- November 29, 2011
Steve Coogan is a very busy man, what with the return of Alan Partridge, his charity work with Amaze, and new film projects. Victoria Nangle grabs a chat with the star
Steve Coogan is a movie star, a writer, a comedian, a producer and the reason a generation giggle themselves silly at two seemingly meaningless syllables: “Ah-ha!” He may be a son of Manchester but he’s got strong ties to Brighton, not least to local charity Amaze, which works with parents of children with special needs and is the cause for next week’s special screening of The Trip, which includes Q&As with its stars Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. As he says politely when we thank him for the interview: “Well thank you, Amaze is something that I very much support.” Steve Coogan may be working on new eagerly-awaited Alan Partridge material, having just finished filming with True Blood hottie Alexander Skarsgård and four-time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, but he’s got time for his second home town. “I do like Brighton. I’ve lived there for 12 years and I’ve adopted it you know.” And we’re very grateful for it. Victoria Nangle talks to the man behind Alan Partridge and so much more.
Are you looking forward to the screening of The Trip for Amaze?
“Yes, I am I suppose. I mean, when you’re in my line of work, once you’ve finished a film you see it a couple of times, sometimes it’s nice to revisit it and you read a few reviews and you might have a few screenings but then you don’t really get much of an audience response…unless you’re in one of these events.”
Do you feel a connection with Brighton?
“Of course I do. I chose to live here. I have some family here, but most of my family’s in Manchester. My home, I have to say, is Manchester. I’m a northerner first, I’m a Brightoner second, but I do like Brighton. I’ve got affection for it and I like its tolerant nature. It’s progressive, a little eccentric…
I could never live somewhere like the Cotswolds or, God forbid, Chipping Norton where David Cameron lives, in a place that’s very conservative – I just couldn’t live there. You know, Brighton, it has its faults; it’s a bit cool and trendy or whacky and all the rest of it, and a bit self-conciously hip but I think it’s a wonderful town. It’s a great place to be, a great atmosphere and you feel safe. It feels friendly. You know when they do those surveys, Brighton always comes out really high as the happiest people and the happiest town.”
Alan Partridge has become a huge brand. How have your feelings changed towards your creation over the years?
“It’s like when you’re married and it’s for better for worse. The secret for me is I revisit Alan periodically. I don’t have to spend my whole life with him. If I did I’d go insane, but it’s like an old school friend or something. He’s someone you see a couple times a year. He’s like family. He’s like your sibling or something – you don’t want to live with him anymore but it’s nice to see them.
“Alan’s got aspects of me but there’s parts of Alan that are certainly not me. He’s a Daily Mail reader and he’s right-wing and I’m not right-wing and I hate the Daily Mail. My feelings for Alan have changed up and down. Absence makes the heart grow fonder There was a break between the last series and when we brought him back for a tour a couple of years ago, and then we did these Mid-Morning Matters online…”
You got a nomination for that, congratulations….
Thank you. And also the book. So we’re writing some more stuff now. We’ve come back to the character and it’s fun. If I didn’t do other things I wouldn’t like it but I do it infrequently enough.
We only did two series. If I’d done the same thing every year for the last ten years, there’d be a lot less in it for me, it would just be a job, but I still like doing it; actually I’ve been writing Alan Partridge today in the office and I laugh, you know? I still find it funny. If I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t do it. Simple as that.”
So you’re going to do What Maisie Knew next…
“I just finished that. That was in New York. That was an American feature film. See, because what I do is I either write, act and produce or I’m signed as an actor. So it’s quite a schizophrenic life. Certain things are my pet projects and other things I’m just a gun for hire.
“What Maisie Knew was a drama in New York with Julianne Moore and me and Alexander Skarsgård, who er, I’ve never heard of before, but he’s in a thing called True Blood… So there’s that and working on a couple of other films that I’m going to shoot next year, as well as Partridge. But I’m doing a few films next year that I’m quite excited about.”
What did you want to be when you grew up?
“I think I wanted to be an actor… yeah I wanted to do what I am doing.”
Is there a hat you’ve yet to try that you’d like to?
“I’ve never directed something, so that’s the one hat I haven’t tried on… and more dramatic roles, laced with humour rather then comedy with tiny little serious bits.”
What Maisie Knew isn’t a comedy…
“That’s not funny at all… It’s pretty bleak. The problem, as you look forward to your career, is if you want to advance you have to do the same thing over and over again because then you’re saying one big idea and that’s easier for the audience – they can latch on to create an image. But if you try to do lots of different things then it can be that they don’t know what it is you’re supposed to be. But most actors don’t want to do the same thing over and over. I want to try and keep changing. I’m enjoying writing a lot, I like writing and I want to do some more of that.”
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to people wanting to follow in your footsteps?
[pause] “Don’t think that ordinariness or modesty of background is uninteresting, because if you’re creative the things around you in you’re environment, even if your views on lives might be perceived as boring or unremarkable, are actually very rich. You can find creativity on your doorstep; it’s not something you have to go out and find. People say to me ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ as if they’re somehow magic, but to me it’s all around you. And I also think not being worried, not being frightened of using your own personality and not being worried about your weaknesses. For me it was not being bothered about trying to be cool and using things about your own personality and yeah, it’s comedy; it’s not about worrying about being seen as foolish, because that can be a very reliable resource.”