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Simon Pegg, 'The World's End' Star, On 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Haters & His Love-Hate Relationship With 'Star Wars'

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SIMON PEGG
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 19: Actor Simon Pegg attends the Film Independent screening and Q&A of 'The World's End' at the Landmark Theater on August 19, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage) | Getty

"Star Trek Into Darkness" grossed just under half a billion dollars worldwide and currently holds an 87 percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Yet during a "Star Trek" fan convention in Las Vegas earlier this month, attendees ranked "Star Trek Into Darkness" as the worst of the Star Trek movies. (As someone who owns "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" on DVD, I promise it is far from the worst "Star Trek" movie.) It was interesting watching Simon Pegg -- who has played Scotty in the last two "Trek" films from director J.J. Abrams -- wrestle with that information. Pegg, who is one of the most prolific nerds on the planet, actually does get where the fans are coming from, but that didn't stop the 43-year-old from defending his film with lots of passion (and a bit of colorful language).

Pegg can also get very passionate about "Star Wars." Namely, his love of the original trilogy and his hatred of the prequels. Of course, like anyone who's ever even met J.J. Abrams before, Pegg has been asked about "Star Wars VII," but has shot down such questions by referencing his outspoken disdain for "Star Wars." Again, he means the prequels, but clarifies that ahead in a (warning) fairly nerdy, yet surprisingly sweet "Star Wars" discussion.

I met with Pegg late last week at his Midtown Manhattan hotel room to discuss his new film, "The World's End." As he's done for Edgar Wright twice before (in "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz"), Pegg plays the lead in the new film, but the character is much darker, much more of a jerk and much more of a sad sack loser. That doesn't stop Pegg's Gary from convincing four high school friends to go on a 12-bar pub crawl in their hometown -- a great night of revelry that winds up interrupted by an alien conspiracy.

There was a recent poll taken at a Star Trek convention that ranked "Star Trek Into Darkness" as the worst "Star Trek" movie.
Oh, really?

It seems this comes more from anger than a real subjective opinion, but what are "Star Trek" fans angry about?
I think they haven't had time to live with it. They haven't had time to review it. I think there's a degree of stuck-in-the-mud -- there's a faction within the "Star Trek" community of kind of like, "Well, I don't want to watch anything anymore." Which is fine. And, absolutely, they are entitled to that. You know, it's not for them, really. It's kind of for everyone.

Is that part of it? That it "used to be for us and now it's not"?
A little bit. I think it's like when you tire of an indie band that you love because, suddenly, they get a number one single. You don't necessarily start disliking their music, but you stop liking them because you're pissed off that they're famous, or whatever. "Star Trek Into Darkness" is the most successful "Star Trek" movie ever made. It is, in terms of what it took at the box office and how many people went to see it. More people saw that film than any iteration of "Star Trek" that existed before. That is probably slightly annoying to some "Star Trek" fans -- which I totally understand.

So it's like the Pearl Jam "Vs." album?
Possible, yeah. And you know what ... it absolutely isn't the worst "Star Trek" movie. It's asinine, you know? It's ridiculous. And frustrating, as well, because a lot of hard work and love went into that movie, and all J.J. wanted to do was make a film that people really enjoyed. So, to be subject to that level of sort of, like, crass fucking ire, I just say fuck you. Not you, but the people who said that. It's also that thing, as I say, that it hasn't been around long enough. It's the newest one. It's the one people least recognize. If you look back at things you really love, there's a big list: The things that you've got to re-watch and enjoy, they are going to be more up there. The thing that you know the least will be at the bottom. So it might be that, too, you know?

And when it's the newest, it's the one most in your head and the one that tends to be the most reactionary, one way or another.
With "The World's End," it's really nice when people say it's their favorite one because it hasn't had time to become their favorite one yet. It's nice that they see something in it that distinguishes it and put it at the head of the three movies. Because I'm fully prepared for people to say it further down the line. I think it is the best film, to a degree.

I re-watched "Shaun of the Dead" yesterday. First, it's insane that movie is 10 years old.
It is 10 years old. We wrapped 10 years ago this month.

When that came out, it wasn't like anything we were seeing at the time. Now, everyone loves zombies. With "The World's End," did you guys have to make a conscious decision to up the ante on the weirdness?
Yeah. And I think possibly because of the genre that we appropriated this time, we've always been keen to use genre as a vessel to carry deeper, more personal thoughts and feelings. A film about a guy who has to man up and take responsibility to win his girlfriend back doesn't sound as thrilling as a film about a guy who does it in the face of a zombie apocalypse. Two guys learning to become friends despite different interests, doesn't sound as interesting as a big fucking action film with lots of guns. An alcoholic trying to get his friends to go on a pub crawl to justify his addictions doesn't sound as thrilling as a film about an alien invasion.

