'Nerd Do Well': Simon Pegg On 'Becoming A Big Kid' In his new memoir, pro-nerd Simon Pegg talks Star Wars, comedy and the zombie apocalypse. And he weighs in on the ongoing genre controversy — the "schism in the church of the undead" — slow zombies versus fast zombies? Definitely slow zombies, Pegg says.
NPR logo

'Nerd Do Well': Simon Pegg On 'Becoming A Big Kid'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/137299643/137313876" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'Nerd Do Well': Simon Pegg On 'Becoming A Big Kid'

'Nerd Do Well': Simon Pegg On 'Becoming A Big Kid'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/137299643/137313876" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Simon Pegg is best known for what has become a cult classic, the zombie comedy "Shaun of the Dead." Plus "Hot Fuzz," the buddy cop film set in an English village where missing swan is a call to action.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "HOT FUZZ")

MONTAGNE: (as Sgt. Nicholas Angel) Yes, Mr. Staker, we'll do everything we can. Can you describe it to me?

MONTAGNE: (as Peter Ian Staker) It's about two-foot tall, long slender neck...

(SOUNDBITE OF A BIRD)

MONTAGNE: (as Sgt. Nicholas Angel) Yeah.

MONTAGNE: (as Peter Ian Staker) ...got orange and black bill.

MONTAGNE: (as Sgt. Nicholas Angel) Anything else?

MONTAGNE: (as Peter Ian Staker) Well, it's a swan.

MONTAGNE: And you write that you and your friends would play "Star Wars" and you identified with Luke Skywalker, even though Han Solo was the really infinitely cooler guy, as you put it.

MONTAGNE: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: Although Luke Skywalker was pretty cool for a kid.

MONTAGNE: He's kind of whiny though, wasn't he? He was like, oh, I want to go down the shop with my friends.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: Yeah, but I kind of say in the book that maybe my identification with him was because I was kind of a farm boy, miles from anything interesting and maybe related to his desires to sort of get involved with the fight against the Evil Empire, which I kind of was. I was living in the countryside and Gloucester, albeit a wonderfully historic and picturesque town, isn't really the center of activity anywhere.

MONTAGNE: In the book, you shared the very first joke you ever told. You were - what - six?

MONTAGNE: That's right. Yeah.

MONTAGNE: It was...

MONTAGNE: I do. I remember it was...

MONTAGNE: Your audience was, of course, your mother and grandmother.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: I remember the intellectual process of thinking, hang on, this might be funny.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: You know, and kind of - but I pretended I didn't realize that it was funny though. I decided to go for pretending to be cute and sort of unworldly.

MONTAGNE: Tell us the joke.

MONTAGNE: We were talking about my friend and I said, oh, his dad is a dentist. And she said, where does he practice. And I said, no, he's a real one.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: And, you know, it's a very simple joke but I was only very young. And it just struck me as interesting that I seemed predetermined to seeing things that way, you know.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. But George Romero - of course famous director of "Night of the Living Dead," "Dawn of the Dead" - he would seem to have had quite an influence on you. Where did you come by your interests in zombie films? Was it from seeing the George Romero films?

MONTAGNE: Some of them were great movies like "Evil Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead." And these films got lumped in just because they were full of crayon red blood and nobody actually got the fact that there was some fun involved in them. And so the hunt for a copy of "Dawn of the Dead" was like the Holy Grail for teenagers in the '80s where I lived. And before I saw it, I knew all about it. I knew there was a guy who got his top of his head chopped off by helicopter. I knew there was the, you know, a moment someone got their guts ripped out.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: And it was like, I've got to see this - this sounds great.

MONTAGNE: I gather from memoirs that, even as a younger kid, you had access to the "Encyclopedia of Horror" that you...

MONTAGNE: And there was also something kind of frightening about it, as well. There was an idea that you could watch these films and be mentally scarred by them. You know, you hear rumors about these kids, they find a pirate video of "Dawn of the Dead" and they've all gone mad and killed each other.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: Looking back, I'm glad because that film is so scary and brilliant. But I'm glad it and watch it when I was 12 'cause I wouldn't have slept for a week.

MONTAGNE: Yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: Well, "Shaun of the Dead," which you co-wrote, that takes your character who's a kind of slacker, I guess.

MONTAGNE: Yeah.

MONTAGNE: His friend, Ed, who is worse than a slacker. What is Ed?

MONTAGNE: He's a slob, but one below a slacker.

MONTAGNE: All the characters in it sort of keep moving along in their own lives, even as there's the big zombie attack going on. Describe for us the moment in "Shaun of the Dead," where, you know, average life just suddenly appears in the midst of this attack by zombies.

MONTAGNE: There's a moment in the film when they realize that the vinyl is quite a good weapon against zombies and they decide to throw records at them. But they choose really carefully which ones to throw, because Shaun doesn't want to lose his original pressing of "Blue Monday" or The Stone Roses' second album, and all this kind of stuff. And so whilst the zombies are encroaching upon them, they're flicking through his records choosing which ones to throw.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "SHAUN OF THE DEAD")

MONTAGNE: (as Ed) "Purple Rain"?

MONTAGNE: (as Shaun) No.

MONTAGNE: (as Ed) "Sign of the times?"

MONTAGNE: (as Shaun) Definitely not.

MONTAGNE: (as Ed) The Batman soundtrack?

MONTAGNE: (as Shaun) Throw it.

MONTAGNE: (as Ed) Sade.

MONTAGNE: (as Shaun) That's Lizzie's.

MONTAGNE: (as Ed) Yeah, but she did dump you.

(SOUNDBITE OF THROWING AND BREAKING GLASS)

MONTAGNE: One part of you that sort of brings out the nerd in you, is the whole question of certain zombie - a change in the form, I guess - which goes from zombies who, in your movies and most zombie movies, are very slow. You can practically, you know, it just get past them. There are suddenly in some zombie movies fast zombies. And again, there is this sort of a controversy about fans of the zombie genre.

MONTAGNE: And when they start running around screaming like velociraptors, you just don't care about them anymore. You just think, oh, go away, you noisy speed demon.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MONTAGNE: Yes. Thank you very much for joining us. It's been a pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Thanks, Renee. My pleasure, not at all.

MONTAGNE: And you're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.