NEW YORK – If you’re around Simon Pegg, don’t refer to his latest movie, “The World’s End,” as a sci-fi film.
He understands how people can make that mistake, but the versatile British actor who’s had a role in one of the biggest sci-fi reboots in recent years (he plays Scotty in J.J. Abram’s supercharged new versions of “Star Trek”) and who gained his own cult following as star and co-writer of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” the first two movie in a loose trilogy that concludes with “The World’s End.”
During press interviews hosted by Focus Features at the Waldorf Astoria, Pegg talked expansively about the influences that inspired the new pub-crawl comedy and his own regard for science fiction as a larger genre of literature.
“We didn’t want this film to be a comment on science-fiction cinema in any way,” Pegg said, despite the movie’s aggressive alien abduction aspects. “We wanted to use science fiction as the genre trope to get our point across. It seemed like the obvious thing since we were talking about the alienation that you feel in your hometown when you return – alienation, we simply took it to its obvious conclusion.
“But this isn’t a comment on science-fiction cinema,” he said of the film. “If it draws its DNA from anything it’s probably science-fiction literature. The kind of cozy catastrophes of John Wyndham and the British postwar paranoia films. And also from American cinema, perhaps ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ or ‘The Stepford Wives’ or ‘Invaders from Mars,’ you know these sort of quiet invasions where people are grudgingly replaced.
“But we didn’t watch many of those beforehand,” he said. “We watched a musical called ‘It’s Always Fair Weather,’ a Gene Kelly musical about three guys reuniting after the war and finding they have nothing in common. It’s a film about nostalgia and the awful ennui of not liking your friends anymore. And we watched ‘The Big Chill’ because we thought it would be funny to make a film like that but where the corpse came along to the party. So my character, Gary King, is basically Kevin Costner.”
Despite downplaying the sci-fi tag for “The World’s End,” Pegg expounded on the power of the genre.
“It’s poetry. It’s a metaphor. It’s using the non-real to describe the real,” he said. “Science fiction has always been a great metaphor. That’s where I think science fiction to some degree has lost its way in the last 30 years or so because it’s become more about the spectacle and not about the poetry. Science fiction has always been a great way of looking at our futures, our relationships with technology or with each other or outer space or knowledge or God. Since special effects have become so good it’s become about fighting and robots.”
In that respect, he said, “Star Trek” is the exception.
“‘Star Trek’ is still very relevant,” he said. “Since the space race ended, science fiction has become very insular, but ‘Star Trek,’ which has recently been reborn, is related to a hopeful spirit of exploration. I think (director J.J. Abrams) is a very intelligent filmmaker, so ‘Star Trek’ is still very metaphorical. You know on one level the latest (‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’) is a gigantic, exciting space thing, but really it’s about friendship and family, ultimately.”
- Dennis King
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