Simon Pegg on his Dubai ‘homecoming’ for Star Trek Beyond

FIve years after visiting Dubai to film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Simon Pegg returned last year to shoot Star Trek Beyond. He tells us how the city influenced his script for the film
Simon Pegg, right, as Scotty with his assistant Keenser (played by Deep Roy) in Star Trek Beyond. Kimberley French / Paramount Pictures
Simon Pegg, right, as Scotty with his assistant Keenser (played by Deep Roy) in Star Trek Beyond. Kimberley French / Paramount Pictures

Simon Pegg performs double duty on the Enterprise in Star Trek Beyond, not only reprising his role as chief engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, but also co-writing the script (with Doug Jung).

We caught up with him for a chat about the film and his experience of filming in Dubai last year.

Did the international locations influence the writing process?

In terms of the narrative of the story, we were dealing with intergalactic kind of locations, so we knew that we were going to a number of places trying to communicate that.

We had a rough idea of the filming locations when we were doing the brainstorming with the co-writers – we were pretty certain that we would be filming in certain locations, one of which was Dubai. We knew we wanted to come up with places like York Town, which is where Dubai has formed kind of a backdrop.

Knowing the locations helped us devise the nature of the place, as it was not an ordinary space station, it was more like a planet from the inside. So, it is always important to know the context.

How did you approach your dual role on the film – when does the writer’s hat come off and the actor’s hat go on?

I was writing for about 6 or 7 months before we started, and before I put my actor’s hat on. I was slightly worried about it, because I didn’t want to be suddenly separated from my cast mates. However, it worked in the opposite way, as I worked closely with the cast and it was a very collaborative effort.

Once we got to Vancouver and worked on the actual production, it was easier to prioritise each scene, and work on them gradually, one by one. So, it was actually an easier process than what I thought it would be.

We looked at each scene as it was coming up, and rethought it and tweaked it and got the dialogue right.

We came into this process with a rough shape of the script but it was not perfect. So we took the production time to finesse it and hone it, and approach each scene individually. For example, we didn’t write the third act properly until half way through.

Given the fact that you have spent time in the UAE before – including visiting the Abu Dhabi set of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and during the filming of Mission: Impossble – Ghost Protocal – did you advise the cast on the places to go and things to do? How did the place change since you filmed here before several years ago?

I’m actually staying at the same hotel where I was staying when we were filming Mission: Impossible – so, it is kind of homecoming for me.

It was lovely to come back [to Dubai] and know the place, and not feel like an alien. However, it has changed a lot, of course, as new buildings are up, as always. The skyline has altered a little bit, and it is quite amazing that this evolution has been done in only five years.

This city always changes and the landscape will always look different.

From a professional point of view, it is great to see that Dubai is still a destination for filming. It has definitely got something very attractive and is a special place – particularly, as it was said earlier, since Dubai is considered the city of the future. I hope it continues.

We hear you went on a desert Safari. Tell us whether you or Chris Pine were better drivers in the desert.

It was enormous fun. We shot in the desert before, but I didn’t have a chance to do a safari, so it was my first time to experience that, and the falconry and the Bedouin camp, which was lovely. It was great and it is one of those moments that you remember in your life.

Regarding Chris and myself driving in the desert, Chris burst a tire, but I didn’t – so, I will let you draw your own conclusions from that.

What sets this Star Trek film apart from its predecessors?

This one is big, because of the fact that it is the 50th anniversary of the start of the TV series, and we have tried to make it reflect the anniversary. It looks back and questions it a little bit, and asks the question of whether it is a valid idea – and hopefully it reaffirms it.

It is the first [film in the rebooted series] that is not directed by J J Abrams, but by Justin Lin. So, it is a whole new proposition. It is very special to me and to Doug Jung because we were both Star Trek fans – and it is an honour that we have been given with this movie to work on it.

cnewbould@thenational.ae

Published: July 20, 2016 04:00 AM

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