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
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence