At the press day for Kill Me Three Times, an intricately constructed, darkly comedic thriller that’s packed full of double-crosses, sexy femme fatales, blackmail, betrayal and murder, Collider got the opportunity to spend some time chatting with actor Simon Pegg, who plays the film’s mercurial assassin. While we’ll run the portion of the interview about that film closer to its April 10th theatrical release date, we did want to share what he had to say about a couple of high-profile projects he’s got going on.
During our chat, we spoke about how he ended up writing Star Trek 3, having to get the script finished by June, and making sure they abide by certain rules and do right by the original series while not being too post-modern with it or too aware of itself. He also talked about his wild experience on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and that there is a lot more stuff in the movie that you don’t see in the trailer but that is as committed, as nuts and as exciting as hanging off of a plane, that he and Edgar Wright have an idea for their next film and will be booking a day to get together and work it out, hopefully in the next month, and the incredible time he had visiting the set of J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars movie with his daughter and how “it’s going to be everything that we wanted 16 years ago and didn’t get.”
Collider: What’s it like to be writing Star Trek 3?
SIMON PEGG: Terrifying!
When you started working on Star Trek, as an actor, could you ever have imagined you’d be in this position?
PEGG: On set, sometimes, there’s room for improvisation, especially for someone like Scotty who’s Scottish, but never anything more than little dialogue tweaks, here and there. Now it’s like, “Okay, now you’ve got to write the dialogue.” It’s scary! Also, the timeframe we’re working in is extremely tight. It means we’re having to come up with the goods. We can’t be lazy about it. We can’t procrastinate. We have to come up with the stuff because the production is hammering on the door saying, “When can we build this? What are we gonna we build? Who is in it?” I don’t know! Let’s right it and we’ll find out. It’s an interesting process.
How did that happen? Was it something you asked to do?
PEGG: No. Me and Bryan Burk, who’s one of the producers at Bad Robot, have worked together on a bunch of stuff. We were sitting around, talking about the direction the next film was gonna go in. They were thinking, “Maybe we should go back to the drawing board, a little bit, with the screenplay.” Bryan and I would just sit around and talk, and we’d get excited. And then, Bryan was like, “Do you want to write it then?” It was a difficult decision. I hemmed and hawed about it, a little bit, because it felt like a big responsibility. I owe J.J. [Abrams] and Bryan an awful amount. I love those guys. I want to do right by them, so I felt like I should man up and do it.
But, you felt like you knew the characters and the world well enough to tackle it?
PEGG: Yeah. It’s weird to walk into something and take ownership of it, in a way. Everything else that I’ve written has been mine, from the very germ of the first idea, or shared with Edgar [Wright] or Nick [Frost]. But with this, I’m walking into a realm that doesn’t belong to me, and I have to treat it with a degree of respect. Obviously, I always treat things with respect, by I have to abide by certain rules and do right by the original series, and not be too post-modern with it and not be too aware of itself. I have to try to take on the spirit of the show, rather than fill it with stuff that people will just go, “Oh, yeah, that’s from episode something or other.” It’s more than that.
When are you supposed to be finished with the Star Trek script?
PEGG: Come hell or high water, June. I’m busy writing it. It’s an ongoing thing. I’m sure we’ll be finessing it, right through the shoot. You never really, truly start writing a movie until the edit. There’s a whole new lexicon that you’re confronted with, when you’ve shot the movie, which is the visual language that you don’t have on the page. And then, you start to realize, “Hang on, we don’t need that speech because that look says it all.” So, it will be an ongoing thing, right until next year.
How did the shoot for M:I 5 go? Could you ever have pictured yourself as an action star?
PEGG: No! It was great fun! It’s funny to see [the trailer] because we only just wrapped two weeks ago. There’s a hell of a lot that’s not in the trailer. You’re never gonna go into a film with Tom Cruise and it’s not going to be fun. He is such an inspirational character. He cares so much about the product. He obsesses about the audience having a truly cinematic experience, so he will do all that stuff. And I was in that plane, when he took of and was on the side. I was in the cockpit, actually, but I did go back and watch the monitor. He did that. In an age where you can do anything with CG, and people just go, “Okay,” people have an abstract idea of CG. When you see something that makes you go, “How did they do that?!,” it’s a rare occasion, these days. Tom has been at the forefront of making sure people still ask that question, by scaling the Burj Khalifa, which he did, and by hanging onto the side of an A-400, which he did. Of course, there were safety precautions, but he did it. It was extraordinary to see him do that. There’s stuff he does in the movie that is as committed and as nuts and as exciting as hanging off of a plane that you don’t see in the trailer.
