Simon Pegg is no stranger to the fan demands that come with being a cast member in a popular movie franchise. The 48-year-old actor has starred in three “Mission: Impossible” and “Star Trek” movies each, so he’s had a front row seat to the toxic fandom that’s become a bigger talking point ever since “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” actress Kelly Marie Tran wiped her Instagram clean in June after facing months of online harassment from fans upset with her character, Rose Tico.
During a video interview with Now This, Pegg got honest about his own experiences with toxic fandom, which included being one of those angry fans himself back in the day. Pegg admitted he was one of the many “Star Wars” fans after the release of “The Phantom Menace” who criticized the franchise for including Jar Jar Binks. Ahmed Best, the actor who performed the motion capture for Jar Jar Binks, revealed earlier this year the extreme backlash to the character led him to contemplate suicide.
“I feel so ashamed of the fact that there was actually a victim, a human victim in that,” Pegg said “I think most people were regarding Jar Jar Binks like he was a real creature and wailing on him for being annoying, or whatever, or not liking him. But there was a person behind that. And I read that and just thought, ‘Christ, I’m one of those people.’ It makes me feel awful.”
Pegg now views toxic fandom as proof of what little empathy exists in fan culture these days. Tran and her “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson have faced harassment for months from fans unhappy with the new additions they made to the franchise. At the end of the day, however, “Star Wars” is just a movie and Pegg thinks fans need to remind themselves of this simple fact.
“There’s no diplomacy in that, there’s no empathy,” Pegg said. “We’re becoming very, very insular as human beings. We’re becoming very self-driven, selfist, our opinions, our needs, our wants. I feel sorry for Kelly Marie Tran because she was just in a film — a fucking film, that’s all it is. None of it matters, none of it, I think it would be nice if everyone just got on. You know and stopped being so aggressive.”
Pegg stars opposite Tom Cruise in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” in theaters nationwide July 27.