In the 2009 movie “Star Trek,” engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott – played by Britain’s Simon Pegg – doesn’t appear onscreen for more than an hour.
The sequel opening Thursday wastes much less time getting to Pegg, 43, who has spent several years providing comic relief in blockbuster franchises including “Mission: Impossible” and “Ice Age.” Scotty is not only a key part of “Star Trek Into Darkness” from the beginning, but he also … well, let’s not spoil anything.
Pegg spoke to the Observer by phone from London recently about “Star Trek” past and present, and the future of “Star Wars” (yes, that “Star Wars”).
Q. Why do you think “Star Trek” continues to connect with audiences?
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It’s brilliantly egalitarian. Think about 1966 (when the TV series debuted). It’d been barely 20 years since the end of the second World War, and in the midst of the Cold War, you had a Russian and a Japanese crew member, you had a black woman who was in charge of an entire division of the ship. I think that what’s cool about “Star Trek” is that it offers a future where everybody is accepted and everybody works together.
Q. Has being in a couple of “Star Trek” movies changed how you feel about the older films?
I saw all of them at the movie theater and always had a great affection for them. But I think the fan base polarized so much, it became like a closed shop a little bit, and I think what (director) J.J. (Abrams) wanted to do was reopen it up – to try and re-create an accessibility for the story. So in that respect we have chosen to separate ourselves. This isn’t “Star Trek 12,” this is “Star Trek Into Darkness.” As much as I love those older films and still watch them, our phase of it is a separate thing I think.
Q. The first film got such positive reviews. Were you skeptical when you first got the script for “Into Darkness”?
Yeah. (But) I was obviously intrigued. I was in New York promoting “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (in 2011), and Bryan Burk, our producer, brought the script for me to read. I was with a friend, and I said, “I’m just gonna go up to my room and read the first five pages, then I’ll meet you back down in the lobby; we’ll go Christmas shopping.” Five minutes later, I called him and said, “I’m not coming back.” I sat in this room and I read it and I was literally leaping around the room every time there was a twist or a reference or a plot development that was thrilling. I was like a young child. Also to see Scotty have an arc, and a journey himself … was great.
Q. What was your reaction to finally seeing the finished film (at the London premiere on May 2)?
It was a bit of an overwhelming evening because all my family was there. The entire Scottish half of my family sat behind me, so that was extra-nerve-racking. And to see it in such grand terms (in IMAX 3-D), I got – this guy referred to them yesterday as “nerd tears,” when you just get overwhelmed with love for something as nerdy as “Star Trek.”
Q. J.J. Abrams recently signed on to direct the next “Star Wars” movie for The Walt Disney Co. You’re widely known to be a huge “Star Wars” fan. Do you think Abrams will hook you up with a part?
All I can say is if J.J. wanted me to do it, he’d ask me to do it. If he doesn’t, he won’t. I’ll never ask him. I’m very happy to sit back and watch a J.J. Abrams “Star Wars” as a fan, and not have my face come on and spoil it for me.