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BBC Steve Coogan interview: Part 2

Steve Coogan as Tom Saxondale.
Steve Coogan as Tom Saxondale
Steve Coogan tells us in part two of his interview why Alan Partridge is certain to return, how his new TV character Tom Saxondale has been a change of focus and why the Felbrigg Hall screening was part of a pact between cast and crew to return.

Do you think Alan Partridge will return?

I've just filmed a new TV series and that's what's occupying my time and my focus. But I never say never. I am talking about doing a TV special or maybe doing a film.

The thing is with Alan, it was a great success and it really helped me and I was proud to be associated with it but I still have mixed feelings about it.

On the one hand it sometimes typecasts you - people will often only compare whatever you do to Alan Partridge and they find it difficult to see beyond that.

So I feel what I've been trying to do is other things to satisfy my creative muse, but I'll happily return to Alan at some point. I don't want to say goodbye forever.

I actually do think he's a funny character. In a strange way when I watch Alan on re-runs or watch him on DVD or watch him when we're editing, I find him as funny as other people because I donít see it as myself; I see it as myself rendering a character.

So I'll do something else with him, I don't know when.

I might do a movie, I might not do it. I might do a TV special but there will certainly be something at some point but you need to change the record before you can play your golden oldies.

How often do people approach you in the street and quote some Alan Partridge and how do you react to that?

I fairly regularly get people shouting, "A-ha," which was the catchphrase from Knowing Me, Knowing You, the first Alan Partridge TV series, which was 12, 13 years ago.

People still shout at me. I sometimes ignore it if I'm in the train station.

Coogan is set to slip into sports casuals again.
The call of the Partridge may rise again

Sometimes, if I'm in the mood, I might turn around and shout, "A-ha" and spread my arms and shout it at the top of my voice back at them, which freaks them out and they run off in the opposite direction.

Because I don't actually look entirely like Alan, because I wear a wig and my clothes are different and I have make-up on, it doesn't happen that often.

I can go around the supermarket without being hassled by people who think I'm Alan.

Saxondale is your new TV sitcom on the BBC. Tell us a bit about him?

It's a new character that I've been working on. He's an ex-roadie turned pest controller, so he toured with lots of rock bands in the '70s and '80s and then in the 1990s he gave up being a roadie and became a pest controller, and we meet him in the present day.

He's a bit more intelligent than Alan Partridge. He's quite well read but he's a malcontent, a kind of grumpy old man.

He's a 50-year-old man, one of the Baby Boomer generation, who can't quite relate to the modern world and he's something of a pontificator, a philosopher, if you will.

He's quite witty but he's also an idiot at times, so he's an amalgam of different people and characters but the difference if you compare him with Alan Partridge was that Alan Partridge was always the butt of the joke.

With Tom Saxondale he's sometimes the butt of the joke but he's sometimes the creator of the joke, so sometimes he's laughing with the audience so you have more scope for comedy.

But even with Alan Partridge, may be not so much with Saxondale by the sounds of it, you feel sorry for them as well.

Of course, I think with most comedy characters you need some empathy or sympathy with the character for it to work at all.

Tom Saxondale is a much more sympathetic character than Alan Partridge.

All the great comedy character creations in television over the last 30 years from Hancock to John Cleese to Blackadder, all the sort of greats, they have however nasty and ill-judged they are, there's an element of humanity to them that makes you care... not necessarily like them but have some sort of compassion when they screw up.

There's going to be an open-air screening of A Cock And Bull Story at Felbrigg Hall - that's going to be quite a night.

I'm really looking forward to it. We always said when we were in Norfolk that we'd go back there to see the film.

When I see the movie I must admit rather than looking at it like an artistic enterprise, to me, it's more like looking through a photo album of your holiday snaps because I enjoyed being there and working there so much.

Steve Coogan with one of the cast at Felbrigg.
Coogan with one of the cast at Felbrigg

You sometimes get a little nostalgia going. It's 18 months ago when we shot it, and you think, 'What a wonderful time we had in Norfolk,' so when I watch the film, to me, it's just like leafing through my Kodaks.

So I'm really looking forward to going back and reuniting with Michael and the other people involved because it will be a great celebration of a great piece of work.

It sounds like you had a good time off-camera, that you had a good social time in Norfolk?

Of course. Michael Winterbottom fosters a family atmosphere. We all rented his cottages when we were shooting and went to the pub most evenings and it was a jolly old time.

On a personal level it lends a sentiment to the film that the punters obviously won't get, but to me it's a film I've got a lot of affection for and I thoroughly enjoyed being in Norfolk and filming it.

It was a while back now, but do you know the name of the pub you went to?

Oh God, what was the name of the pub! We were near Cromer, not in Cromer but near Cromer.

All I remember is it was very nice, served very nice food and they were very friendly and it was more or less a nightly gathering. It was tremendous.

I think of all the counties in England - Lancashire, Yorkshire - and you can make comparisons between different counties like Cornwall and Devon, but I think Norfolk is unique and I don't think there's another county in England like it because of peculiar idiosyncrasies.

It's quite an individualist county and... also some of it is Constable country, of course, but what's marvellous about it is it's still pretty unspoilt where other counties have had their charm challenged.

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