Our coverage of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has centered on questions:
“Who is Luke Skywalker?”
“Who is Kylo Ren?”
But when asked about another contributor to the movie, director J.J. Abrams raised a question of his own: “Who is Simon Pegg?”
No, really. Who??
“You know, I’ve never met Simon Pegg,” said Abrams. But when reminded, it gradually rings a bell: You know … Pegg played Scotty in Abrams’ Star Trekreboots… He was Shaun in Shaun of the Dead… The tech-savvy agent Benji in Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III… Hot Fuzz. The World’s End. He played uber-geeks in Spaced and the alien-road-trip comedy Paul … He’s the guy who rattles off his ranking of Star Wars movies in under a minute (like that’s really hard.)
Then it dawned on Abrams: oh, Simon Pegg! Right.
“I will say that Simon Pegg is a genius,” Abrams acknowledges. “Because he told me to say that.”
Rumors had abounded that Pegg had a secret cameo in The Force Awakens. Pegg himself, meanwhile, started further gossip about 007 actor Daniel Craig – who was shooting Spectre at the same studio and at the same time Episode VII – turning up in the movie incognito as a stormtrooper extra.
At San Diego’s Comic-Con, we saw that indeed Pegg was on set for The Force Awakens, and is even spotted with his unmasked head sticking out of some large alien-looking body (with a wet washcloth on his head to ease the heat of what looks like Abu Dhabi). So now that we’re clear on who Pegg is … who is Pegg in this movie?
Unfortunately, Abrams isn’t yet willing to identify that creature. But it turns out that wasn’t Pegg’s only contribution.
“I will say this in terms of Simon: while he won’t be recognizable in the movie, in all honesty, his role in this – not the performance or the character – but his support and friendship has been massively important and helpful in the process,” Abrams says, shifting from deadpan to sincere. “He was a wonderful partner in crime to kick the story around and ask questions and come up with ideas, and he was an incredibly helpful part of the process for all of us. I’m very grateful.”
But that’s new. It turns out Pegg was a part of the brain trust shaping these new stories.
“He was a sounding board,” Abrams says. “He would drop by the set because he wanted to, and when he could, he would help… We could talk about things, and he was a perfect combination of incredibly smart screenwriter, fan of the series, critical fan of the series, and friend of mine – but not just blindly supportive. He was an honest, critical friend. And he wasn’t so close to it that he became immune to things. He would come in with fresh eyes and very smart ideas. He’s one of a handful of people along the way that has been really priceless.”
But what about Pegg’s claim that James Bond will be one of The Force Awakens’ anonymous stormtroopers?
Abrams shifts back into hyper-snark.
“I’ve been asked to say nothing by Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” he says.