Simon Pegg: 'I Think I Made The Queen Cry'

The British actor on meeting Her Majesty, the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy and the difference between British and American humour

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It's been a big month for Simon Pegg.

Following the worldwide box office success of Mission: Impossible 5, this Friday sees the release of his new film Absolutely Anything, a comedy following an average Joe given the power to do anything he so chooses.

We sat down with the actor and spoke about British humour, cheating death and which of the Three Flavour Cornetto films he'd choose to watch on a night in. 

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What moment in your career are you most proud of so far?

Anything from going back to when we walked onto the set of Spaced for the first time and saw the environment they’d built for us based on the things we’d written right up to things happening recently, like getting to write Star Trek 3. I feel lucky that my career has been filled with these moments. I couldn't pick a single one. 


What's your desert island film, book and album?

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I’d say my desert island film would probably be Raising Arizona; The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks would be my book; and album would be Doolittle by The Pixies.


Who's the closest you've ever had to a mentor?

Probably JJ Abrams. He’s only a couple of years older than me but we've been friends for ten years now. I’ve done as many films with JJ as I’ve done with Edgar.


Have you ever been starstruck?

Oh yeah, absolutely. I was starstruck by the Queen. I met her at a royal gala performance of the Narnia film I did. I've known her all my life – she’s been on every pound I’ve spent – so to actually meet her in person was quite extraordinary. The most amazing thing about it was seeing her put 3D glasses on. She cried a little bit at the end too when my character makes this life-changing decision – so I think I made the Queen cry.


You have a night off and all that's in the house is your Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. Which one do you put on?

Probably The World’s End because it’s the newest one and I haven't seen it as many times as Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead – not that I sit around watching my own films. I've just seen and been in enough screenings and Q&As with those movies. The World's End is also the mint which is my favourite Cornetto flavour.
 

What's your favourite restaurant and what's your order?

I’m still a sucker for Banners in Crouch End – that’s where I spent a lot of time when I lived in London. It was where we would always meet friends. I still go there now because it’s convenient and they do great soul food. I'd order the jerk chicken salad which is huge and health-conscious.


What's the best age to be?

I’m digging middle age right now. I’ve never felt more comfortable and at home with myself than as I do at 45. I look back on my younger years and just think 'Oh, I’m glad that’s over.' I’m kind of settled into being middle aged because you don’t feel guilty about going to bed at 9 o'clock. I enjoy missing out. It’s quite lovely to put your pyjamas on at seven. I love putting a pair of slippers on – it's good to be comfortable with being boring.


Have you ever cheated death?

Not in such a way that I thought 'Ooh, that was close' but one of these days you get unlucky and it happens. I'm sure we cheat it more than we know.  
 

You're in a bar. What are you drinking?

Sparkling water. When I was a drinker and had a beer, that little rasp on the back of the throat was nice. Now that I’m a teetotaler – and loving it – the sparkling water is a nice proxy for that. Water, God love it, helps us live but put a bit of sparkling in and it becomes exotic. It’s a cocktail!
 

What's the first item you'd save from a burning building?

Other than my family and animals, probably my – oh God, I don’t know – is there anything worth saving ultimately? My Shaun of the Dead shirt is hanging on the wall actually. Once I knew all personnel was safe and out, I’d probably get that.
 

What's the key difference between British and American comedy and which is better?

Oh, neither. People make the mistake of thinking Americans aren’t as ironic as we are or they don’t do irony as well as we do; they absolutely do – they just don’t use it socially. We tend to be very ironic in one-on-one conversations because we’re uncomfortable expressing ourselves. Americans don’t do that because they’re very comfortable expressing themselves so they don’t feel the need to undercut what they say which gives rise to this myth that they don’t get us. I think American and British comedy are very comfortable bedfellows and we speak a common language – we find similar things funny. I wouldn’t favour either one.


What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Just keep doing what you’re doing. I wouldn’t try to make him do anything differently otherwise I might not be sat here now, so it'd be "Whatever buddy, just keep going."

Absolutely Anything is out on 14 August

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