Steve Coogan

Steve Coogan

Date of birth: 14-10-1965
Born in Middleton, near Manchester, Steve Coogan trained at the city's Polytechnic School of Theatre. He started out as an impressionist – his first stand-up appearance being in 1986 – and went on to provide many of the voices for Spitting Image on ITV.

However, he became bored with the limitations of that act, and started creating characters to perform on the comedy circuit, and in 1992 he won the Perrier award for the show he performed at the Edinburgh Fringe with John Thomson. Coogan gave boorish, student-hating Paul Calf his first screen outing on Saturday Zoo in 1993. This character, and his loose sister Pauline – also played by Coogan – made several TV shows, including Paul Calf's Video Diary that went out on New Year’s Day 1994 and Pauline Calf's Wedding Video that went out at the end of that year – subtitled Three Fights, Two Weddings And A Funeral. Other early characters included dreadful comedian Duncan Thickett and health and safety officer Ernest Moss.

But Coogan is best known for Alan Partridge, who first appeared in Chris Morris and Armando Iannucci's Radio 4 show On The Hour in 1991, which transferred to TV as The Day Today in 1994. Coogan was part of an ensemble cast, but his inept, pompous sports reporter was considered to have enough mileage for him, with Iannucci and Patrick Marber, to create the spin-off spoof chat show Knowing Me, Knowing You – which again started on radio before transferring to TV for two series in 1994 and 1995. The character’s downfall after losing his precious TV show was charted in I'm Alan Partridge, which started in 1999.

Between the two series, he starred in Coogan's Run, a series of one-off playlets reviving the Calfs, and featuring a string of other characters, most notably insensitive salesman Gareth Cheeesman. He also tried to launch the smarmy singer Tony Ferrino, but with little success, before returning to Partridge. His much anticipated spoof horror series Dr Terrible’s House Of Horrible aired in 2001, but also failed to take off. Saxondale, which started in 2006, was largely seen as a return to TV form for Coogan, who played a rock-loving pest controller.

Coogan’s film career began inauspiciously with a cameo in The Indian in the Cupboard in 1995, followed by the role of Mole in Terry Jones's 1996 version of The Wind in the Willows.

His first significant cinematic role was the lead in The Parole Officer in 2001, playing a Partridge-like buffoon. The following year he starred as Factory Records founder and Granada TV presenter Tony Wilson in Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People. He reunited with Winterbottom for A Cock and Bull Story – an attempt to film the unfilmable Tristam Shandy novel with Rob Brydon in 2005. He also starred in Around The World In 80 Days opposite Jackie Chan, Marie Antoinette, and the 2008 High School comedy Hamlet 2.

Coogan also founded Baby Cow Productions [named after Paul Calf] with Henry Normal, which has produced such comedies as The Mighty Boosh, Nighty Night and Marion and Geoff.

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Mindhorn

Film review by Steve Bennett

It doesn’t take Steve Coogan’s presence in Mindhorn to draw out parallels with with Alan Partridge as a hubristic middle-aged man of minor celebrity and blinkered self-obsession struggles through humiliations of his own making against a parochial backdrop. 

The film even features the best bit of car vandalism since the ‘Cook, Pass, Babtridge’ incident.

But Julian Barratt’s pompous Richard Thorncroft is an even bigger shit than North Norfolk’s finest. He was the hard-living, womanising and rather idiotic star of a hit 1980s detective series, whose titular character undergoes a Six Million Dollar Man-style transition to give him a bionic eye that can literally ‘see the truth’.

Riding high on egotism, he quit Britain for a sniff of Hollywood success, burning his bridges on a spectacular, drunken Wogan appearance and walking out on his partner Pat. And was barely heard of again.

Quarter of a century later, he’s washed up, living in small flat in Walthamstow and reduced to advertising support socks and girdles – a product he also uses to keep his fast-expanding girth in check. Until, the is, a crazed criminal on the Isle Of Man, where the TV series was set, demands to speak to Mindhorn.

Thorncroft, sniffing a career-reviving PR opportunity, and a chance at romantic reconciliation, dutifully dons the brown polo-neck and robotic eye to try to bring in The Kestrel.

The premise is dispensed with pretty briskly, including some realistically fuzzy VHS footage recreating the 1980s original, presumably under the assumption that cinema-goers will have grasped the basic plot from the trailer, which does contains a lot of the movie’s best and biggest jokes (although there’s plenty to enjoy in the nitty details of the show, too).

Thereafter, the plot is a fairly formulaic caper of villainous mayors, bent coppers and chasing incriminating evidence around the Manx countryside (the tax haven getting a lot of loving footage for stumping up towards production costs), that doesn’t thoroughly engage.

Still, it offers Thorncroft the opportunity to reassess the errors of his old ways, even if it takes quite the sledgehammer to get through to him, as well as a framework for a decent number of very funny moments.

Many of these come from scene-stealing Simon Farnaby, who co-wrote the script with Barratt. He plays Clive Parnevik, Thorncroft’s one-time stunt double now shacked up with Pat (Essie Davis) with an indeterminate accent, inscrutable oddness and a propensity to do the gardening only in the skimpiest of denim shorts.

If Parvenivik scores points against Thorncroft’s ego personally, Coogan’s character Peter Eastman scores points professionally – as the former co-star who went on to huge success with a Mindhorn spin-off, and now enjoying a lavish playboy lifestyle not too far from Coogan’s erstwhile tabloid image.

Him & Her star Russell Tovey brings a childish vulnerability to his role as The Kestrel that almost convinces you he could believe the Mindhorn make-believe was real, while there are game, knowing cameos from Kenneth Branagh and Simon Callow. 

Most of the other actors don’t have much to work with – even Davis and Andrea Riseborough, playing a local cop, who are both used to better things. However in a film about masculine posturing, female parts take second place.

Despite the best efforts of Sean Foley, who can do comic moments, both writ large and subtly underplayed, and Barrett in skewering his suave image to play the balding, awful Thorncroft, Mindhorn can feel like an hour-long TV special over-extending itself. 

But there are enough laughs from the characters, if not the plot, to make for an entertaining 90 minutes.

• Mindhorn is in cinemas from Friday.

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Published: 2 May 2017

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