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Steve Coogan Webchat: The Transcript
On Philomena, great mongers and favourite sandwiches

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As we near the end of Annus Coogannibis, 12 months that have seen Steve Coogan headline three radically different movies to great effect, the time was ripe to unleash a barrage of your questions on the man himself. Read on for the origins of Philomena, working with Judi Dench, Alan Partridge's geography, The Trip 2, sharing a hot tub with Arnie, and, of course, his favourite sandwich. He... is... INTERFACE.

Steve Coogan Webchat: The Transcript
Steve Coogan with Judi Dench in Philomena

Marley: From what I've seen you and Judi Dench have great chemistry on screen. Do you get along as well in real life and were you a little intimidated when first working with her?
Yes, I was very intimidated at the prospect of working with her. I was worried that I would be blown off the screen by this iconic, classically trained legend. But she looked so different on set that I just pretended I was hanging out with a little old Irish lady. It was only at the end of the day, when she was transformed back into Judi Dench, that I got the heebie-jeebies.

Greg Stevens: I've been told all about Philomena, and there seems to be so much in there that almost doesn't seem believable. Is there anything you wanted to put in but decided not to?
We actually toned down some of the things that the nuns said to the girls back in the 1950s, because they sounded too ridiculous and cartoon-like, and also I didn't want to portray the nuns any more negatively than I had to. Also, we invented certain conversations and played around with the chronology to make it cinematic, but the fundamental aspects of the story, of what the nuns did to Philomena and what happens at the end of the film, is all absolutely true.

Emma_Hampton: I was lucky to be able to catch Philomena at a preview. Even watching with a knowledge of the book and the outcome it was captivating to watch and I can't wait to see it again. Thank you. I was wondering, you seem to take on a lot of roles based on real-life characters: how important is the approval and support of the real-life person who you are portraying to you?
Fortunately I've only played people I in some way admire. The only person who wasn't particularly sympathetic was Paul Raymond.
Well, it depends who you're playing. Fortunately I've only played people who I in some way admire. The only person who wasn't particularly sympathetic was Paul Raymond, but he was dead so that problem didn't arise. With the story of Philomena and Martin, it was important that they were honoured and dignified by the narrative. Martin is actually portrayed in a slightly more negative way than is the truth. But because he himself is a writer, he understood the need for creative license, because Martin can't be redeemed at the end of the story if he's already a nice bloke at the start.

Kevin Howe of Rover fame: I harbour the suspicion that Alan Partridge is secretly in love with the current Mercedes-Benz range, despite his vocal hatred of the brand. Does he keep a brochure of the CLA hidden underneath his bed? Does he consider a Maybach 62S a good investment in a future classic?
It is certainly true that Alan has a stash of car mags that he keeps in the garden shed. I dread to think what he does when he says he's going in there to do a bit of DIY.

Pantomime: Philomena is an amazing name, but did you consider any others?
Philomena was her actual name; she is a real person.

Clarey: I'd love to see you and Chris Morris work together again. Have you any plans to do this?
No, not at the moment, but I am a huge admirer of Chris. I loved Four Lions, I learnt a lot from him when we worked together all those years ago, and who knows? Maybe we will.

QuentinCappuccino: Steve, do you agree with Alan Partridge that our of war, fish, iron and rumour, war is the worst monger?
Of course. I agree with a lot of what Alan says.

Welshevs75: You got to work with legendary crooner Jack Jones on Cruise Of The Gods. Did he inspire Tony Ferrino in any way?
Well, working with him didn't inspire Tony Ferrino, because it was four years after I performed the character. But Tony Ferrino was an amalgam of Perry Como, Andy Williams, Val Doonican, Tony Bennett, Julio Iglesias - I could go on. But I'm glad I didn't.

Steve Coogan Webchat: The Transcript
With Rob Brydon in Michael Winterbottom's The Trip

MovieHound: Can you tell us anything on The Trip 2? Would you venture outside the UK?
We did. The Trip To Italy was filmed in Italy! We retraced the footsteps of the Romantics - Shelley, Byron, Keats - along the Amalfi coast, trying to elevate ourselves to the level of the great poets. We visited Genoa, Naples, Rome, Pompei, Capri... we ate wonderful food, drank fine wine and talked rubbish.

danbo12: With Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa due to be released in the US next year, how confident are you that the US audience will react positively to it? How big of a risk is it considering the complete difference in humour between UK and US audiences?
I am not very confident. I would be very surprised if it was a smash US comedy hit, because some of them (say this quietly) aren't very clever. But the best that could be hoped is that it gets a kind of cult status with all the cool people. I actually have my own section in an LA record store called Amoeba. Embarrassingly I got caught having a look at it. Someone said, "Hey, you're browsing your own section!"

Kevin Howe of Rover Fame: Did you develop an appreciation of haute cuisine during the making of The Trip or did all that posh food eventually come out of your ears?
Is war the worst monger? Of course. I agree with a lot of what Alan says.
Well, I still think that haute cuisine means hot food. The food was undoubtedly wonderful, some of the best-tasting food I've had in my life. But as you have to eat the meal three times for filming purposes, by the end of a month you're craving a fried egg sandwich with brown sauce.

Pantomime: What do you say to people who keep their eggs in the fridge?
What's wrong with you?!

QuentinCappuccino: Hi Steve. Will you be wearing a Halloween costume tonight? And did you know that you've inspired a lot of people to don shower curtains and tungsten tip screws?
I was thinking of going tonight as Alan Partridge, but I think the double irony might be lost on some people, who would think I was having a nervous breakdown. So I'll probably play safe and go as Jimmy Savile.

