Simon Pegg engineers a great script for ‘Star Trek Beyond’
British actor-writer Simon Pegg was handed what he calls “the keys to the kingdom” when, along with playing USS Enterprise chief engineer Montgomery Scott for the third time, he was offered the assignment of co-writing the script (with Doug Jung). Being a self-proclaimed “Star Trek” geek since he was a kid, and having written scripts for “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” and “The World’s End,” it didn’t take more than a nanosecond for him to say yes. His talent as a writer and his knowledge of all things “Star Trek” made him an excellent choice. He spoke about the film last week in Los Angeles.
Q: There’s so much responsibility that goes with writing a “Star Trek” film. Was there any trepidation about tackling it?
A: Yeah, there was. I knew that myself and my co-writer would be taking on a beloved thing, that a lot of people have very personal feelings about, very clear ideas of what they want it to be. I knew that we would probably run the risk of coming under fire from purists and people who would take exception to ANYthing you do.
Q: But what about satisfying yourself because you’re such a fan?
A: The idea of getting create “Star Trek” was so attractive: To get to name planets and species, to create situations and put words in the mouths of those characters that are already established, that I know so well. What a great opportunity. It was a very attractive proposition.
Q: You’ve co-written with the director Edgar Wright and with your actor pal Nick Frost before. Was it any different writing with Doug Jung this time?
A: I was friends with Edgar and Nick for a long time, but Doug and I had never met before. Fortunately we got on very well, very quickly. I immediately realized Doug’s strengths. He’s a master of structure, and he’s great at tracking the acts and of what’s happening in them. I think he really enjoyed it because it gives you someone to constantly bounce off. When you’re on your own you don’t know if your ideas are good or not.
Q: So, what are YOUR strengths?
A: Dialogue and character-based stuff is always fun for me. Particularly the stuff between Spock and Bones because you have two characters who are diametrically opposed. They are the angel and devil on Kirk’s shoulder, or at least versions of both. We had the joy of having Spock get so delirious that he started to actually manifest emotions. One of the things I loved in the original series was when there would be a glimmer of the humanity in Spock. He was like this stern, stoic guy who was hard to get to, and if he gave you ANYthing, you would lap it up. So I really liked the idea of having a scene in the movie where Spock laughed.
Q: Was there any discussion with the actors about their characters while you were writing?
A: No, but when the script was finished, and before we started shooting, when the cast arrived in Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada) we sent an email to them saying if there’s anything you want to bring to this or anything you feel your character WOULDN’T be doing, come and talk to me and Doug. We sat down and spoke with them about their characters, and everybody brought something to the table.
Q: The movie begins with some raucous humor, but shortly after that there are long serious discussions between the characters. Did you figure out that balance early on in the writing?
A: We talked about it all the way through the edit. The Teenaxi sequence with the tiny aliens at the beginning was the first thing we wrote, and it was kind of a joke. But when we came to the edit we were wondering whether it should start with the (action sequence of the) shuttle coming out of the nebula. But that didn’t work. It had to start with a lightness. Our initial thinking was let’s make the opening of the film a sort of lighthearted episode of the show, like “The Trouble with Tribbles.”
Q: Do you have a favorite moment in the film?
A: There’s a line I’m very proud of which is when Kirk beams back onto the Enterprise, you hear him say, very quietly, “Oh, dammit, I ripped my shirt again,” which is a little nod to Shatner who was always ripping his shirt.
— Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.