If you look at a film like "From Dusk Till Dawn" -- which is one of my and Edgar's favorites, and one we always come back to -- but what Quentin [Tarantino] and Robert Rodriguez did with that film was they started with one film and they turned it into a different film. So, it stops being a kind of "robbers on the run" movie and becomes a vampire film. Whereas, what we wanted to do with "The World's End" was to have a film about friends reuniting with a pub crawl, which continues to be that, despite the fact that they realize the town is being invaded by this weird, homogenizing, alien force.

Gary is a darker character, which is another big difference from the previous films.
You know, this whole man-child comedy thing that's very popular now, a lot of those man-child comedies that you see are about celebrating it. "The Hangover" movies are about "wouldn't it be great if we could get away from our wives and go have sex with strippers." And they are very funny, but they're not quizzical of the whole man-child -- they're actually sort of saying that it's something they wished for. When, what we want to do is say, "Well, no it ain't."

WARNING: "THE WORLD'S END" SPOILERS AHEAD

Gary is sad to watch.
Yeah, he's a tragedy. He's a car crash. We wanted to make him so annoying that when you finally find out what's powering him -- which is essentially that he's on a suicide mission -- that you think, "Aw, shit, I shouldn't have been so hard on him" ... obviously this is a huge spoiler but Edgar and I love the idea of writing a comedy about a suicidal alcoholic on the run from a mental institution.

That should be on the poster.
[Laughs] Yeah, I know.

END SPOILERS

Because of your relationship with J.J. Abrams, you've been asked a lot about being in the next "Star Wars" movie. You answered once along the lines of, "Why would the guy who hates 'Star Wars' be in the next 'Star Wars.'" Why do you hate "Star Wars"?
I don't hate "Star Wars." I love "Star Wars." "Star Wars" is an incredibly formative film for me as a human being and formed so much of who I am. It encouraged a love of classical music in me, because of the score. It encouraged literature and language and my imagination. It formed who I was as a child and it was something that I was incredibly passionate about. The prequels I didn't like at all, because they felt contrary to everything that made the first films great. When I was a kid, I was very protective of "Star Wars." When "The Black Hole" came out, some kids were going on that it was better than "Star Wars," I said, "No, it fucking isn't!" It upset me that they would say that.

To be fair, I like "The Black Hole."
Yeah, it's a strange sort of Disney "2001."

I still don't quite understand the ending. I assumed I would understand it as an adult.
Yeah, it's weird! It's like junior Kubrick. I was going to say "Jubrick," but that sounds weird. I think, then, because I was so impassioned about "Star Wars" I was the most offended by its sort of portrayal of its own ideals. The very talents of Lucas's creative process were thrown out. There's footage of him talking about special effects were a tool to tell a story. And then he makes films where it's just special effects. And I've been very outspoken about that. So I think for me to suddenly go running back to "Star Wars" would be an act of massive hypocrisy.

So you hate the prequels, not the original trilogy.
And people say "They're for kids." Kids don't have that much critical faculty -- they'll say anything is the best thing a kid has ever seen. And then the film after that is the best film ever made.

I have a friend who makes that argument: That I love "Empire" because I saw it when I was five. I also used to love "The Last Starfighter," but realize now that movie is not that great.
"Empire" is the best film technically, structurally and directorially it's the best movie.

I agree. And I was fortunate enough to interview Irvin Kershner shortly before he passed away.
Oh, you did? Wow. I had the most wonderful experience with my daughter watching them, who was 3 at the time. She'd been listening to the "Star Wars" music in the car and she would want me to tell her the story of what was happening -- because I know the films so well I can literally "audiobook" the story to the music. And then she said, "Can I see them?" And we started out with "Star Wars" and watched about three quarters of it -- and she was a bit scared by the Sand People. And then, for a long time, we were talking about "The Empire Strikes Back" and the Wampa sequence and she was a bit unsure of it. And, eventually, she said, "I want to watch it."

So, I put it on. And we sat down and we watched it together. And it was wonderful that she sat through the whole of it. But, we got to the Dagobah and she had only ever seen Yoda in, I guess, clips of the CG Yoda and I guess she'd seen him on "The Clone Wars." But she had never seen the Frank Oz Yoda. Ever. And we start watching the film and he came on the screen and she turns to me and said, "Oh, he's real!" And I was like "Fucking hell, that is incredible." That is the most wonderful thing -- she saw that puppet and said, "Oh, he's real." And she watched the whole of "The Empire Strikes Back." She didn't really like "Return of the Jedi" because of the Emperor. But, at the end of it, I asked which one she liked the best and she said, "The Empire Strikes Back" -- and that's a 3-year-old, you know?

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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