Trek. He loves working there, he says. "It's the difference between standing in the stream and standing on the bank. When you're in LA, you are standing most definitely in the stream. Anywhere else in the film, even New York, you're only on the bank."

If it sounds like he's gone all A-list on us, nothing could be further from the truth. To start with, he and his wife-of-seven-years Maureen McCann have just relocated with their young daughter Matilda to Hertfordshire, not Hollywood, leaving behind North London's Crouch End. "I had to leave 'Crotch Town' as the Americans call it. We decided to move out to real countryside with real villages – not just a villagey feel. I was born in the countryside, so I think I was craving it in my dotage."

A former drama student at the University of Bristol, Pegg, 42, had also been craving the chance to headline a British film again – which he does in A Fantastic Fear of Everything, a low-budget independent comedy loosely based on Bruce Robinson's novella Paranoia in the Launderette. Quirky, unique and entirely the sort of film a studio would never greenlight, he plays Jack, a children's author who has become increasingly reclusive as he's begun researching a more adult topic for his next book – Victorian serial killers.

Having published his own book, memoir Nerd Do Well last year, Pegg could sympathise with Jack, who becomes enveloped in irrational fears of, well, everything. "The blank page is the nemesis of the writer," he says. "But writing a book, particularly a memoir, which I didn't entirely want to write at first, was a bit of a cathartic process, not least because I had to talk about the past. And although it's very light and frothy, you still do a lot of soul-searching when you write on your own."

The son of Gillian, a civil servant, and John, a jazz musician/keyboard salesman, Pegg did see his parents divorce when he was seven – though it hardly puts him alongside Jack, who suffers from severe issues from his upbringing. "Jack's definitely not addressed his abandonment and projects it onto other things, and he ends up being terrified of everything. I'd like to think I'm OK with all my childhood traumas... if I had any."

Curiously, the film is co-directed by Crispian Mills, frontman with the indie band Kula Shaker. Pegg knew him socially through his wife, who used to work for his record label and was his publicist. "At first I was like, 'You're going to direct a film? Aren't you a rock star?'" Of course, Mills does have cinematic heritage. His mother is actress Hayley Mills and his father is the producer Roy Boulting, who – among many other films – made the original Brighton Rock.

'A Fantastic Fear of Everything' is on nationwide release

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits