Nerd Do Well
A Small Boy?s Journey to Becoming a Big Kid
The unique life story of one of the most talented and inventive comedians, star of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Star Trek.
Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: actor, comedian, writer and self-proclaimed supergeek Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having landed on the U.S. movie scene in the surprise cult hit Shaun of the Dead, his enduring appeal and rise to movie star with a dedicated following has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronic, but mostly just plain great.
From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with science fiction, his enduring friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up comedy which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his twelve-year- old classmates, Simon has always had a severe and dangerous case of the funnies.
Whether recounting his experience working as a lifeguard at the city pool, going to Comic-Con for the first time and confessing to Carrie Fisher that he used to kiss her picture every night before he went to sleep, or meeting and working with heroes that include Peter Jackson, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino, Pegg offers a hilarious look at the journey to becoming an international superstar, dotted with a cast of memorable characters, and you're rooting for him all the way.
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In the kitchen out back, such was our deep affiliation to John and Bernie. But mostly, life for us at the Shepherds consisted of Nick and me simply sitting and discussing the world while sipping pints or ploughing pound coins into the Simpson fruit machine. Ideas were born and plans were hatched as we luxuriated amid the matchless comfort of our surroundings. On Monday nights, we would sit up at the bar and watch University Challenge with John, usually the sole customers. We would throw out answers at the TV, usually falling short of anything Jeremy Paxman would accept as correct. On the odd occasion that we came good on a starter for ten, John would look at us both with an expression of admiration and declare us to be a couple of geniuses. One of our frequent topics of conversations in the Shepherds was what we would do in the event of a full-scale zombie apocalypse. We would discuss the hypotheses in great detail, tracking our movements from witnessing a stray deadhead in the garden, through running along the rooftops of Archway Road to Pax Guns in order to retrieve a brace of ordnance, then commandeering a vehicle to take us to our choice of hideout. These varied from abandoned castles to Wembley Stadium, the centre of which Nick insisted would afford us a clear view of any stray zombies that breached the perimeter and give us a workable farm space to grow crops for sustenance.
However, this scenario did rely on us being able to get our hands on a vehicle, which we could get into and start without an ignition key. This meant, realistically, the most feasible plan was to remain in the area and the most obvious place to hunker down was the pub. With heavy, bolt-locking doors, thick windows obscured by always drawn curtains which stopped just above head height, to allow light into the bar, survivors could easily move around inside without attracting the attention of the walking dead, stumbling about in the street outside. Aside from an enormous supply of fear-anaesthetising booze, the pub was well stocked with frozen food, and the sandwich toaster alone would provide tasty snacks, as long as the electricity stayed on. The idea was so inviting, we half hoped the recently dead would start returning to life and attacking the living, if only to give us the justification to remain in the Shepherds all day, every day, without feeling guilty.
Not surprisingly, aspects of our extended fantasy made it into the screenplay for Shaun of the Dead, as Edgar and I readily ran with the dead ball, feeding it into the storyline as the solution Shaun proposes in his attempts to save his loved ones. Edgar’s own annoyance at our lack of social imagination became the source of Liz’s frustration with Shaun, positing the pub at the very heart of the film as the cause of distress and the answer to their problems. Although causing the downfall of the group, the pub does ultimately facilitate their survival and proves a better solution to that of the rival group, who are eventually whittled down to just one.
Shaun of the Dead was written during the height of our love affair with the Shepherds. Its influences on the film are numerous and not just in terms of the plot. The landlord and lady in the film were called John and Bernie, the jukebox had a tendency to self-select if it got bored of underuse and Ed’s improvised descriptions of the locals were lifted straight from our early days as strangers in the lounge bar. We might even have kept the pub’s name were we not in need of a plot point that provided Shaun’s team with a gun. Calling our screen pub the Winchester enabled us to mount an old-fashioned rifle over the bar, which, at a crucial point in the story, reveals itself to be a fully working firearm. By sheer coincidence, the next pub down from the Shepherds on Archway Road is called the Winchester, but it has no relevance or connection to our film, despite what you might have heard."How did a geeky kid with a love of Star Wars end up a cult film hero working with Steven Spielberg? Simon Pegg reveals much more."
-The Observer magazine (UK)
"Self-confessed geek turned Brit Hollywood hero Simon Pegg opens the book on his nine-to-five."
"Nerd Do Well, does the necessary job of telling Pegg's story, but does so in an intimate manner."
"Hollywood's go-to geek talks about the chronicle of his passage through the lower-lying lands of popular culture."
-Word magazine (UK)
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