Sitting in the exclusive Soho Hotel in London I place my chunky recorder on the press table only for regular Curb Your Enthusiasm director Robert Weide to declare “This is analogue, we want this out of here. Digital only! Come on people get with the times!” to which we all laugh and my recorder whirrs on defiantly! All is worthwhile when it sits strategically in front of Simon Pegg, star of the recently released How To Lose Friends and Alienate People. Based on the memoirs of the renowned, and reportedly obnoxious, Toby Young, the film charts the journey of Peggs character as he tackles New York’s young and fashionable.
Young was supposedly banned from the set of the film and was described, by Weide, to be like when “someone brought their 5 Year old child on set, you had to sort of put him in his chair and give him a time out and tell him not to speak to people”. When preparing for the role Pegg “hung out a couple of times [with Young] before shooting but made the decision quite early on not to play him”. This is probably just as well as anyone who has read the best selling book would vouch, it would have made for an extremely unlikeable character.
One can easily draw several parallels between the film’s aspiring protagonist and Pegg’s current career trajectory as there are no signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future. Filming has been completed for the forthcoming Star Trek remake/prequel flashback (information on the film is kept almost air tight) where he plays the beloved ship’s engineer Scotty. This is alongside rumours that he is to star in Steven Spielberg’s production of Tin Tin, as one half of the Thompson twins, with long-time friend and collaborator Nick Frost. When pressed about whether he can confirm the role, his reply is simply “I can’t” (I read this as a coy yes!).
One of the many pop culture references made in the film is to “the greatest film in the world: Con Air”. Pegg refutes this as he confesses that “one of the films that convinced me of filmmaking that could be funny not just in terms of the scripts and the direction and the camera work was Raising Arizona by the Cohen Brothers. Best comic movie of all time” It comes as no surprise then that he enjoyed working with Jeff Bridges, also a Cohen Brothers alum (The Big Lebowksi). “I remember going to see Tron when I was seven, you know acting alongside him was amazing!” Their partnership on screen is arguably the best aspect in an otherwise average film. His feet are however stuck firmly on the ground as he refuses to be star stuck, “that kind of thing happens all the time in LA because you are in the centre of the industry, everybody is there, you constantly find yourself in those situations but it is never not surprising”
With such a busy slate Pegg remains humble about his opportunities as “it always is amazing and I never get tired of it or find it boring you know”. In a film that marks his second foray into the romantic comedy (Shaun of the Dead’s Rom-Com-Zom doesn’t count) genre it seems as if the title for funny British male lead can finally be ripped from the cold and clammy clasp of Hugh Grant and passed on to a brighter, unstuttering future. The King is Dead. Long live the King!
How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is out now and is reviewed on the Impact Website.