The Massie Twins recently got to sit down with actor Simon Pegg and director Robert Weide to talk about their latest film, “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.” Naturally, everything from free cookies to “The Big Lebowski” came up.
Massie Twins: So how’s Arizona been treating you?
Simon Pegg: Hotly. It’s kind of overwhelming for a pasty British man. It’s amazing!
MT: This is the last stop on your press tour. So have you already fielded every question there is?
SP: Pretty much. I’ll give you a free cookie if you ask me a question I’ve not been asked before. Oh wait, that was a question I haven’t heard before. Here’s a cookie. (hands Mike a cookie)
MT: The movie references the differing ways celebrities are treated by the press in Britain and the U.S., commenting that over there they often attack their integrity and really go after them, whereas here they tend to caudle and pander to them. Is that really the way it is?
SP: I think that’s quite a generalization in some respects as the particular publication that Sidney goes to work for behaves like that, but there are other publications in American that don’t want to tear stuff down and undermine their celebrities. In Britain, there are those that have a disdain for the celebrities in the U.K., but similarly there are magazines that worship them unconditionally. For the purpose of the movie, Sidney’s background is in “Snipe” and taking cracks at celebrities, and stoking the flames rather than actually trying to put them out. That metaphor worked in the end. I didn’t think it would.
Robert Weide: (laughs) You wrapped it up nicely.
MT: How about your own celebrity status? You probably can’t avoid getting recognized now.
SP: I think I’m still pretty cult-y. But I was in Dallas the other day and everywhere I went, people would say “hey, it’s Shaun of the Dead.” They all knew what I’d done; it wasn’t like “hey, there’s that guy that I don’t know what he did, but I know him.”
MT: So you got to work with Toby Young [the journalist upon whose career the film is based].
SP: We got to hang out a little bit. I didn’t want to play it exactly as him, and because it’s “Sidney,” it’s kind of a fictionalized version of him. I was able to have a few dinners with him and hang out a bit and get under his skin a little – and then I decided that wasn’t how I was going to play the character. (laughs)
MT: How much improvisation did you get to do? Did you have to stick to the script?
SP: We didn’t do much improv.
RW: You’d occasionally come up with something. There’s a scene where you’re on the phone ordering a credit card and each take you made up a new line, and the one we went with was about the Queen being in your breakdance posse. (laughs) That was a treat in the editing room.
MT: There’s a scene where you call the landlady “Mrs. Lebowski.” Did you throw that in there because of Jeff Bridges?
SP: (laughs) No, that was actually in the script. Someone else the other day asked if there was a running thread of Lebowski references. Especially with all the White Russians and Jeff being in the film.
RW: It’s all coincidence because Jeff wasn’t attached to the script at all.
SP: We kept it in though because it was quite poetic.
MT: Last time you were here, you mentioned the film that would be “Hot Fuzz.” Is there anything that you’re working on right now with those guys?
SP: Yeah, Nick and I just finished writing something that we’re going to go into production with next year [working title “The World’s End”]. Edgar and I will get back into the office when we’re done with our respective other projects and come up with the third film in what we’re calling the “blood and ice cream trilogy.”
MT: Can you tell us what it’s about?
SP: No. (laughs)