TORONTO—It’s a bit hard to get a read on Simon Pegg. The veteran actor first came to the attention of North American audiences with critical hits that he both wrote and starred in, like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. And while the U.K. native has gone back to that routine lately with Paul and The World’s End, he’s also branched out into the world of big-budget action-movie franchises, staking out vital supporting roles in the latest Star Trek and Mission: Impossible incarnations.
Add to that the fact that the two films he brought to Toronto don’t fall into either of those categories (the Australian thriller Kill Me Three Times, in which Pegg plays an assassin, and the dramedy Hector and the Search for Happiness) and it’s not easy to pigeonhole the star. Maybe that’s the point.
Taking on the appearance of a gangster in a Guy Ritchie movie, with his tattoos extending under rolled sleeves and his slicked-back hair, Pegg is in a hotel room promoting Hector during the Toronto International Film Festival. He responds to a question about his career choices with an approachable honesty.
“It’s not like that ‘One for me, one for them’ kinda thing,” he states. “I love doing Mission: Impossible and Star Trek—it’s great fun. And I don’t do those to fund my ‘indie career’ at all. I love doing movies like Hector and Kill Me Three Times, films that are smaller, and my own films in the U.K., which have a fraction of the budget of Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. But I value those movies just as much. I’m at the very beginning of Mission: Impossible right now and it’s a very different experience [than Hector], but one I love just as much. It’s a fun job to have, to be able to run around being a spy.”
Okay, well, then this guy—who gets to live out his childhood fantasies playing spies and intergalactic heroes, and his adult ones writing and producing his own material—must know what it means to be truly satisfied in life. After all, Hector revolves around one man’s search for what makes people happy. For Pegg, who mentions having myriad conversations with the cast and crew of Hector on the topic, the answer is simpler than you might think.
“It’s really important to maintain the way that you would see life as a child. It’s important to hang on to that,” the actor ruminates. “And I always try to hang on to that when it comes to work. If I’m doing a film like Mission: Impossible and I’m working with Tom Cruise, I don’t take it in my stride. I’m constantly excited about the fact that I’m working with fucking Tom Cruise! It’s Tom Cruise! And that’s how I would have been when I was a kid, and if you stay in tune with that, I think it helps you to be happy as an adult, because when you’re a child you’re impressed more. So when it comes to work, I try and maintain a childish glee about it.”