Does seeing Tom Cruise do such death-defying stunts make you want to step up, or do you want to just leave all of that to him?
PEGG: You have to step up around him because otherwise you just get left behind. The car chase that you glimpse in the trailer, we shot in Casablanca and Rabat, and it was only ever me and Tom in the car. It was never stunt people. A lot of the chase is on us. It cuts to the exterior, but a lot of the time, it’s just us. He did all of the driving, so I was happy to allow him to do that. They asked me sometimes, “Do you want a double in the car?,” but I was like, “No, I want to be in there.” And it wounded up being a way between me and up, with the seat heating in the car. Casablanca was really hot. Whenever I wasn’t looking, he’d switch on the seat heaters and I’d start getting a bit hot. I realized what he was doing, and it became this war. In the midst of this crazy car chase, where he was driving around these little alleyways, whenever he’d turn the corner, I’d switch his heater on. It was a very silly day.
That’s awesome that he’s just so game and willing to just have fun with it.
PEGG: Oh, totally! From the outside, Tom Cruise appears to be this weird enigma, who’s this complex, strange, mysterious character. He’s not, at all. I hesitate to use the word ordinary, but he is a far more ordinary person than you might expect. He’s a very devoted, very serious, but very fun person. And he’s the first person to mess around, on set. He loves his job. He preserves a certain amount of mystique around himself, and it helps him to be elevated to the level of movie star that he is, but he’s just a guy.
Obviously, people are always wondering when you, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright will be doing something together again. Is that something you guys talk about a lot, and is the scheduling just really hard, at this point?
PEGG: Scheduling is the hardest thing. Literally, today, Edgar has been calling me. He’s here developing Baby Driver, so he’s like, “Come and let’s have an hour and just come up with stuff.” I really want to do it. We’re actually going to book in a day, in about a month, where we can sit down and just start concocting stuff. Our schedules are obviously very busy. We’re trying to find the moment to get back together and come up with the next thing, which will absolutely happen. It’s just a question of when. We have to clear the table, a little bit. Obviously, when work stretches out into the next year, it’s hard to find the moment, but we will.
Do you have a list of ideas that you hope to get to?
PEGG: Yeah, we have an idea already for the next film, that we’re working on. We just need to get in a room and develop it. What we usually do is go away together, for the weekend, to a hotel or something, and we just go in a room and talk and talk and talk. We need to do that. And then, as soon as we do, we can start cooking it up and have it on the backburner, so that when we are both free, we aren’t starting from scratch.
Since you and J.J. Abrams are such good friends, what are your thoughts on Star Wars?
PEGG: I’m immensely excited, having been lucky enough to visit the set. I’ve never been on a film set where everyone has been so invested in the material because they are emotionally and intrinsically linked to it, as people who work in an industry that was informed by the original films. Suddenly, they’re back in those environments, seeing those sets again and seeing J.J. work with real physical things, and models and puppets and masks. Also, the new technology will, of course, be involved in it. The original films were always about the cutting edge. They weren’t retro movies. They were very forward-thrusting, technological masterpieces, and as such, there will be that stuff. It’s going to be extraordinary. I’m so excited for people to see it. It’s going to be everything that we wanted 16 years ago and didn’t get.
It’s so cool because it’s a combination of this vastly different technology with a franchise that makes you feel the wonder of being a kid again.
PEGG: Totally! I took my daughter to the set, and she met BB-8, the droid you see in the trailer. She sat with him for ages, and just talked to him. The guys were operating it, just off camera, and she was there. I said, “Come on, we’ve gotta go,” and she said, “I just want to spend some more time with him and have another hug.” It’s just a ball with a thing on it, but it’s a testament to that character, how much he’s going to impact on audiences because he’s so full of life. And that goes across, for everything. Also, to see the old staples again is going to blow people’s minds.