Simon Pegg has three tattoos. The one on his right wrist is a single letter, “M,” a tribute to the ladies in his life: 4-year-old daughter Matilda, wife Maureen and his two dogs, Minnie and Myrtle. The one on the inside of his left arm is of three stars, a reference to the symbolic twinklers in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince.” And the one on his back, hidden by the gray T-shirt Pegg is wearing on a refreshingly humidity-free summer day in Washington, is a tattoo of Max, the rambunctious protagonist from “Where the Wild Things Are.”
“Maurice Sendak’s book was hugely important to me as a kid,” Pegg says, noting that he now reads it to his little girl. “I just love that whole idea of the wild side, of naughtiness being important, as important as your good side.”
At 43, Pegg is happy to be a mature family man and successful actor who, among other things, has co-starred with Tom Cruise in two “Mission: Impossible” films and beamed himself into the role of Scotty in J.J. Abrams’s “Star Trek” movies. But as that tattoo implies, there’s still a boy inside of him who likes to get a wild rumpus started, especially when he’s with frequent collaborators Nick Frost and Edgar Wright.
The trio’s latest motion-picture rumpus is “The World’s End,” a movie about one man’s attempt to reunite with his childhood pals that also serves as a reminder of the creative chemistry that still crackles between Pegg, Frost and Wright after two decades of friendship.
“The film is very much about old friends reuniting, and there was a degree of that in the making of the film,” Pegg says during a recent D.C. stop on the “World’s End” promotional tour. “The three of us hadn’t worked together as a unit for six years. Obviously, you know, we’re friends away from work so we see each other anyway. . . . But actually working together, it was like, oh, here we are again. And it was a nice feeling to be back.”
“The World’s End” — co-written by Pegg and Wright, directed by Wright and co-starring Pegg and Frost — is similar to their previous cinematic collaborations, 2004’s zombie-rom-com “Shaun of the Dead” and 2007’s buddy-cop/action flick parody “Hot Fuzz,” in that it defies single-genre categorization. It’s tempting to frame it as an apocalyptic comedy, but it’s equally accurate to call it a coming-of-middle-age story, one about an alcoholic tornado of a guy (name: Gary King, played by Pegg) who persuades his posse of former schoolmates to redo a pub crawl they first attempted in 1990. Gary’s goal is to finally reach the 12th and final bar on that ale-filled journey, a watering hole called the World’s End. “It’s a time-travel movie,” Wright explains, “if booze is the time machine.”
It’s also an opportunity for Pegg to unleash every crazed tool in his comedic arsenal as a boisterous, physically demonstrative man-child who’s absurdly committed to a life motto stolen from a song by Scottish alt-rockers the Soup Dragons (“I’m free to do what I want any old time”). The role represents a change in the previous on-screen dynamic between Pegg and Frost, allowing Pegg to serve as the scene-stealing irresponsible one and Frost to play the more rational straight man.