Simon Pegg

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In the space of two ”Mission : Impossible” movies, Simon Pegg’s Benji Dunn has gone from desk jockey to fully-fledged field agent. Good work if you can get it, as the amiable British actor tells HUGH HUMPHREYS.

Nice to be asked back for  ”Mission : Impossible : Ghost Protocol”? Glad Benji didn’t self-destruct?

Absolutely. We always joked about it, that perhaps Benji would appear again in another film and maybe his participation would be upgraded to Benji 2.0 – action Benji. I didn’t know it would happen, it was always just something J.J [Abrams, Producer] and myself would joke about in a sort of whimsical way. And then suddenly he gave me the go. I was immediately onboard.

Quite a feat, man, especially because Benji is one of the few returning characters that comes back…

Yes, Benji and Luther Stickell [Ving Rhame's character]. Luther has obviously been in every one of them . This is my second.

One more than Jean Reno. Was it exciting getting to be ‘Action Benji’?

Yeah, and we did it in a very clever way in the writing. We were careful not to have Benji go to super action hero straight away. It’s been four or five years since the third one so between that time Benji would’ve trained as an agent – but he wouldn’t be a level four agent like Ethan [Hunt] is. He’d be like level two.. probably level one actually; he’s only on his second or third mission so yes has the skills, he can handle a weapon, he can look after himself but he’s still really the tech guy.

The tech stuff that pops up in the movie seems very credible… someone’s done their research, it seems?

All the stuff that you see on the screen  - all the graphics and the programs that are on the iPhones and the iPads are all legit stuff. Even the laser cutter that opened the window, even though it wasn’t really a laser cutter it had weight and heft to it that made it feel expense and real.

Speaking of expensive and real, how was it filming in money haven Dubai?

Dubai is an amazing place; it’s an extremely young city but it’s big and brash. There’s a lot of finance there and stuff. It’s a little bit like Vegas in a weird kind of way – it’s in the middle of the desert and it kinda just pops up like a pin cushion. We were made very welcome there and had a very enjoyable shoot there.

Can’t imagine dangling off a building would be much fun. Tell me about Tom’s big scene?

I wasn’t actually involved on the day they were filming the stuff outside, but I did go up and see because I wanted to see Tom  [Cruise]doing it. It was so high up! And there Tom is running around like a little spider outside! Nutcase he is! [Laughs] He was just grinning all the way through it.

He lives for the thrill, by the sound. The sequence looks a treat. The IMAX looks great…

And I made sure Brad [Bird, Director] always said ‘IMAXaction’ instead of ‘Action’ when he had the IMAX camera going. It was Brad’s idea that the film be shot partly in IMAX and I think it really pans out because those scenes where the camera’s used are really huge and vast, and particularly when you watch it in IMAX it’s dizzying at times.

My stomach isn’t talking to me. Now, the plan is for Jeremy Renner to take over the ”Mission : Impossible” franchise from here on out, I believe? Would you be keen to reprise Benji for the next Cruise-less sequel?

I’d love to. But, well,  think that might have been the plan earlier on, to have Jeremy be the star, but as the film progressed and we enjoyed working together so much I think the idea of Ethan Hunt retiring fell by the wayside. Tom [Cruise] suddenly remembered why he loved doing these films so much and suddenly thought ‘well maybe I do want to do more?’.