Sandra: Stephen Frears did High Fidelity back in the day, one of my favourite films. What's your favourite Frears film (aside from Philomena)?
I like Prick Up Your Ears, which I only recently found out was an anagram of 'arse'. But I also think The Queen was a triumph, not least because any film about the royals has the potential to be an unmitigated disaster. It was deftly handled.

Greg Stevens: Did Judi Dench ever slip out of her Irish accent? Were there any Trip-like moments when you get to get her back on the right track? Over a posh meal, perhaps?
I never attempted to criticise her in any way. A cat may look at a king... Besides which, she had a voice coach on hand the whole time. I never sat down to have dinner with her during filming. But I did sneak her Nature Valley oat bars from catering, which she consumed like crystal meth.

Sandra: It's an important question: what's your favourite sandwich?
Egg and sausage, on toasted brown bread. Closely followed by a chip sandwich on white bread, lots of butter.

Dan Dan Dan: What are your memories of sharing a hot tub with Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger on Around The World In 80 Days? Guessing that was an odd day.
If I were offered another big studio movie I'd have a think about it. A really, really, long, long think.
Well, when someone turned it off but the bubbles continued I was appalled.

StephenBirss: Considering your experience with Around The World In 80 Days, what would your thoughts be if you were offered the main role in another major studio film?
I would have a think about it. A long, long think about it. A really, really, long, long think about it.

Greg Stevens: Have you given any thought as to what the subtitle for the second Alan Partridge movie should be? 'Alan Partridge: A-Hard Target'?
That's rubbish. I always wanted the film to be called Hectic Danger Day, but I was outvoted. Which shows the limitations of democracy.

Stumblebum: You're an outspoken critic of the tabloid press, yet some of the techniques Martin Sixsmith uses in the film in order to find answers on Philomena's behalf - and to get his story, of course - are ethically dubious, at best. When you were adapting the book, how did you respond to Sixsmith's conniving and pestering, and did it alter your own views on human-interest journalism? And do you think in this case, his intrusions were somehow justified?
None of what Martin does in the film is unethical. He uncomfortably steps into the shoes of being a robust tabloid journalist, but the hard and fast techniques he uses have always been part and parcel of tabloid journalism. But - and this is crucial - he stops short of being abusive, of exploiting someone who doesn't want any involvement with him, and he's never willfully criminal.

Dan Dan Dan: What's the best new film you've seen this year?
I saw Blue Jasmine and really enjoyed that. Cate Blanchett was fantastic and so were the rest of the cast; there wasn't one weak performance. And it had something I gravitate towards, which is compassion for the ostensibly unsympathetic.

Steve Coogan Webchat: The Transcript

markallen123: If Alan Partridge was remade in America who would you want to play him?
Daniel Day-Lewis, but of course he would have to go to live as a DJ in Norwich for at least six months to a year and drive round in a Kia saloon car wearing bad clothes which might be too big an ask. It might be outside his comfort zone.

deadrebel: Also, is it true you will be playing the next incarnation of The Master in Dr.Who? I heard it only moments ago, when I thought about it and said it out loud to myself and then again when I'm about to read this question.
It's the first I've heard and it would be very hard to step into the shoes of Roger Delgado, who played him originally opposite Jon Pertwee. And I didn't even google that. I actually didn't.

Jane: Did Dame Judi stitch embroider you one of her famous profanity cushions?
No, she didn't actually. She brought me a book of poetry by Rudyard Kipling, Rewards And Fairies. I gave her something altogether cruder, but I'm sworn to secrecy.

Jimmy The Saint: What do you think of the Oscar buzz Philomena is getting?
I'm like a pig in ***. "Shit" [sorry, the chat engine is censoring us]

Gromit: In the film Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, Alan forgets where the police station is. In Norwich! How can this be!?
He can't. You are right. But - and it's a big but - it's only a film. If you look closely, when Alan has a pizza slicer knocked out of his hand, it becomes a piece of pizza mid-air before hitting someone. This is also Not Possible in real life.

Emma_Hampton: I saw after the NME asked you about a musical figure you might like to portray and you mentioned David Byrne, the reaction quote from him said "I would love to see that". Can this now please happen?!
Ask Michael Winterbottom.

Lancey: Have you seen Toast Of London with Matt Berry? If not, what new comedy would you recommend?
New comedy? I saw two acts at the Edinburgh Festival that had a kind of raw genius, Liam Williams and John Kearns.

Gromit: What's your favourite thing in the Empire office? What would you most like to pick up and take home?
I'm not going to develop another comedy character like Alan Partridge, but I might revisit Paul Calf or Saxondale one day. I want to use comedy to deal with serious issues in a fun way.
I'd like to take the shield from 300. Sarah Silverman said it's called 300 because of how gay it is on a scale of one to ten.

aha: How did you come to choose Roachford's 'Cuddly Toy' as the song for the opening credits of AP:AP? Great scene.
I wanted something that was recognisable but a bit forgotten. Also, it's soulful with a bit of rock, so it's not too black, which Alan wouldn't like.

Kevin Howe of Rover fame: Whatever happened to Sonya?
According to Alan, "Her papers weren't in order so she had to be deported - the law is the law."

robgilroy: You've said you're quite bored of comedy these days. Do you still have ideas for characters and shows that'd you'd like to develop or is Philomena's style the direction you'd rather go?
I'm not going to develop another comedy character like Alan. I might do a more grounded naturalistic comedy character, and I might revisit Paul Calf or even Saxondale one day. Generally though, I want to use comedy to deal with serious issues in a fun way.

simom: Would you like to kommon sie bitte, and listen to Kraftwerk?
Jawohl. Achtung ich bin ein synthesiser.

Thank-you to everyone in cyber-space! It's been virtual.

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