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Comedian Simon Pegg has won the love of fanboys and fangirls worldwide fronting genre-inspired comedies like Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and to a lesser degree Paul, and kicking in whimsical comic relief to action features like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. But now the funny man from England is looking to step outside the comfort of straight-up comedy, taking on the lead of Peter Chelsom’s soon-to-shoot travel tale Hector and the Search for Happiness.
Based on Francois Lelord's novel of the same name, the film will offer Pegg a chance to try his hand at a more dramatic role, playing a quirky but charismatic psychiatrist who can't seem to make a major difference in the happiness quotient of his patients. Dispirited, Hector (Pegg) sets out to travel the world and discover is happiness truly exists. Chelsom, who has helmed such cutesy cinema as Serendipity and Shall We Dance, says of the project:
"I’ve been searching long and hard for a film that would bring me back to my European sensibilities. Not unlike Being There and Forrest Gump, Hector is a contemporary love story, a fable wrapped around a very human hero’s journey. Nobody does the innocent abroad better than Simon Pegg: he is not only a brilliant comedian but a very touching actor. He is the Hector that you want to follow to the ends of the earth."
Despite Chelsom's lofty comparisons, Hector and the Search for Happiness seems to have more in common with another recent adaptation, Julia Roberts' Eat Pray Love. Like that story, Hector goes in search of his own bliss by traveling the world—in this instance England to China to Africa and so on—and offers a privileged First Worlder learning more about himself as he sees the realities of other nations. Between Chelsom and Pegg, it's likely that Hector will be played as an affable innocent, from which the former draws the Forrest Gump comparison. But let's remember, Forest was mentally handicapped, so it's understandable that his journey showed a total lack of awareness of the world outside his backyard. Of course, Eat Pray Love earned more than $200 million worldwide, so it too is a marketable—though less admired—muse. Still, perhaps Pegg and his gawky charms will be able to smooth the rough edges of this schmaltzy premise.
Pegg has recently wrapped on the untitled Star Trek sequel, and will shoot Hector and the Search for Happiness as soon as Pegg after he's completed filming the bromance-centered comedy The World's End, which will re-team him with his frequent co-star Nick Frost.