Steve Coogan on Around the World in Eighty Days

Submitted by Paul Fischer on Sat, 06/19/2004 - 16:00

Coogan is sitting comfortably in the confines of a Los Angeles hotel room, promoting his co-starring role in this very updated version of Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days. Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to refer to this version of the classic tale as Jackie Chan's take on the tale first filmed in the fifties as a David Niven movie.

Coogan doesn't seem to mind being second banana to Chan, nor was he worried about following in the footsteps of some of Chan's previous Hollywood buddies.

"I didn't really think of it like that. I was more concerned about playing the part of Phileas Fogg and trying to do that justice, than becoming preoccupied with the relationship between me and Jackie's character on screen," the actor explains.

Coogan says playing the stuffy Phileas Fogg was a "tricky balancing act".

"What I tried to do is have a little bit of pompousness because that can be funny and a little bit of pretentiousness, yet at the same time, show underneath a kind of weakness in the character, a vulnerability, and let the audience see that it's a façade because people respond to that."

As pompous as he is in the film, Coogan carries the romantic weight of the film, something which surprisingly concerned him.

"I'd done a couple things before like that, so I wanted to try and have enough charm so that when I kiss the girl people don't go for their sick bags... you have to be funny and pompous, yet have a little bit of charm," he explains.

Steve Coogan was born in Manchester, England on 14th October 1965. Throughout, his earlier years, he battled for attention, among his multiple siblings. As a child he would impersonate people from teachers to family - this audience appreciation spurred him on to develop his comical skills in the real world. He enrolled in Manchester Polytechnic, studying drama and gained his equity card though stand-up comedy.

As well as acting and stand-up, Coogan is a commended writer. He provided voices for puppet parody series Spitting Image, won the Perrier award for comedy in 1992 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and became a household name in Britain with "I'm Alan Partridge". Recent big screen parts have included a starring role in The Parole Officer, a voice part in Ella Enchanted and, an amusing parody of himself in Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes.

Coogan says that he would characterise his own humour as observational, "trying to show a kind of disparity between what someone is saying and what they really mean. I think the humour that I like to do is humour that comes from truth, rather than just being gags or contrived one-liners. People often recognise things about themselves in some of the work I've done in the past."

Now at last, with his big Hollywood action film under his belt, is it Steve Coogan action star?

"Well, I wouldn't call it a leap to action hero. I did do a little bit of action because Jackie did actually share a little bit. Really, part of the joke in the movie is that I don't actually do any fighting at all. He does everything, even when it's behind my back, unbeknownst to me, he's still fighting."