There once was a time when self-referential T-shirts, exhaustive knowledge of Star Wars and an affection for lesser spaghetti westerns was not considered cool. Luckily for Simon Pegg those times have changed, says Jonathan Crocker
How we laughed. We all did, didn’t we? At that funny little kid at school who knew all the USS Enterprise’s different registration numbers. He read comics that weren’t The Beano or The Dandy. And even the teachers said it would never do him any good, learning all that useless knowledge. But then geek got chic. In fact, it became so fashionable that Simon Pegg, an actor with a good line in writing and that crucial nerd knowledge, could create a cult comedy called Spaced. Then came Brit blockbusters Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, followed by M:I3 and even Star Trek itself. Now the 40-year-old has written an autobiography and called it Nerd Do Well. And to be fair, he has. Look who’s laughing now…
Is there anything controversial in your autobiography?
No, not really. I mean, there’s the whole thing about Meredith Catsanus... I’m sure that particular girl wouldn’t have minded me telling the story. Go on... I kind of say, “This isn’t going to be a tell-all. I’m not going to talk about my first sexual experience.” But then I do, about touching this girl’s boobs. And I didn’t want to name her. I do name a lot of childhood friends — because I didn’t touch their boobs.
Why call your book Nerd Do Well?
That’s where the word ‘nerd’ comes from. The word ‘nerd’ is a shortening of ‘ne’er do well’. It’s a bit self-aggrandising, actually...
Well, touching boobs probably makes you a high-functioning nerd...
Yes! [Laughs] Yes. I’m not like the kind of anorak, basement-dweller archetype. I mean, I marvel at the level of some fan dedication. There’s a whole regiment of Stormtroopers called the 501st, who have garrisons all round the world.
Don’t those hardcore geeks scare you?
No, I think it’s inspiring. I love it. It’s so honest. Part of the reason why Star Trek attracted such a following is because it’s a universe where everyone’s accepted. It’s this incredible utopia where you can be different and you’re still included.
Did you steal anything from the Star Trek set?
You know, Star Trek was the hardest thing. I nick stuff from my own films because they can’t stop me. But Star Trek, every night I checked in my phaser and my Star Trek ring with props. [So] no, I didn’t.
Do you know what, I genuinely couldn’t have done. JJ Abrams is a master secret-keeper. He really is. I used to try to get stuff about Lost off him on set and he would not give a thing away.
Are you back for Star Trek 2?
Oh yeah. Yeah. It’s being written now and Scotty’s still in there. I spoke to Damon Lindelof, who’s one of the writers, and it’s about them all getting to know each other, becoming friends and learning to trust each other.
You’re in M:I4 too. Do you keep in touch with Tom Cruise after M:I3?
I sent him a message to say hi at the National Movie Awards because I missed him — he was there and I went home. And he sent me one back saying, “You’re avoiding me.”
Is he a nice guy in person?
The sweetest thing he did once was when they asked him to present an award to me at the British Comedy Awards [in 2007]. He wasn’t selling anything at the time and it wasn’t even televised, so he wasn’t going to do that. But he sent me this big Fortnum & Mason hamper to say sorry he didn’t do that, but good luck. So all Christmas, we had ‘The Tom Cruise Marmalade’ in the fridge. It was just a thoughtful thing to do.
Did he ever try to convert you?
He never mentioned any of his beliefs when we worked together. There was never any Scientology tent. There is a lot of mythology surrounding him. He’s lived an extraordinary life and he is the product of that life. He’s quite otherworldly, Tom Cruise.
Check out part two here...
Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg is out now, priced £18.99 (Century)