COOGANS BLUFF.EXCLUSIVE Steve Coogan/Around the World in 80 Days Interview by Paul Fischer in Los Angeles.
Steve Coogan may not be a huge name here in the US, but back in his nativeBritain, the multi-faceted star of TV and film is a household name. Yet herehe is, sitting comfortably in the confines of Los Angeles hotel room,promoting his co-starring role in this very updated version of Jules VernesAround the World in 80 Days.
Well, perhaps it would be more accurate torefer to this version of the classic tale as Jackie Chans take on the talefirst filmed in the fifties as a David Niven movie. Coogan doesnt seem tomind being second banana to Chan, nor was he worried about following in thefootsteps of some of Chans previous Hollywood buddies. I didn't reallythink of it like that. I was more concerned about playing the part ofPhileas Fogg and trying to do that justice, than becoming preoccupied withthe relationship between me and Jackie's character on screen. I thinksometimes you have to figure it out as you go along and you have to take apragmatic approach to it and develop it as you move along in an organicway, the actor explains. Coogans other concern was in making his Phileas atad too pompous and unlikeable. Yeah, that's the big issue in a movie ofthis nature. However many weaknesses or flaws your character has, heultimately has to be likeable for the audience to engage in the picture. Soyes, that was definitely a concern, but what I tried to do is have a littlebit of pompousness because that can be funny and a little bit ofpretentiousness, yet at the same time, show underneath a kind of weakness inthe character, a vulnerability, and let the audience see that it's a faĆ§adebecause people respond to that.
As pompous as he is in the film, it is Coogan who carries the romanticweight of the film, something which surprisingly concerned him, he confessespragmatically. Id done a couple things before like that, so I wanted totry and have enough charm so that when I kiss the girl, people don't go fortheir sick bags. So I was concerned that I could pull it off because it's atricky thing to do. You have to be funny and pompous, yet have a little bitof charm which he needs to carry that stuff off. It's a kind of balancingact. I was trying to get the balance right between all those things.
Coogan remains pragmatic about Hollywoods perpetual stereotypes of dryBritish comedy, despite frequent successes of the likes of Four Weddings anda Funeral and Love Actually. I think that's true to some extent, but itdepends. I think there are lots of different kinds of British comedy. Ithink there is a dryness to it, but there's also a very kind of surreal,mischievous element to it. Monty Python is not so much dry as it is justbold, energetic and surreal. But its true .there is that dry Britishcomedy.
Steve Coogan was born in Manchester, England on 14th October 1965.Throughout, Steve's earlier years, he battled for attention, amongst hismultiple siblings. As a child he would impersonate people from teachers tofamily - this audience appreciation spurred him on to develop his comicalskills in the real world. He enrolled in Manchester Polytechnic, studyingdrama and gained his equity card though stand up comedy, As well, as actingand comedy performing, Steve Coogan is a commended writer. Some of Steve'scomedy/acting credits include Spitting Image, - 'I'm Alan Partridge' TVseries and recent movie The Parole Officer, and the recent Ella Enchanted.
Coogan says that he would characterise his own humour as observational,trying to show a kind of disparity between what someone is saying and whatthey really mean. I think the humour that I like to do is humour that comesfrom truth, rather than just being gags or contrived one-liners. Peopleoften recognize things about themselves in some of the work I've done in thepast, certainly on TV and see things of themselves in those characters aswell as human flaws, and weaknesses. I think those things are funny.
Now at last, with his big Hollywood action film under his belt, it is SteveCoogan, action star? Well, I wouldn't call it a leap to action hero. I diddo a little bit of action because Jackie did actually share a little bit.Really, part of the joke in the movie is that I don't actually do anyfighting at all. He does everything, even when it's behind my back,unbeknownst to me, he's still fighting. But at the end, part of the joke is,the final scene in the movie, one of the penultimate scenes in the movie, Irescue Jackie. It's part of the joke of the film is he does all thisfighting all the way through and at the very end, in a slightly ham fistedincompetent way, I go back and do something brave for someone else. Becauseall through the movie, I'm trying to win this bet and he's trying to getback to his people in Lang Xao.
Next Up for the intrepid British actor is a thriller called The Alibi withRebecca Romijn Stamos. Talk about diversity!
AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS OPENS IN SEPTEMBER