When Star Wars: The Force Awakens was first announced and rumors were spreading about which actors would lend their talents to the project, one of the names that frequently popped up was Simon Pegg. The fan-favorite Brit has collaborated with director J.J. Abrams several times before (with recurring roles in the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises), so the speculation made sense. However, for a while it seemed like that's all it was - speculation.
The Force Awakens behind-the-scenes sizzle reel shown at San Diego Comic-Con 2015 finally confirmed that Pegg has a role in the upcoming film, where he'll be playing some kind of costumed creature. However, according to Abrams, Pegg's involvement in Episode VII went well beyond a glorified cameo.
Speaking with EW, Abrams revealed that his friend was a very valuable collaborator on set, aiding in the development of the story and lending a supporting (but constructively critical) hand in ironing out all the details:
“He was a sounding board. He would drop by the set because he wanted to, and when he could, he would help… We could talk about things, and he was a perfect combination of incredibly smart screenwriter, fan of the series, critical fan of the series, and friend of mine – but not just blindly supportive. He was an honest, critical friend. And he wasn’t so close to it that he became immune to things. He would come in with fresh eyes and very smart ideas. He’s one of a handful of people along the way that has been really priceless.”
It's worth pointing out that Pegg isn't simply a fan getting to live out his wildest fantasies. As Abrams indicated, Pegg's a talented screenwriter in his own right, having co-written the three installments of Edgar Wright's acclaimed Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World's End) and handled the rewrite of 2016's Star Trek Beyond with Doug Jung. He's shown he has the ability to knock out an entertaining script throughout his career and he has a lot of experience working on major tentpole fare similar to Star Wars, so it's safe to say he's knowledgeable about what makes genre films like this work.
Pegg is also very passionate about the Star Wars saga, saying that he "burns for Star Wars" in the behind-the-scenes reel. If Pegg was heavily involved in the creative process, it's another encouraging sign for longtime fans hoping The Force Awakens harkens back to the magic of the best Star Wars movies to date. As the actor has humorously illustrated, he's not really a fan of the prequel film trilogy, meaning whatever input he had was provided with the intention of ensuring Force Awakens jives with the tone and feel of the beloved originals.
Based on what we've seen so far, it looks like Abrams and Pegg's collaboration was a healthy and productive one. The overall reaction to the two Force Awakens trailers can accurately be described as enthusiastic, and those previews have only hinted at what's to come this December. Everyone from Abrams to Harrison Ford seems extremely pleased with the results, so Pegg's contributions may've helped to get the film's story just right.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Star Wars: Rogue One on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.