Simon Pegg Talks STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS, Working on the Huge Practical Sets, Lens Flares, Deleted Scenes, TREK 3, and More
With Star Trek Into Darkness opening around the world, I recently landed an exclusive interview with Simon Pegg. While we’d planned for an in-depth video interview in Los Angeles, his busy shooting schedule for his next movie turned our interview into an email exchange. Since we covered so many different subjects, I’m breaking it up into two or three parts, and we’re starting with Trek.
During our interview, Pegg talked about finally being able to speak openly about the sequel, if he felt any additional pressure playing Scotty in the sequel, his preparation process, what it was like working on the huge practical sets, filming the bridge scenes first, lens flares, what he took home from set, who broke character the most on camera, what he remembers most about making both films, voicing the video game, deleted scenes, Trek 3, and more. Finally, Pegg sent over a video he made on set with Zoe Saldana and Anton Yelchin using the Bad Robot’s Action Movie app. You can watch it when he brings it up during the interview. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Before getting to the interview, if you’d like to watch my spoiler free video blog reaction after watching Into Darkness, click here.
Collider: How nice is it to finally be answering questions about the sequel instead of when is it going to happen?
Pegg: It’s great and a relief but we’re still remaining tight lipped about the plot. I don’t care how many spoiler monsters plaster story details across their blogs, we’re still keeping schtum. It’s important to protect the audience experience and that sometimes means protecting the audience from itself. Someone on Twitter accused me of lying about a plot detail of Into Darkness the other day, as though I owed them the truth in some way; as if there is some law somewhere that states film makers have to fess up to the secrets of their movies if speculation randomly hits upon a truth. I say screw that, as far as I’m concerned, the people who are hell bent on ruining the film for everyone else are the enemy and I owe them nothing, least of all the truth.
After proving you could play Scotty in the first film…did that make you more or less nervous about playing him again in the sequel?
The was a slight change in pressure. We had all played the characters once so there was a familiarity there that made it more fun this time round. The pressure was more about successfully building on the foundations laid in the first film. I love playing Scotty and strongly object to the reduction that he is solely about comic relief. In a universe full of extraordinary people, it’s important to have characters whose reactions to fantastic events are more in line with our own. Scotty is less of a “open a channel to the Klingon vessel” kind of guy, he’s more of a “I’m not talking to those bumpy headed, we bastards, they put the shits up me” type of person, much like we would be. He’s also, smart, loyal and extremely capable. I love that he gets to be all those things in Into Darkness.
Talk about the way you prepared for the sequel. Did you spend as much time getting ready as the first film?
The first film was a case of turning up. I never forget the welcome I got from the rest of the crew. I felt like they were waiting for me to arrive so we could be a complete family. That sense of familial unity has only grown since my first day. With Into Darkness I decided to get into shape, having experienced running around the engine room in the first film in a less than fit state. I trained hard and met all the challenges of shooting head on. I figured Scotty would have hit the gym anyway, after spending 8 months on Delta Vega eating tribble burgers, he would have wanted to re-tune his body for the day to day job of manning a warp core.
For the sequel…you guys built a lot more of the Enterprise and you could do long tracking shots in the hallways. How much did you geek out on the set and as a film nerd…what was it like walking around the practical sets?
On the first day, Zoe, Anton and I were running around shooting little movies on Bad Robot’s Action Movie app (watch it below). It’s very easy to behave like a kid when you have your own giant spaceship to play around on. It was like coming back to school after the summer and discovering that the sports facilities now included a stadium. The production design on this movie is always breath taking, Scott Chambliss is a genius.
The first few weeks you guys shot the bridge stuff. What was it like jumping into a lot of dialogue to start things off?
It was slightly surreal, we’d been away for four years and yet when we were all back together in that environment, it felt like no time had passed at all. It was so easy to slip back into our old routines. Our own lives mirrored that of the crew in some respects, although over a longer period. The first film had brought us all together, the second film saw us working as a team of friends, with those friendships growing more stronger and significant with the passing of time.
Who made the first joke about lens flares?
