There are a few people on a very short list who are a genuine pleasure to run into under any circumstances, and Simon Pegg is on that very short list for me.
We first met during the build-up to the American release of “Shaun Of The Dead,” and at that point, Pegg and Nick Frost and Edgar Wright were cult stars thanks to “Spaced.” As much as I adored “Shaun” straightaway, I had no idea if it was going to make a dent in American pop culture.
Consider me relieved, then, that we appear to have absorbed Pegg completely into the Hollywood system. My kids are giant Pegg fans because he's Scotty from “Star Trek” and the funny guy from the movie where Tom Cruise climbs that building. It would probably be very easy for Pegg to end up playing the wise-cracking best buddy in giant blockbusters for the next decade or so, but he doesn't appear content to just do that. Instead, he continues to work with Frost and Wright on films that are more personal (last year's “The World's End” just keeps growing on me the more I think about it), and he seems to work constantly in both big films and smaller indies.
Two new films starring Pegg played the Toronto Film Festival this year. I reviewed one of them the other day, called “Kill Me Three Times,” and the other one hits theaters here in the US this weekend. Like many of you, I probably dismissed “Hector and the Search For Happiness” quickly because of a knee-jerk comparison I made between the trailer for the movie and Ben Stiller's I'm-still-not-over-it “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty.” Sincerity is easy to dismiss because it doesn't have any ironic pose to hide behind, and I brought that up to Pegg along with his co-star in the film, Rosamund Pike.
“I think Brits are particularly phobic of it,” Pike offered. “They find it very hard to deal with, and it's a very open-armed film, this.”
“The key to the film is that it's important to stay in touch with that way of seeing the world,” Pegg explained, “because it will help you clarify how you feel as a grown-up if you remember how you feel as a kid.”
We talked about how they essentially spent six months together between the production of this and the production of “The World's End,” and how the two experiences informed one another, and at the end of the interview, I had a chance to talk to Pike briefly about the building excitement around “Gone Girl,” where she's got the biggest role of her career in a film that is already garnering some strong praise from early screenings.
I'll have my review of “Hector” later today, but it's clear that the stars of the film wanted to play that sincerity and that, unlike some people, they're not afraid of that sort of open-hearted quality.
“Hector and the Search For Happiness” opens in theaters across the US on Friday.