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Simon Says: Geeks have Hollywood pegged

Simon Pegg talks about “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” J.J. Abrams and the way the geeks have taken over Hollywood.

THE WAR for Hollywood is over, and the geeks have won.

So says Simon Pegg, who parlayed a geeky/funny BBC show into a movie career and a recurring role as Scotty in "Star Trek," ascending to a kind of nerd heaven, where he's found himself surrounded by others like him.

Their mission: to respectfully go where Gene Roddenberry has gone before.

"You're talking about a TV show that is almost 60 years old, and yet remains beloved," Pegg said. "We wanted people to know we're not in any way being post-modern about it. We're not out to parody it or send it up. We're picking up the baton and taking our turn with it."

Pegg became famous for his British comedy hit "Spaced," a slacker sitcom packed with so many pop-culture references, the DVD comes with a "Homage-a-Meter."

How . . . geeky.

But born of affection, even awe, for the things being referenced, a tone that Pegg (with collaborators Edgar Wright and Nick Frost) carried forward with his own movies, the cult faves "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz." (The third in their trilogy, "At World's End," arrives this summer.)

Pegg's recent remarks on geekdom have become an online manifesto: "Being a geek is about being honest about what you enjoy, not being afraid to demonstrate that affection."

He says that "Star Trek" director J.J. Abrams is an example.

"He absolutely fits that description," Pegg said. "He's made a job of it. He embraced the things that he loves. He embodies that sense of the modern geek - that sense of being unabashed."

The result is an unabashed "Into Darkness."

"Our costume set designers embraced the look of the original series without commenting on the campiness of it," Pegg said. "It's really smart, and it's daring to do that. It's easy to make fun of the past.

"The actors pick up on that. You don't see anyone saying, 'Ha ha, don't we look stupid in these clothes.' "

The idea, he said, is to mine the original for the elements that remain worthwhile.

"I love the fact that people were watching a show in 1966 that offered a hugely progressive ideal, so far-reaching now with its relevance. The idea of future cooperation, of being inclusive. What we did was start pushing forward with the attractive ideals already embedded in the material."

It's the new way in Hollywood, said Pegg, who's also worked with Brad Bird rebooting "Mission: Impossible."

"There's a way to embrace the absurdity of the original series, but not comment on it in a judgmental way, but give it value," said Pegg, adding that if guys like Bird and Abrams want to work on a big canvas, remaking old TV shows is almost a prerequisite.

"I think partly it's because Hollywood doesn't belong to the director anymore," said Pegg. It belongs, he goes on, to the consumer. Geeks are the new Medicis. Directors work on projects commissioned by the Peggs of the world, and do so happily.

"We're seeing a generation of filmmakers who grew as fans of post-'Star Wars' cinema, and saw how it changed the landscape of movies, and ushered in the era of the blockbuster. They cut their teeth on those movies, and that comes through when you see their work on screen.

"That's why it makes so much sense to me that J.J. is going to direct 'Star Wars.' "

In fact, Pegg insists, Abrams' proposed "Star Wars 7" will be an improvement over the prequel trilogy.

"J.J. grew up living it. I think at this point he has more of an idea of what makes 'Star Wars' work than George Lucas does."

Nerd throwdown!

"Look at the prequels [Lucas] made. Those are three films that didn't embody the magic that the first three had. I think he lost sight of what made those films so important and so far-reaching in their impact. It was not about the special effects. That's what the prequels were about, special effects. And they were airless and without humanity. Somewhere along the way, he broke his own rule."

Pegg and Abrams, son of a movie producer, have talked about their mutual love of "Star Wars," how the Lucas movies had a "seismic" importance in their lives. It's that love that's at the root of their reverence for pop culture, be it in the form of an old TV show or a mammoth movie franchise.

"He grew up around it. He knew motion pictures. He was on the Paramount lot in 1979 as [the first 'Star Trek' movie] was being made. I love that parallel, that 30 years later J.J. is on the Paramount lot making films as a director."