Probably some film student who wanted to demonstrate his or her knowledge of film terminology, thus elevating themselves to an assumed level of critical superiority, which gave them the kind of smug, knowing smile that indicates a festering sour grape, fizzing in the pit of their own ambition. It’s become a sort of communal stick to have a crack at JJ with, mostly by people who didn’t know what the fuck lens flare was, until someone started sneering the term all over their blog. It demonstrates JJ’s supreme talent as a film maker that the main means of knocking him is to magnify a throw away artistic choice, into some sort of hilarious failing. Lens flare is essentially an anomaly caused by light hitting the lens and creating refracted shapes. Because it draws attention to the fact that we are looking at a filmed event, it actually creates a subliminal sense of documentary realism and makes the moment more vital and immediate. In the same way Spielberg spattered his shots with bloody seawater in Saving Private Ryan, JJ suggests that the moment we are in is so real and alive, there just isn’t time to frame out all the light and activity. The irony is by acknowledging the film’s artifice, you are enhancing the reality of the moment. It’s clever and I love it. On set we call it ‘best in show’ and our amazing director of photography, Dan Mindel has a special technique to achieve it. To the detractors, I offer a polite fuck you and suggest you find a new stick to beat us with, if being a huge, boring neggyballs is necessary for your personal happiness.
What have you managed to take home from set?
I stole my badge and JJ will be having dinner at my house whilst he’s in the UK shooting Star Wars. He is the biggest thing I stole from set.
Who messed up the most on their lines? And who was the worst at trying to get people to break on camera. I’ve heard your name a few times about trying to get people to break on camera.
We have a lot of fun on set but we are doing a job of work and too much messing around is counter productive. Having said that, sometimes it’s impossible not to get the giggles, particularly if JJ falls victim too. Karl is a terror and the combination of Zach, Chris and I can be lethal. Towards the end of the shoot Chris Pine and I played a gigantic practical joke on the rest of the cast, involving a fictitious anti radiation treatment called neutron cream. There was a lot of laughing during that period. Chris and I were a bit naughty.
When you think back to making the first film…what’s the memory you always go back to. Same question for the sequel.
On the first film, I remember we’d worked an extremely long day and we were all frazzled with tiredness. Anton had to deliver this gigantic speech about dropping out of warp behind Saturn or something and the combination of complex dialogue and the russian accent kept tripping him up. His eyes were so red with exhaustion, he looked as though he’d just taken a giant bong hit and I was torn between feeling sorry for him and wetting my pants laughing. He got it in the end and he did a brilliant job but getting there was tough. That pretty much sums up working on Trek. It’s exhausting and joyous in equal measure.
The other major memory is of performing scenes with Leonard Nimoy. It’s one thing to work with an actor you have known all your life but to meet a character, in context, that was something beyond description. Having Mr Spock look into my eyes and say “You are Montgomery Scott”, my brain was quietly short circuiting as I tried to remember my lines. I clearly remember thinking “holy shit, I’m in Star Trek”.
Into Darkness is just full of great memories for me. I worked on the film for five months as opposed to the three weeks I worked on the first film. Shooting at the Livermore Labs in Northern California was a blast. We were all staying in a hotel so it was like being at camp. We were hanging out and running around the corridors, charging drinks to each others room. It was so much fun. I bloody love those mad bastards.
What’s a behind-the-scenes story fans might be surprised to learn?
Peter Weller would play the trumpet in his trailer during lunch and he’s really good. He would then come out chewing a cigar and tell us all about good coffee and the Italian renaissance, the subject of his ongoing PhD. Peter Weller is a trip, we both have young children so it was fun to talk parenting with Robocop.
What was it like providing the voice for the video game. Did you have any say in your lines?
Fun to do the voice again. I just love playing Scotty, so any chance I get to spend with him is a bonus. It’s different vibe because you do it alone but I always relish the opportunity to be Monty.
Do you remember if you had any deleted scenes?
There was a scene we shot which came after the opening sequence, in which Kirk gives his Captain’s log account of the volcano incident, fudging the details. Bones and Scotty are there so it’s the whole crew watching Kirk be a wise guy. It wasn’t really needed in the end but I’m glad we shot it because it was all of us together on the bridge in a moment of calm. Me and Karl threw each other a look which said, that is one cocky captain.
With J.J. landing Star Wars…it definitely opens the door to landing a new director soon for a third Star Trek film. I’ve heard Paramount definitely wants another one sooner than 4 years. Do you think if the sequel is a hit we’ll get the 3rd film in the next 2 or 3 years?
Pure speculation but I’m guessing JJ and his team will find a shit hot director to take the helm and then JJ will remote produce from Tatooine or wherever the heck he is. There is no way he will simply hand it over. His stamp will be all over it and his voice will be in every creative decision. He has too much heart invested in this story to just move on to something else and not look back, he’s not that kind of person. The good thing about this is that we might start making the film sooner than even we thought we would.
Look for more with Simon Pegg tomorrow night. For more on Star Trek Into Darkness, here’s all our other interviews, clips, TV spots, posters, and tons of other articles.