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With a double dose of Simon Pegg in the next few months, one this week with Killl Me Three Times, and again in July with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, we thought it all too appropriate to profile the actor’s best works. Know also as an outstanding comedy writer, Pegg’s career is quite prolific for a 45-year old; having taken the world by storm with his famed Cornetto Trilogy, and beloved cult television shows. Focusing solely on his acting talents, we have decided to rank the best Simon Pegg roles, as ranked by a huge Simon Pegg fan. Are there any of his roles that I missed? I would love to hear about them, so leave your responses in the comments.
8. A Fantastic Fear of Everything – Jack
While A Fantastic Fear of Everything can hardly boast about its merits as a film, it does feature a wildly eccentric Simon Pegg. Little more than a rip off of Paul King’s (The Mighty Boosh, Paddington) far superior, Bunny and the Bull, Pegg stars as an agoraphobic (and as the title suggests, panphobic) writer, obsessed with the Victorian killers at the heart of his newest production. Pegg lends his quirky charm to the role, yet is just abrasive enough to turn the audience against him. A poor script, and editorial hand-holding detract from an otherwise interesting movie about a man’s life, shattered by his fear. Pegg is able to display a dynamic range unlike many of his other, more strictly defined, roles, including a fair amount of Jerry Lewis physicality and a facial dexterity reminiscent of Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean. A tormented soul, Pegg’s Jack is an incredibly sad figure to behold. Gripped with fear, anger, loneliness, and doubt, Pegg gives emotional life to a character otherwise heavily developed with dialogue.
7. The Adventures of Tintin – Thompson
A list of Simon Pegg roles would be incomplete without at least on example of his voice acting abilities. A prolific catalogue of voice work pads Pegg’s resume, having worked on everything from video games like Fable III, to television (Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Phineas and Ferb), to feature films; Pegg’s IMDb profile is literally clustered with voiceover credits. In The Adventures of Tintin, Pegg plays alongside his regular partner, Nick Frost as bumbling brother detectives Thompson and Thomson. Perhaps not Pegg’s greatest vocal performance (I have not seen/played even half of his credits), Thompson makes the cut because it is both hilarious, and utterly befuddling.
6. Mission Impossible (III, Ghost Protocol, and Rogue Nation) – Benji Dunn
Pegg’s foray into mainstream American film, as well as into the action genre, came with his portrayal of the brainy Benji Dunn in 2006’s Mission: Impossible III. The wisecracking, apprehensive comic relief at the core of the IMF, Pegg’s Dunn has an impossible technical knowhow that is absolutely necessary when your mission is equally contrived. The Q to Tom Cruise’s James Bond, Dunn is responsible for all of the inane gadgetry of the Mission Impossible franchise, with the added bonuses of undercover fieldwork, and unlimited hacking duties. Pegg is very much the rational member of the team, as he provides all of the film’s self-referential “oohs” and “aahs” so the audience knows exactly how to feel, without being too loud in a crowded theatre.
5. Shaun of the Dead – Shaun
This will certainly be perceived as heresy, but trust me, I have thought it over. Shaun of the Dead marks the beginning of the cult franchise known as the Cornetto Trilogy, as well as Pegg’s cinematic relationship with director Edgar Wright. A fantastic homage/satire of the horror genre, Shaun of the Dead serves as Wright and Pegg’s (who co-wrote the script) love letter to the films of their youth. Being as this is not a list of “best films,” Pegg’s endlessly quotable dialogue, and cricket bat antics are not enough to propel this role higher up our list. A lovable slouch, Shaun is stuck in the rut of his late 20’s, unable to leave his youth behind and move on as an adult. While Pegg delivers a funny and fantastic performance, it is far too similar to his breakout role on Spaced, and therefore serves as little more than the territorial retread of a previous role.
4. Star Trek – Scotty
The rollicking back-and-forth between Pegg’s Scotty and Deep Roy’s diminutive Keenser is reason enough to consider Scotty as one of Pegg’s best. Add to that a smattering of babbled quantum equations for “beaming,” and a thick Scottish accent, and you have a winner. Launching Pegg further into stardom, and simultaneously appeasing a generation of nerds who flock to actors like Pegg, Scotty seems like the perfect fit for Pegg’s sci-fi leanings (Star Wars might have hit the nail a bit more squarely, his university thesis was about the first film). Securing his place in sci-fi culture history, Pegg’s role as Scotty made him a member of the genre he has supported for so long. No doubt the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, Pegg seemed to delight in his role as Scotty, mastering physics and space travel, while being best friends with a tiny, crab-eyed, alien.
3. Hot Fuzz – Sergeant Nicholas Angel
Check out his horse. The second entry in the Cornetto trilogy finds Pegg as a disgruntled police man (officer), sent to the country due to his superiority over his fellow London cops. An incredibly funny film, Hot Fuzz’s Nicholas Angel made the list because he is the opposite of Pegg’s modus operandi. Smart, sharp, motivated, and as teetotalingly straight-laced as one can get, the Sergeant is nothing like Pegg’s other characters. Physical and mental prowesses define Pegg’s Sgt. Angel; it is from his immense seriousness and adherence to the rules that his character’s humor derives. Outside of the box thinking, and some bad ass gunplay make Sgt. Nicholas Angel Simon Pegg’s most unusual character, and one of my personal favorites.
2. Spaced – Tim Bisley
Marking Pegg and Edgar Wright’s first major collaboration (they previously worked together on the sitcom, Asylum), Spaced is a beloved cult comedy surrounding Pegg’s Tim Bisley and Jessica Hynes’ Daisy, as they attempt to masquerade as a happily married English couple – as their landlady insists on renting her two-bedroom flat to a responsible pair. Full of oddball characters, Wright’s visually-diverse direction, and Pegg and Hynes’ brilliant writing, Spaced was nerd culture boiled down into 14 masterful episodes of television. Pegg’s Tim is wildly manic as the aspiring illustrator, stuck working at a comic shop, and betrayed by his hero, George Lucas (Episode I had just come out). Best friends with military man, and all around gun nut, Mike Watt (Nick Frost), Tim spends his time trying to motivate Daisy in her career as a writer, while smoking pot and playing video games. Pegg’s Tim is a completely relatable character, unable to begin his life, and struggling to hang on to his youth (sounds a lot like Shaun – told you I was right), while never letting go of his lofty dreams.
1. The World’s End – Gary King
At face value, Gary King is merely a Shaun/Tim hybrid, stuck in his youth, and unable to best the “happiest” days of his life. When approached with a more critical eye (and more views than I care to admit), King becomes a deeply flawed individual, suffering from forces far beyond his control, and reaching out in a final, desperate, grasp to find happiness. As a high schooler King had control over his “crew” of friends, and, in his eyes, a commanding presence in the local drinking establishments. After the best night of his life, trying to complete the “Golden Mile,” King cannot accept a future where he is not in a pub, surrounded by his mates. Wildly losing control of his life, King becomes addicted to drugs, neglects relationships with his friends, and spirals into depression. After a serious wake-up call, King believes that a reunion, and the completion of the infamous pub crawl will “reset” his life, ripping him from depression. King is by far Pegg’s most damaged and challenging character. Always the clown, King laughs to mask an ingrained unhappiness, and a life he can not bare to face. Years of pain are evident in Pegg’s performance; countless disappointments and destroyed friendships present in every ignored comment or conversational side-step. While certainly very much a comedic figure, Pegg’s King is the most psychologically complex character in the Cornetto trilogy, and without a doubt, Pegg’s career as a whole.