‘Happiness’ Comes To Malibu

If you happen to be one of the 2 million people who bought the 2010 book “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” the humorous fictional tale of a psychiatrist who travels the world to find out what makes people happy, you won’t have to wait long to see the film. Limited release begins September 19 and screenings expand to more theaters on October 3.

In the meantime, an audience of about 200 caught the Malibu Film Society’s free sneak preview of “Hector” last week at the Malibu Screening Room.

The Q&A afterward included the film’s British comedy star, Simon Pegg, best known for films like “Shaun of the Dead,” the last two “Star Trek” installments and three “Mission: Impossible” films. 

The event also included “Hector” director and co-screenplay adapter Peter Chelsom, whose previous films include “Hannah Montana: The Movie” and “Shall We Dance?” 

The audience appeared to be delighted by the film, loudly applauding at the end and buzzing about it for the rest of the evening. 

Chelsom described the story as “essentially a fable…The characters become archetypes and it’s all about what they represent. For example, one character represents temptation. There’s a whole theme of the inner child throughout the film.” 

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He said Pegg has “a natural, childlike curiosity, and that’s why he was cast. Simon is a joy and he’s very directable.” He also had some “brilliant” ideas that they used. 

Pegg joked, “[Chelsom] is always directing me. He was directing me over dinner.” He said that in making the film, his journey paralleled Hector’s. 

“[In filming one scene] I had to stand close to a lion — that was the scariest thing. And I did that while everyone else stayed in a minivan!” 

Chelsom called himself a “fanatic for reality” in certain scenes. 

“If there’s a Skype call, I insist that we actually have the other actor on the other end.” 

In other scenes, reality takes a back seat. 

“If you can’t afford shots of an airplane’s exterior in a storm, then why not draw the airplane and have the rain come down from a watering can?” 

Many in the audience said they found themselves thinking about what makes them happy after watching the movie. Pegg went through the same exercise while making the film. 

“Avoiding unhappiness isn’t the route to happiness. I feel it’s important to accept that you have to go through bad stuff to be happy. It’s taken me a long time to realize it — it took me until I was past 40 and quit drinking.” 

In an interview with The Malibu Times, Pegg said the same thing happened when they screened “Hector” for an audience in East Hampton, NY, two days earlier. “People have an amazing reaction — they get all glassy-eyed and think about their own lives.” 

Pegg shared that he had chosen not to read the book the movie was based on because he didn’t want it to bias him in any way, and that he originally met with the casting directors at dinner in Malibu before being offered the part. He noted that one of the last locations in the film also takes place nearby on the beach in Santa Monica. 

Although co-starring in a number of previous films, Pegg’s lead role in “Hector” represents perhaps the first time he is responsible for carrying an entire film. 

“It was great to have the opportunity to showcase,” he said. “The comedy is understated.” 

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