Sunday, October 05, 2008

Simon Pegg: Just playing, nothing personal

In How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, Simon Pegg plays Sidney Young, a cocky Brit journalist who thinks he's being ever so clever -- but comes across as obnoxiously pushy and socially maladroit -- while condescendingly questioning showbiz celebrities for a glossy U.S. magazine. (The film is loosely based on the real-life misadventures of transplanted Londoner Toby Young during his less-than-spectacular stint as a Manhattan-based contributing editor for Vanity Fair.) So I had to ask Pegg: Did he think of his performance as a kind of sweet revenge on real-life reporters he's encountered?

Not really.

"Fortunately," Pegg told me a few days ago, "I’ve never had to contend with a Sidney Young myself. I mean, Sidney as a journalist is kind of self-defeating, because I imagine the skill behind interviewing as a journalist is the ability to inspire conversation. To make sure your subject opens up. Rather than just interrogating the subject into shutting them the hell up. And I have to say, I have been interviewed by people who have asked me stupid questions, or have been a little too prying. But in that instance, you just sort of deflect. Because, look, you do interviews because you have to promote your product in order to get people to see it. So you have to treat every interview as being important.

"But, yeah," Pegg allowed, "it was interesting to be on the other side of it."

You can read my entirely non-condescending interview with Simon Pegg here.

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