In ‘The World’s End,’ Simon Pegg is not so easy to peg down

Simon Pegg is pictured here attending the World Premiere of 'The World's End' at last month in England.  (Credit: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
Simon Pegg attends the world premiere of “The World’s End” last month in England.
Credit: Mark Cuthbert/UK Press

For the finale in director Edgar Wright’s so-called “Cornetto Trilogy” — following “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” — actor and co-writer Simon Pegg wanted to play something other than the nice guy. Enter the loudmouthed, stuck-in-the-past Gary King, who reunites his reluctant high school chums for a night of binge drinking and nostalgia in “The World’s End.” While Gary is very much the hero of the film, he’s not exactly likable, and that’s entirely by design, according to Pegg.

“Selfishly, I wanted to be the overtly comic one in this,” Pegg says. “And I wanted to make Gary as maddening and irritating and difficult to like as possible because I knew ultimately there was an excuse for it. And also, it’s just a lot of fun to be such a dick. As an actor, it’s a gift.”

Pegg’s Gary was very much the top dog in high school, leading around his pals (played as adults by Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan) with little regard for how his future might play out. “I knew guys like that who were the absolute most popular boy. They were the best-looking, they were in a band, they were the lead singer of that band, they got all the girls — and then they never quite moved on past that,” Pegg says.

“That glory was so intense that anything that came subsequently was unfulfilling and that ate away at them, so that they started to live in the past and then eventually just became shadows of who they were in every way, all their potential lost. And it’s really sad. I wanted Gary to be at once maddening and lovable and dickish.”

Quite a tall order for the protagonist of a film. But then Pegg and Wright, as much as they revel in genre conventions in their comedies, are always looking to subvert mainstream expectations. That includes — not to give too much away — the ending of “The World’s End,” something Pegg sees as an antidote to the barrage of Hollywood endings. “I think the re-establishment of the status quo is a device which might anesthetize audiences a bit, might make them feel a bit nice when they leave the theater, but ultimately it makes you forget the film,” he says.

“When we go to the movies often, we see normality and then we see it disrupted, then we see it return to normal and that’s why we leave kind of thinking, ‘Oh, that was nice,’” he says. “When in actual fact, sometimes it’s good to upset the status quo completely and leave it undone. I think it’s more challenging to an audience to not give them necessarily what their comfort zone wants.”

The Comic-Con complex

A self-proclaimed geek and longtime comics fan, Pegg feels right at home at San Diego Comic-Con, where he and Wright brought “The World’s End” for an early U.S. unveiling. But given how much Comic-Con and the popular culture it celebrates have come to dominate the entertainment industry, Pegg admits he was a bit worried.

“I read an essay on America by Jean Baudrillard when I was at university and it was all about the infantilization of society and about how we are kept young by being fed — this is a very contentious subject here — arguably juvenile stuff,” he says. “It keeps us young because it keeps us in touch with our childhood, makes us more pliable, makes us a bit easier to control. It was all about the way that it suits the dominant ideology, late capitalism, to keep us in a state of arrested development because it makes us easier to convince to be consumers and stuff. And here we are.”



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.