When it comes to reaction to Simon Pegg’s Hector and the Search for Happiness, the star is beyond thrilled at how much the film has touched people’s souls. “People tell me all the time that ‘I’ve seen the film and I can’t stop thinking about it and my life,’” Pegg told us in our exclusive interview.
As teased in the Hector and the Search for Happiness trailer, Pegg plays a psychiatrist who discovers he feels like a fraud. See, he has no idea what truly makes people happy and in all honestly, he doesn't even know what happiness is. So, he takes a break from his life and heads out on a worldwide journey to find what is various cultures' definition of that emotional state of mind.
It is an exquisite piece of work and we caught up with Pegg from the Toronto International Film Festival where he shared some exclusive insight into the making of a modern classic and the joy he has expanding his range beyond comedies and diving into franchises such as Star Trek and Mission Impossible.
Movie Fanatic: When we last spoke for The World’s End, you were about to head off and make Hector and the Search for Happiness and you could not be more excited. Now that it’s about to be revealed to audiences, how are you feeling?
Simon Pegg: It’s amazing and it’s been such a journey making this film. We had a parallel adventure to Hector himself and I kind of expected a journey myself and to make a few realizations about the world and my life and happiness. We were constantly talking about this stuff on set. We were on location and we’d always go out and have dinner together and discuss what makes us happy. It wasn’t just that regular experience of making a film. It was something else.
Movie Fanatic: There are so many aspects that had to be appealing in agreeing to do this movie. You show some serious emotional range in this role, was that the biggest of all the draws?
Simon Pegg: I felt coming from pure comedy as I have done, it was a neat segue. It wasn’t like suddenly going into a complete drama. There was a comedy element to it. I wouldn’t say it’s a comedy, but it has tonal shifts that allow you to experience every color in the emotional spectrum in one film. It felt like a good way to flex my acting chops a bit and make a bit of a move towards doing more serious stuff, which I do really enjoy doing. My background and a large body of what I’ve done has been comedy, it’s something I would like to do more of is more serious stuff.
Movie Fanatic: There are so many emotions, themes and messages that permeate throughout. Is there one that stands above the others? And maybe it even changed from when you read the script to when you wrapped the movie.
Simon Pegg: The one that struck a chord with me is the one about happiness is not avoiding unhappiness. That one is the key to the message of the film. He goes through a lot of ideas of what happiness might be and they range from greeting card standard fare to genuinely sound philosophical ideas -- of which that is one. What the film basically says is that you can’t just avoid being unhappy. That’s not how to be happy. You have to have it all. That’s where he is at the beginning of the film, his sort of anesthetized sense of the way of life. He seemingly has everything. He’s the least sympathetic guy searching for happiness I’ve seen, which I think is hilarious. He’s a white middle class guy who is well off who has a beautiful girlfriend and let’s give him a problem and let’s see if anyone gives a (expletive) [laughs]. That’s quite an audacious way to start a film! What it says is happiness is not achievable my materialistic things. And depression, or lack of happiness, does not discriminate. In a way it says that if you’re struggling to find your next meal, you know what happiness is, because you know what it isn’t.
Movie Fanatic: You mentioned wanting to stretch with Hector and the Search for Happiness. But, you have done Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and you have the Star Trek franchise. Was that always the plan, or has it come along much more organically to have this varied career?
Simon Pegg: It has happened organically. But, I have embraced it wholeheartedly. I’m not the actor who says, “I’ll do one for them and one for me.” I value both types of film. There’s a place for pure entertainment. It’s important to have pure entertainment and anyone who rejects that as frivolous is snobby. There’s room for everything. I don’t think I’d just like to do one type of film. When I go into Mission Impossible 5, as I am now, I don’t think, "I’ll do this before I do one of my edgy movies." I think, “This is great, I get to do Mission Impossible!”