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Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg

26 Aug

As I will tell most everyone, I’m not ‘up’ on a lot of celebrity gossip. While I am the first person in the room to point out a random appearance of a mildly obscure actor—be it Stephen Merchant or Faran Tahir—in whatever film we may be watching, I am the last person to find out when JLo and Marc Anthony have split up (though in that particular instance I was trying to figure out how Mark Anthony even knew JLo as he had died in 30 BC). I’ll scan an outdated People Magazine at the hair dresser’s or dentist office, but it takes a pretty special celebrity for me to openly gush. Please don’t ask anyone I went to high school with about me and Elijah Wood.

That being said, it takes an especially special celebrity for me to want to read their autobiography. Simon Pegg is one such celebrity.

Being card-carrying member of the nerdy elite myself, Simon Pegg has had an incredible impact upon my film-viewing life. From the projects he chooses to work on, particularly those he has had a hand in writing himself, it’s clear to the nerd community that he is One of Us. We are open and accepting of his work because we are pre-disposed to like it and delighted when it turns out as wonderful as it so often does. Geeks clamor for another opportunity to murder zombies or beam Kirk and Spock through space, and it is an absolute delight to see one of our own completing these tasks. He balances his awesome amount of geekiness with a healthy (but not obnoxious) dose of self-deprecation: Pegg’s character is always the first to get dumped by his girlfriend, have a horrible job, make terrible decisions, or step on his friends’ toes. His counterparts are flawed but lovable people and we want them to do well. Plus, he is absolutely adorable, as can be referenced by this clip:

I repeat: adorable.

So when I discovered, through a mild amount of Twitter stalking, that Simon Pegg had written an autobiography, I squealed and raced to work to pick up a copy. I was not disappointed.

In Nerd Do Well, Pegg’s stories and overall writing style reflect the actor I have grown so fond of through watching his films. He is modest, honest, and more than willing to examine his flaws and triumphs with an objective eye. Raised on Roddenberry, Lucas, and Romero, Pegg is the first to admit his good fortune in working with his childhood idols and often discusses the Fanboy Freak Out of stepping on certain sets or donning various costumes. The book is filled with a reverent nostalgia surrounding the wonderful circle that is his life. While discussing his experiences filming Land of the Dead with George Romero, he turns back to his teenage years watching horror films in the living rooms of friends:

If ever there was a moment for making use of the [time machine], it was now. To have stepped from the device into my living room made up as Bub (the lead zombie from Day of the Dead) at the tender age of sixteen would have been so much fun. Well, at least for the future me. The younger me would have probably fainted or else ruined a perfectly good pair of skin-tight black jeans.
–Nerd Do Well

But this is not just a book about Star Wars and zombies (although that wouldn’t have bothered me at all). Pegg, always shy to discuss more personal or familial details, takes time while recounting his adventures to turn to more personal stories, discussing his wife and daughter, the separation of his parents, and even failed relationships of his teenage years. Every instance is recounted with honesty and nostalgia, illustrating a fondness for even those people who have caused him pain. These tales are never self-serving or overly dramatic, but recounted as if he were speaking with friends. There is an objectivity to his writing and an understanding that everyone has grown up, as it were, that allows the humor of awkward situations to come to the forefront ahead of pity.

Pegg recounts his life the same way he crafts his characters: with sincerity and reflection, the first to admit his mistakes and relate his good fortune. Nerd Do Well reads as both a fascinating narrative of Pegg’s life and an underdog story of sorts: who would have expected an odd, small-town kid to go on to refer to such personalities as Tom Cruise and JJ Abrams as friends? It’s an inspiring and delightful story from an up-and-coming actor, and I would encourage any fans of film and television to pick up a copy and discover the little-known story of ‘becoming a big kid’.

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