A Chat With Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon...
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are household names in television and film. They come together in Michael Winterbottom's A COCK AND BULL STORY, a highly ambitious adaptation Laurence Sterne’s 18th century bestseller The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman...
Even the basic story of this film sounds highly complicated – how was the idea pitched to you Steve?
Coogan: “The original script was only about 60 pages long, it was incomplete. Michael has a strange way of going about films, he schedules them and then just makes it whether the script’s ready or not. He just says we’re going to make the film, and we’ll worry about the script when it comes to filming. I read the 60 pages and thought if it was anyone else other than Michael Winterbottom doing it I wouldn’t have gone ahead and done it. It looked too self indulgent, but I thought that at worst working with Michael it wouldn’t be a clichéd film, it would be original and quite different from anything else. And because I’d worked with him before I’ve learnt to trust him. I’ve learnt that working with Michael you have to get used to not being entirely sure what you’re doing. He’s not somebody who seems to have any military planning to his films, he works largely on instinct. But I trust his instinct, so that’s really why I did it.”
Were you worried that it wouldn’t work at all?
Coogan: “It did worry me slightly. It seemed a bit risky, as it proved to a lot of the funding people who weren’t interested in putting any money into it at all. They said it was a waste of money, it was self indulgent, no-one cares, and I realised that even the parts of the script that are about Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan aren’t really just about us. They’re about other issues; they’re about the amorphous, formless disorganisation of everyone’s life as rendered through these characters. So I understood the logic to it, but it was very difficult to get off the ground.”
How did you deal with the problem of the financiers?
Coogan: “Any problem Michael encounters, he tries to turn into a virtue. So for example, I had to visit a financier with Michael to try and get money for the film; I had to perform a bit of the film in front of the financier, like some monkey. I did, and he laughed, and because he laughed he wrote the cheque out. So that became one of the scenes in the film, Michael just thought that was interesting and he put it in the film.”
How important is it to the pair you that this film does well in America particularly?
Brydon: “From a career point of view for someone like me it’s just great to be having more than three lines in a movie and be making a bit of an impact in it. I’m very pleased because I’m doing the humour that I think of as my kind of humour and I’m very happy to see that on the screen. People always say ‘America, America’; I’ve never yet been to America and not felt a bit ‘urrgh’ about being over there, away from home. I’m sure that will change if I had some wonderful offer I think, but there isn’t a great hunger in me to go to America I have to say.”
Coogan: “I’ve got mixed feelings about it because 24 Hour Party People was noticed more by the cognoscenti in America than it was here. It got good reviews here but it wasn’t really noticed, whereas in America – in terms of the film industry at least – lots of directors saw that film and then familiarised themselves with my work because they enjoyed it so much. They knew about that before they learnt about Alan Partridge. They asked themselves who this British character was, and it lead to some interesting work over there.”