Oh, they said. Isn’t Simon Pegg wonderful? No, I said. I hate him with every cell. Silence. The line was down, again. Or, for once, they were speechless. You don’t like his films? Oh no, I said. I like his films. I just hate the man. Oh, they said, eventually. Did you know his name means shagging someone up the bottom with a fake penis? What they actually said was slightly different, but meant the same thing. No, I said. In Britain, it means hanging out the washing.
As you might expect, my research immediately failed. Not only is Simon Pegg a made up name, adding weight to my hatred, but he has done even more great movies than I had realised. I know him from Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and World’s End. I enjoyed the latter mostly because it is set, and was shot, very close to where I live. They call it the Hollywood of Britain, it being close to the holy trinity of Pinewood, Elstree, and Shepperton and, yes, Hammer Horror’s Bray. Four doth not a trinity make, but who cares? Denham was once a film studio before it became a block of flats, also close by.
I believe in fate. Last night, sprawled on the sofa after another gripping edition of The Sweet Makers about Victorian confectionery on the BBC, we accidentally forgot to switch over to another program. And now, said the announcer, a little film called Man Up. This sounds shit, I replied. Starring Simon Pegg…
Even my American colleagues, all fans of the Pegg, had not heard of Man Up. And no wonder. There are no ghouls or gremlins. No people in uniforms. No easily described setup. No Nick Frost. None of the usual crew at all. There’s a girl, Nancy, a total loser, lost in London, bossed around by her middle-aged married sister. I enjoyed spotting some of the landmarks for a bit, but somehow forgot to switch it all off. It turned out that, once you got to know her, Nancy was not only very funny and interesting but red hot. I started to Google. She’s played by the improbably named Lake Bell. I know! An American! I only just realised she was from New York City. She has a perfect English accent, which I doubt she used in Boston Legal.
Man Up grows on you until, by the last glorious half hour, you are right in there rooting for Lake and Simon. They’re perfect for each other. Never mind that I hate rom coms. I desperately want these two to sort it all out. Not even Pegg, staggering through Surrey to Whitesnake on full blast, followed by a mob of drunken drug-addled teenagers, can put me off. It is a very, very good movie. And Pegg is very, very good in it. Even still, Lake Bell steals the show.
As if to prove that Simon Pegg knows I hate him, shortly before Man Up he made an odd number called Paul. I have watched Paul, but only because a good friend of mine has a little cameo in it if you look closely. I watched it under duress, because I hate Simon Pegg. This is entirely personal. All his movies are fabulous.
I so very rarely have strong reactions to anyone in the public eye, that it always makes me stop and think when I do. You, me, everybody, only sees the side of someone that they themselves choose to put out there. Some traits, some personalities work well at a party, for an hour. But if you had to live with that persona, well that would be something else. For quite a long time, I hated Ricky Gervais. He also lives nearby. So do ten million others. Ricky I hated for a long time, until I saw through him. I am naturally suspicious of someone who actively promotes their least likeable traits in public. Why would anyone do that? For money? For love? The thing is, if Ricky Gervais had not put his least desirable traits front and centre, he wouldn’t have been successful. Before I hated Ricky I hated Steve Coogan. Same reason. Here is a really nice northern bloke, who is very funny indeed, choosing to put himself about like a bitter old twat. His phone hacking mock shock is transparent too. But I no longer hate him, or Gervais. I see that their public personas are just part of the act.
This, friends, his high performance art. If you have to pretend to be someone all day for work, then surely it’s easier just to keep being that person at home too? Until it is no longer work. Until, perhaps, you turn into the caricature.
Pegg is different, I think. He is not a natural performer. Perhaps more of a Stephen Merchant character, he seems like he would be more relaxed writing and producing than acting. Don’t some of his performances on screen seem a little strained?
Is Pegg a few years behind the legend Coogan? Is he still trying to look relaxed as the flashy twat nobody really likes? He doesn’t pull it off. I can see through you, Simon. I can see who you really are. And I know that if you really were that person on camera and in interviews, which are the only time I get to see you, it wouldn’t make you look so uneasy. I know you are still learning the part, but you don’t need to try so hard. You made it, Simon. You did what you set out to achieve. Time to leave the beery twat in the pub. Show us the real you.