Alan Partridge himself, Steve Coogan, hogged the limelight when Alpha Papa hit cinemas. And sure, he is the movie's hero, if you can call him that, but the real lynchpin of the whole affair was one Sidekick Simon, as played by actor / writer / comedian / performance poet Tim Key. Spending most of the movie looking pretty terrified - and a saucepan on the noggin and gun to the head will do that - it was Simon who made AP: AP work. Here's what Key had to say about playing the slightly straight man to all the Partridgy preposterousness going on around him.
How were you first introduced to Mid Morning Matters and Steve Coogan? What was the audition like?
Luckily, I didn't have to audition because I am absolutely horseshit at auditions. I tend to crumble when I really want the part, and in this case I really, really wanted it. But in the end they just asked me to do it. And my head exploded and I said yes.
What was your most enjoyable day on set?
Being on set was a mixed blessing. It was work - it was fun work, but it was still work, and I usually had to be gaffer-taped to a chair with a shotgun balanced against my temple. One day I never got to set (things were spinning out of control down there). I spent about ten hours with Phil Cornwell (fellow DJ Dave Clifton) that day and Phil Cornwall is the perfect person to spend ten hours with.
Are any of the jingles still stuck in your head?
They are ALL stuck in my head. It's cleared a bit now, but back then I could barely think for that shit spinning about in my brain. Occasionally 'Sidekick Simon' pops up and terrorises me, but usually I'm okay.
How much improvising did you do?
| Fortunately it's a good film. If it hadn't been, I think I would have been in a bit of trouble.|
A bit, although that was more Steve really. He knows that character so well that he will sometimes channel him, at which point the whole thing becomes pretty extraordinary. A lot of my facial expressions are improvised.
Do you have a favourite deleted scene?
Yeah, I remember watching a scene where the hostages all made a jingle. The jingle's still in the film I think, but they filmed them putting it together and it was very funny. Monica Dolan (Angela) clicking her fingers and wiggling her hips. It was joyous!
Were there any lines cut that you really wanted in the film?
Millions. The nature of the process was that there was constantly rewriting, before we started and then on set. And the writers are very good, so there were always little gems being brought into the world and then ten minutes later they were scribbled out. I remember in an early draft Alan's fed up that there are more people at a pitching meeting than he'd expected. Lynn offers to check her emails to see what's happened. Alan doesn't think it's necessary, it's apparent there are tonnes of people in the room. "Check your eyes Lynn. Check your eye". Something like that. Imagine it's in Alan's voice and I've remembered it right.
Did you keep the pot? Or any other mementos?
Nope. Just memories. And an Alan Partridge radio which sits on my desk.
What do people say to you when they see you on the street? Do they ask you if you're "keeping a handle on things"?
People are nice. Fortunately it's a good film. If it hadn't been, I think I would have been in a bit of trouble. I think people wouldn't have said much, they would have just been furious, and I would have just been dodging fists and bottles and people saying "YOU RUINED IT!"
What are you hoping to do in the sequel?
I was disappointed Alan didn't die at the end of this one. I felt like I could have stepped up a level, like when Lewis took over as the main one from Morse. But he didn't, so I think it will be a case of continuing to sit by his side and cope as well as possible.
Do you keep your eggs in the fridge?
Nope. I'm not an idiot.
How does it feel to be one of Empire's Unsung Heroes Of The Year?
Am I? That feels good. The "unsung" bit's obviously not ideal, but you get what you're given.