Simon Pegg looks pretty bleary-eyed. It’s not because he’s hungover. It’s not even because he slept poorly last night. It’s because he basically just got off a plane from Morocco after a long day on a film set.
“I did a whole day being a spy and then got on a plane and came to Toronto,” says the British actor, hugging the cushions of a four-star hotel sofa during the recent Toronto International Film Festival. “I have no idea where I am right now.”
He isn’t complaining, mind you. Pegg is thoroughly enjoying his busy new life—whether it’s filming huge thrillers like the forthcoming Mission: Impossible 5 in Marrakesh or plugging this Friday’s release of Hector and the Search for Happiness—a film that also saw him traversing the globe from Los Angeles to Shanghai and points beyond.
“We started in Vancouver and a lot of the film is Vancouver,” says Pegg, downplaying the extensive four-month travel schedule the cast and crew undertook. “There was so much color in this film in terms of the travel, [but] each place had its own series of challenges and lessons to be learned, so I came out of making this movie having gone on a similar journey to Hector.”
The truth is, much of Pegg’s realization of the character only came after many end-of-day dinner conversations sitting around with cast and crew filming in more remote regions of poverty-stricken places like South Africa.
“The thing about South Africa was that in the townships of Brazzaville and Soweto you’d see people genuinely with nothing, [but] laughing and smiling,” says Pegg. “That’s not to suggest that is the way of living—live in abject poverty and nearly die every day and you’ll be happy—but it does give you a clear idea of what happiness is because you sure as hell know what it isn’t.”
Keeping in touch with your childhood instincts is important to contentment as well, says Pegg. With a lengthy flight back to Morocco looming and a film production that will keep him miles away from family and friends for an extended stretch, the innocence of that childish outlook keeps the actor positive through long workdays no matter where in the world he finds himself.
“I always try and hang on to that when it comes to work. If I’m doing a film like Mission: Impossible and I’m working with Tom Cruise, I don’t take it in my stride, I’m constantly excited about the fact that I’m working with fucking Tom Cruise,” says Pegg. “[So] when it comes to work, I try and maintain a childish glee about everything.”