Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg: A Nerd and Proud of It

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Joel Ryan / AP

British actor Simon Pegg

Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek) didn't set out to write a memoir. At first, the 41-year-old actor and writer thought he'd create a mini production diary illustrated with personal behind-the-scenes photos — you know, to show us a bit of the real film industry. Four hundred pages later, Pegg delivered Nerd Do Well, a love letter to acting, sex and Han Solo. An anthology of childhood milestones and film analysis, Pegg's book isn't your run-of-the-mill celebrity tell-all. There are no big reveals or tattletale tidbits about his celebrity pals, though there is something oddly endearing about the juxtaposition of his first sexual experience with his first Star Wars experience. TIME sat down with Pegg to chat about his love for science fiction and why so many fans (himself included) still have a bone to pick with George Lucas.

You're one of the main cast members of the new Star Trek franchise. Did you ever experience angry-nerd syndrome on set?
With Star Trek, it was evident that something cool was happening. It was in safe hands. At no point did I think, "Oh, I don't like that idea." I always wanted to say [to fans], "Don't worry. It's going to be fine," but obviously we weren't allowed to talk about it. I think it would have been hard to be in the Star Wars [prequels] and see that happening all around me. I think that's what it was like for Ewan McGregor. He was quite candid about it.

Your disappointment for what happened with the Star Wars prequels is pretty clear. Have you met George Lucas?
I met him, I did. He was with Ron Howard at the time. Ron's kids really like Shaun of the Dead, so he leaned over and kind of said this to me, and I think George Lucas realized I wasn't just a fan, I was a filmmaker too, which was my key to having a proper conversation with him. Not just some kind of jilted-fanboy moment. And he said something to me: "Don't make the same film 30 years from now." Which I thought was a really telling moment. It explained a lot that he was a guy who was trapped by his own sense of self-reliance. Part of the reason the films became so unwieldy was because he just doesn't trust anybody. It was listening to other people that made the first three films really good.

So while we're on our fanboy moment, you wrote that E.T. had a tremendous impact on you. Have you seen Super 8 yet?
It's great. It's a coming-of-age story with a fantasy element. It's so similar to Paul in a weird way. It's a different side of the same coin. J.J. [Abrams] actually wrote to me ages ago when he heard about Paul and said, "I think we're making the same film." And there are parallels. We even use the same music cue at one point. But through complete synchronicity, just liking the same stuff, we ended up making similar films. Mine is an outright comedy. His is more sort of Spielbergian masterpiece.

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