By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Simon Pegg is known for playing lovable reluctant antiheroes like the titular zombie killer in “Shaun of the Dead,” starship engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the rebooted “Star Trek” franchise and helpful techie Benji in the “Mission: Impossible” films.
Going against type, the British actor plays a merciless hit man in the Australian dark comedic thriller “Kill Me Three Times.” As Charlie, he is hired to knock off the wife of a beach club owner in a deceptively peaceful oceanside community near Perth. The owner (Callan Mulvey) suspects his wife is cheating on him and hires Charlie to do the dirty deed. Charlie soon discovers he isn’t the only one trying to rub out the two-timing Alice. There’s a matter of some stolen loot, blackmail, insurance fraud and more at play involving other locals. Co-starring alongside Pegg is Alice Braga, Teresa Palmer, Luke Hemsworth, Bryan Brown and Sullivan Stapleton.
With interweaving story lines and double-crossing characters, “Kill Me Three Times” is reminiscent of the Coen Brothers’ dark comedy classic “Fargo,” but set along Australia’s gorgeous West Coast, and helmed by native director Kriv Stenders.
Pegg’s part was greatly expanded from James McFarland’s original script as Stenders found more things to do with the mustachioed character.
The in-demand Pegg had less than three weeks to shoot his part as he was just coming off an extended shoot and wanted to go home to England to be with his wife, Maureen, and young daughter, Matilda. He still wanted to do the part, though, so the production worked around his schedule.[private]
Pegg recently stopped here to talk about playing a bad guy for a change and what’s ahead with “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible.”
Q: How was it playing the bad guy, because usually you’re the nice guy or the hero?
Pegg: (deadpan) It was more like me. I’m far more like an amoral mass murderer than any of the nice guys that I play. (He laughs.) It was fun. It was nice to do something different. One of the things that attracted me to the script, apart from the artful way that it was structured and written, was the opportunity to play someone very contrary to some of the roles I played before.
Charlie was just a sort of delight on the page to play someone who is so unapologetically bad. And yet, at the same time, oddly kind of the most likable people in the film, which says a lot about the other characters. I couldn’t resist it, and so I had to pack my bag and go to Perth immediately.
Q: How do you make somebody who’s narrowly amoral also very charming to the viewer?
Pegg: It helps that everyone in Eagle’s Nest (the fictional town where the film is set) is a bit of an idiot. It’s kind of like you have to pick your allegiance. I suppose Alice and Luke are the most morally acceptable people, even though they’re up to no good. They’re having an affair and they’re stealing money and that stuff. With Charlie, as a villain, there’s a lot of fun about him. His amusement with what’s going on is parallel to the audience’s own amusement.
The audience comes in with Charlie and they get to look at the craziness that’s going on in that small town with him and are as bemused and disgusted and sort of maddened by it as he is, which is an interesting sort of angle really for the audience to have. If he wasn’t fun, Charlie would horrendous. It would be like watching “Wolf Creek,” although the bad guy in that is kind of fun but in a way that’s horrific. In a film that has this much violence in it, if it was just sort of lead pipe cruel it would be really hard to watch. So it has to be heightened and made fun in order to make it a bit more palatable.
Q: Can you talk a bit about the horseshoe mustache and the black hair? How’d you come up with that look?
Pegg: Kriv and me sort of came up with it together before we started shooting. We had a couple of Skype conversations and phone calls before we officially met in the flesh and talked about Charlie and what he would look like. I kind of pushed for the mustache. I regretted it immediately as soon as it happened because I couldn’t wear any of my clothes with it. It was the most bizarre thing. Such a tiny thing can say so much about you. I’ve got nothing against the mustache. It’s a great look, but you have to pair it with certain aesthetics, and it doesn’t look good with anything other than a baseball cap and a plaid shirt. So, it was difficult.
Q: With leather chaps, maybe?
Pegg: Or a cowboy hat or a construction worker’s helmet—any of the Village People’s look. It was just an idea that we had. I realized in talking to Kriv that we wanted this sort of incongruous figure. He’s the Grim Reaper. He looks as incongruous in that setting as a man in a cloak with a scythe. Charlie has no interest in being stealthy; he’s very brazen in what he does. He clearly looked at the big book of hit men and said I want to look like that. That was our idea.
Q: The locations where you shot were gorgeous. This film will likely bolster tourism to Perth.
Pegg: It’s an amazing place, especially that house where we shot with the (ocean) view. You can see the surfers being eaten by sharks from the window. (He laughs.)
Q: Do you guys have a favorite moment from being on set?
Pegg: I really enjoyed shooting the fight scene with Sullivan because it was messy. I really got on well with Sully. He’s such a great guy. Being stabbed through the hand for the second time was enormous fun. Whenever you can get down and dirty like that and playing a character who is just so cool in the face of being such an *******, it’s so great. There’s a point in the movie when Charlie sets something on fire and as he’s walking away from it in the classic movie-style realizes he can’t light his cigarette, so he’s kind of bummed and he turns around and says (disappointedly) “Oh man.” He doesn’t care about the fact that he just killed somebody but that he can’t light his cigarette.
Q: You must get a lot of opportunities that are hard to say no to. Do you have an approach to how you’re trying to balance your own projects versus big studio projects versus just great intriguing films to make this one?
Pegg: It’s kind of like juggling. You’re constantly catching and throwing and sometimes you’ll drop it because you get the timing wrong. I was going to make time for my own stuff with Edgar (Wright) and Nick (Frost), but at the same time, when something like this comes along I want the opportunity to do that. Similarly, I love working on big movies like “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek.”
Q: Since you brought up “Mission: Impossible,” you know that the release of the “Mission: Impossible—Rogue Nation” trailer just blew up the Internet. When you watch it what kind of excitement do you get as an audience member? Also, could you talk about the scene where Tom Cruise is hanging on to the side of a plane? Did you get to see them film that?
Pegg: I was on the plane actually. They did a couple of circles of the airfield because it would take off and then it would have to fly in a circle and then land again. Because I shot my stuff at a different time, they were like, “Do you want to come along?” So I came and I did one (circle) where I sat in the cockpit just to watch it going around and then one where I sat and watched the tarmac side on the monitor. I was there when the back door opened. It was hilarious. It was just like the only way Tom could top climbing the tallest building in the world (in “Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol,” is to be on something which isn’t attached to the ground and higher up.
It was like: That’s a plane. The only thing you can do (stunt-wise) on an airplane (is go outside), and he did it. So, they just gaffer-taped him to the side of it and off he went.
It was extraordinary. It’s funny. When you do it on a working day, it’s like, “That’s amazing. Move on. What’s next?” When you see it in the trailer, “It’s like ****. That’s insane.” So, I’m very excited for audiences. I only wrapped two weeks ago so there’s stuff that’s not in the trailer. There were set pieces that aren’t even glimpsed in the trailer that are extraordinary.
Q: What got you excited about the opportunity to write “Star Trek 3?”
Pegg: It just came out of conversations that I was having with (producers) J.J. (Abrams) and Bryan Burk. They decided to restart the process and, because I’d been on set with Burk on “Mission: Impossible,” he said, “Maybe you should come on and write it with Doug (Jung) and Justin (Lin) and him and Lindsey Weber. I was like, “No. It’s too much pressure. I think we just want to take it forward with the spirit of the TV show.”
Q: What you want to bring to it, sensibility-wise?
Pegg: It’s a story about frontierism and adventure and optimism and fun, and that’s where we want to take it, where no man has gone before—where no one has gone before, sensibly correct for a slightly more enlightened generation. That’s the mood at the moment.[/private]