In the new film Hector and the Search for Happiness, Simon Pegg plays the title character, a psychologist with a tidy, uneventful existence. He shares his predictable and safe life with Clara (Rosamund Pike), an ad agency writer who creates names for pharmaceuticals. They chug along happily until one day Hector snaps and sets out on an archeological dig of sorts, to discover what happiness means to people.
“With this film,” says Pegg, “people will often flippantly say, ‘He lives with Rosamund Pike, he’s got a nice house…’ which so misses the point. You can have all that stuff. The point is we take the least sympathetic demographic on the face of this earth, the white upper middle class male and say, ‘He has a problem.’ It just goes to show that if he can be there and be unhappy then anybody can be unhappy.”
When asked if show biz success is a recipe for happiness both Pegg and Pike chime in.
“It’s a question I have been asked,” says Pike. “Fame and money, surely they are the ingredients to a happy life? The point is we keep sadly seeing that unless you are happy before you get those things it’s not a recipe for happiness.”
“Not to bring it up in a facile way,” says Pegg, “but Robin Williams’ death is an indication of that. I find for me I have to be happy in my real life, in the real world, and if I’m happy there I can be happy elsewhere and can enjoy this job.
“I’ve been desperately unhappy while working. I remember when I went to LA to do Mission Impossible III I wasn’t in a great place and I got there and I remember thinking to myself, ‘I’m in a film with Tom Cruise and yet I’m unhappy.’ It was an epiphany for me.“
“Obviously the idea of a successful career is that you look like a swan gliding and nobody sees the paddling duck feet,” says Pike, “but they’re definitely there. I think the message of the film is ‘You can’t really know happiness unless you are prepared to embrace life with everything it throws at you.’ The unhappiness too. When you go through something horrific in your life, loss or death or illness or whatever, people say this will make you stronger and you think, ‘Oh sod off,’ but of course it does. It makes you appreciate things in the future more and you do feel happier for having been through the bad times.”