NEW YORK — Steve Who? Coogan? He’s not a director? He’s an actor? A British actor? Mostly from television? Well, sure, then that’s perfect. Let’s build a New York Film Festival event around him.
Sounds a bit off, particularly for such a staid and venerable institution, but those involved say it makes perfect sense.
Film Comment editor Gavin Smith, who proposed the program and will interview Coogan on Oct. 8, says the fest was looking to diversify its programming. “We want to recognize the other aspects of what makes people love movies besides directors.”
Coogan is starring in Michael Winterbottom’s innovative “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story,” an unorthodox adaptation of the supposedly unfilmable 17th-century novel. In the movie, Coogan plays “Steve Coogan,” an actor making a movie version of the unfilmable novel.
“It is and isn’t easy to create the character Steve Coogan,” Coogan says, adding that while he finds the notion of “baring my soul unattractive,” he looks forward to discussing this creative process with Smith onstage. “I exploit my own vanities and character flaws and heighten and exaggerate them. It’s slightly cathartic.”
“He’s good at playing with different versions of himself and he has done that successfully before,” says Winterbottom. He adds that Coogan is a good choice for a discussion because he was extremely involved in a very collaborative process about the creation of his character.
Smith says Coogan’s strong work in “Tristram Shandy” and that ambiguity about the distance between himself and his characters was what appealed to him about the thesp.
He also sees Coogan as an ideal candidate to break through in the U.S. He’s already a household name in England but is just a cult figure here, who has slowly been building his rep thanks to the movie “24 Hour Party People” (his foray into big-budget films, a co-star turn in “80 Days Around the World” with Jackie Chan, flopped) and BBC America’s airing of his hit U.K. skeins “Knowing Me, Knowing You” and “I’m Alan Partridge.”
“Steve’s at the brink but not yet in the mainstream and we can introduce him to a larger audience,” Smith says. “I hope to explore in conversation how he sees himself and sees his work and to get the real Steve Coogan to please stand up.”