Simon Pegg is now a veteran of the Mission: Impossible franchise, having featured in four out of the six films.
Pegg – who plays Benji, the right-hand man of hero Ethan Hunt (Cruise) insists he literally feared for his pal Tom’s life. (Cruise actually broke his ankle filming one of the scenes, resulting in an interruption in production, but a usable shot).
In M:I – Fallout, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (the first director to return to the Mission franchise) gives us a thrill ride that sees Ethan Hunt and his IMF team join forces with CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) to prevent a disaster of epic proportions.
Original-Cin’s Bonnie Laufer spoke with Pegg about returning to the franchise and how Tom Cruise continues to surprise (and scare) him.
Original-Cin: Great to have you back in Toronto and so wonderful to see you back on the big screen in yet another Mission: Impossible movie.
Simon Pegg: Great to be back on both accounts!
OC: This is now number six in the series and you have been in four. Did you ever think when you joined the franchise it was going to go this many?
SP:“I didn't know if the films would continue. I mean I kind of assumed perhaps they would. But I certainly didn't think I would continue. I thought I was a cameo. J.J. Abrams had called, and, you know, I think he'd seen Shaun of the Dead and thought, ‘It'll be funny if we get this guy to be in a couple of scenes.’ I had no idea that Benji would sort of evolve into an agent and get out in the field and be so up to his neck in adventure as he has been.”
OC: Benji is a fan favorite, but what is it that you continue to love about this guy?
SP: “I think because, in this world of spies and agents and masks and and gadgets, he's the most relatable character, because he's kind of like an audience member. He's the guy that's always saying, ‘Why are we doing this? Are you insane? Maybe we shouldn’t try this!’ He says the kind of things you'd be saying in this situation. So he's in a world of these sort of super spies. But he's kind of one of us in a way and I think that's what the audience keys into him.”
OC: Now let's just talk about the insanity of this film. We know that Tom does all of his stunts. But let's just face it, when this guy goes for it he over-goes for it. Do you ever watch him doing these stunts and go, ‘Dude how and why are you doing this?’
SP: “Every day, for real! I’ve honestly said many times, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ Rebecca Ferguson (who also stars in the film) and I literally feared for Tom’s life during the shooting of this film.
“What he does in this movie, I don’t even think a trained stuntman would try! I just marvel at his commitment to his craft. And he really does it, not because he's mad because it's easy to sort of dismiss it as, like, ‘Oh it's insane.’ But he is so committed to his duty to entertain. He sincerely knows how much it means to the audience if they feel that it's really happening.”
OC: His dedication to his movies and his fans is admirable.
SP: “Exactly! If you're watching something which has been simulated, it's exciting to see it, but you don't have any emotional investment in the moment because you know it's not real. Whereas if you know it's authentic, if you know he's actually in that kind of danger, there's a whole other level of interaction that you get with the film and that's what he knows.”
OC: I'm telling you during the last act of this film, I literally felt physically nauseous, but in a good way!
SP: “I get it! Yeah it's really exciting and intense. I couldn't sleep when I first saw it and I knew what was going happen.”
OC: Well honestly, I didn’t think I’d need to bring a barf bag to this screening! I was OK though!
SP: (laughs) “Phew, good to hear!”
OC: Your action scenes are intense too. You have been punched before on one of the other films, so what lessons have you learned about actually getting through your stunts?
SP: “The fight scenes are always really intensive and you have to learn the choreography. But you also have to know the person you're fighting with.
“I got punched on Rogue Nation because of a timing issue. The director Chris McQuarrie gave me a note to kind of move over a little so that he could see my face, but he didn't tell the stuntman. So we did the scene and I got punched in the stomach and the face. We learned on that one to give everybody the note and not just me! (laughs)
“It's hard work, and you do get bruised and battered, and there are a few near misses particularly when someone's swinging at your face. But you learn to roll with the punches.”
OC: Ethan Hunt’s famous line in the film is, ‘I’ll figure it out.’ How many times has Tom Cruise said to you, ‘I'll figure it out?’
SP: (Laughs) “We all say it every day while we're working on these films. ‘I'll figure it out,’ is our mantra. It's kind of funny actually, because there was a parallel story to this film which was the actual writing of the screenplay. Chris McQuarrie - who is a genius writer - thrives under pressure and he sort of elevates his technique just by leaving it all to the last minute.
“I always say it's like the Wallace and Gromit cartoon when Gromit is laying the track in front of the train as it’s speeding along. That's how Chris kind of writes. And so, for all of us the whole time while making this movie, it was like we're figuring it out. We're working on it and that plays into the movie, which is like Ethan just improvising.”
SP: “Aw, thanks! We hope soon. I always I never know how to answer that. I can't give you a definite answer, but I can say it will definitely happen. It's just a question of when. I promise you haven’t seen the last of us yet!”