Simon Pegg used to think he saw UFOs as a boy in Great Britain.
"But it always turned out to be an airplane," he says. "I was seeing things in the sky. And I was happy to believe they were flying saucers."
Pegg himself is no longer an unidentified movie personality in the United States. Thanks to the films Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz - as well as his performance as the young Scotty in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek prequel - Pegg is a rising comedy star in America, having long since conquered Great Britain with a string of popular TV comedy series.
Paul, opening Friday (3/18/11), is Pegg's most mainstream effort yet. Though it reteams him with British sidekick Nick Frost from Shaun and Fuzz, the pair elected not to have director Edgar Wright helm this one. Instead, Paul was directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad) - and features Kristen Wiig, Jason Bateman and the voice of Seth Rogen as costars.
"The film came initially from quite a frivolous idea we had to shoot a movie somewhere where the weather was better than it is in England," Pegg, 41, says in a telephone interview. "It was a pipe dream, really. But then we started thinking about the desert, which led to Area 51 and aliens."
In Paul, Pegg and Frost play Graeme and Clive, two Brits on vacation stateside, who start their holiday with a trip to Comic-Con in San Diego. From there, they rent an RV to hit the alien hotspots of the American Southwest. But one of their backroads' encounters turns out to be with Paul, an extraterrestrial who has been held by the American government for decades - and who is trying to escape its clutches and head back to his own planet. It's up to Graeme and Clive to help this E.T. get home.
"I love Comic-Con - I love the enthusiasm," says Pegg, who was a fervent comic-book reader as a kid. "As human beings, North Americans feel less guilty about sharing their emotions and this is a great example of people expressing their love without being ridiculous. They come in costume and celebrate their love of a cultural movement."
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