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Simon Pegg’s star power continues to rise with new films

Impossible – Ghost Protocol,’ in IMAX theaters Dec. 16, 2011, and standard theaters Dec. 21, 2011.

After scoring his big break in 2004’s zombie flick, “Shaun of the Dead,” Simon Pegg has quickly risen to A-list status.

Pegg has since starred in entries in the “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek” franchises, and has landed leading roles in other comedies, such as “Paul” and “Hot Fuzz.”

Pegg is set to feature in two upcoming releases: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “The Adventures of Tintin.” He spoke to The Lantern about the films in October.

Pegg appeared in J.J. Abrams’ “Mission: Impossible III” as Benji Dunn, a quirky, nerdy IT guy who worked with the IMF – the same agency that employs superspy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).

In “Ghost Protocol,” Benji is back, but is more than just an IT guy. He’s a field agent.

Pegg said Abrams emailed him one day with an idea that Benji’s character be expanded.

Pegg was all for it.

He said he not only trained to get in shape and be a “lean, mean, killing machine,” but did some other, more dangerous preparation for the role as well.

“In terms of research, I went undercover in Moscow for six weeks and cracked a ring of nuclear terrorists,” he said.

Benji’s character in “Ghost Protocol” doesn’t waver much from his appearance in “Mission: Impossible III.” However, with his expanded role, Pegg said it would be funny to have a “newb” with very little field experience accompanying Hunt on a mission to thwart a nuclear attack.

“He’s a little bit of a thorn in Ethan’s side and he’s still like a puppy and we figured that would be a fun thing to put out in a very dangerous situation,” he said.

With “Mission: Impossible III,” Pegg said he almost felt as if he was appearing as a cameo. That’s not the case with “Ghost Protocol,” nor is it the case with “Star Trek” and the 2013 “Star Trek” sequel, in which Pegg will return as Scotty.

Despite being attached to big franchise films, Pegg said he doesn’t approach those projects differently than stand-alone films.

“I try and approach each film as an individual thing anyway, as opposed to part of a series or something that’s not complete,” he said. “When you make a movie, it’s very much about that movie, and you rarely think, ‘Oh, I wonder what I’m going to be doing in the next one.'”

Pegg will also feature in “The Adventures of Tintin,” which is based on the popular series of European comic books by Hergé.

The film, which was directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Spielberg and Peter Jackson, enlists motion capture technology. The actors would perform in special suits and cameras would capture their movement, which would later be transformed into animation.

Pegg said it didn’t differentiate much from acting in a standard live-action film, but did say there was a learning curve in utilizing a technology that many of the cast and crew were unfamiliar with.

That included Spielberg.

“It was an interesting voyage of discovery, which was genuinely fascinating to see a man who was such an accomplished filmmaker almost rediscovering the eye again because he found he could do different things that he hadn’t been able to do with a normal camera in the physical world,” Pegg said.

Spielberg told The Los  Angeles Times that he enjoyed working with motion capture.

“I just adored it,” he said. “It made me more like a painter than ever before. I got a chance to do so many jobs that I don’t often do as a director.”

Spielberg obtained the rights to the film upon Hergé’s death in 1983. Spielberg was meticulous in remaining faithful to the source material, so much so that copies of the original comics were hung on set during production.

“It was done with a huge amount of love and respect for the source material,” Pegg said. “We never felt like we were trashing anything. … This is a very treasured thing and we didn’t want to treat it as anything less.”

With “Ghost Protocol” and “Tintin” behind him, Pegg turns his attention not only to the “Star Trek” sequel, but another film in the “Shaun of the Dead” canon, as well.

Does that mean he’s now an action star?

He doesn’t necessarily think so.

“I want to be in them to some degree, but I realize I’m not Bruce Willis, so they have to be funny,” he said.

“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” is in IMAX theaters Dec. 16 and standard theaters Dec. 21. “The Adventures of Tintin” is also due in theaters Dec. 21.

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