×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Brit Duo Draw Up ‘Alpha’ Rules

‘Alan Partridge’ makes a TV-to-bigscreen transfer, and avoids the standard route by keeping to its regional roots

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa,” a bigscreen version of a British comedy favorite, broke a lot of showbiz rules on the way to its Aug. 7 bow in the U.K.

For one thing, it’s not easy to translate a TV franchise into a bigscreen hit. For another, no concessions were made to the international marketplace in terms of casting, plot, script or location; the film is firmly set deep in provincial England.

According to co-creator Armando Iannucci, such concessions weren’t necessary, thanks to the eclectic history of the self-obsessed and oblivious title character, played by Steve Coogan. “I’ve never really seen Alan as a TV character,” he says. “He was a radio character and then a TV character. Then he was an online YouTube character, then he was a book character. He’s been a live stage character.”

Coogan first played Partridge 22 years ago on BBC radio’s news satire “On the Hour.” The character next appeared on the BBC TV series “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” an excruciatingly funny chatshow spoof that ran for six episodes. That was followed by 12 episodes of “I’m Alan Partridge,” starting in 1997. “Mid-Morning Matters,” an online series, consisted of 12 10-minute shows.

The movie, produced by Studiocanal and BBC Films in partnership with Coogan’s shingle Baby Cow, sticks to the show’s roots, unlike other Britcom-to-feature transfers like “Mr. Bean” and “Kevin & Perry Go Large,” which moved characters into international settings.

Iannucci (creator of HBO’s “Veep,” whose third season bows this fall), says, “It is not a film with overt global appeal. It is not ‘Alan Goes to America.’ ” Adds Coogan: “The worst thing you can do is try to water things down, and try to make them deliberately accessible. You lose the character’s DNA, and end up satisfying no one. It is better to be creatively pure.” The filmmakers hope this approach will find global appeal.

The bigscreen success of another Britcom transfer, “The Inbetweeners,” helped secure financing for “Alpha Papa.”

Alan Partridge is widely loved and admired in the U.K., and the local PR blitz is extensive. But in the U.S., Coogan is better known for his roles in such films as “Night at the Museum” and “Tropic Thunder.”

“It becomes debilitating if you spend too much time on that one character,” Coogan admits. “I didn’t want to feel I was doing the film out of desperation, but because I wanted to. I (didn’t want to) be accused of being a one-trick pony.”

Now that he’s established in other roles, it helps him come to terms with the gauche Partridge. “Having now made six fi lms with Michael Winterbottom, I felt I had self-respect as a creative person and as an actor,” he explains.

Though Coogan has plenty of options, that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning Alan Partridge. Iannucci, Coogan and three other writers on the film have plenty of fodder for other material for the character, meaning he is likely to be around in some form for a long time.

So the bigscreen version could be just one step in a long process.

“One of the good reasons to make the film,” observes Coogan drily, “was because it’s stopped people asking me if we were going to make the film.”

More Film

  • Corey Stoll Brian dArcy James

    'West Side Story' Remake Casts Corey Stoll, Brian d'Arcy James as Cops

    Steven Spielberg has cast Corey Stoll and Brian d’Arcy James as police officers in his movie adaptation of “West Side Story.” Stoll will take on the role of Lieutenant Schrank, the New York City detective charged with quelling civic unrest in his racially-torn precinct. James will play Sergeant Krupke, a veteran cop whose beat includes [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Will Smith Bright - Japan premiere

    Three Six Zero Acquires Will Smith and Miguel Melendez's Westbrook Entertainment

    International entertainment and music management company Three Six Zero has acquired Westbrook Entertainment, the talent management company which represents Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jaden Smith, Willow Smith, Kenna and Crespo. “Bringing Miguel, his clients and his management team to Three Six Zero is an exciting next step on our journey to expand our entertainment [...]

  • Chris Cooper

    Chris Cooper Joins, Focus Features Boards Jon Stewart's Political Comedy 'Irresistible'

    Focus Features is partnering with Plan B Entertainment to produce and distribute Jon Stewart’s political comedy “Irresistible,” with Chris Cooper joining stars Steve Carell and Rose Byrne. Variety first reported in October that Stewart and Carell had boarded the project, with Stewart directing and producing with Plan B. Stewart has kept a low profile since [...]

  • Woody and Buzz Lightyear Hit the

    'Toy Story 4': Woody and Buzz Lightyear Hit the Road in New Trailer

    Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Bo Peep, and a strange new toy named Forky have returned in the new trailer for “Toy Story 4” that sends the gang out on the road. Disney unveiled the footage Tuesday with Woody telling the other toys that Forky — a craft-project-turned-toy — is the most important toy to Bonnie. He [...]

  • Warner Bros. HQ LA

    Warner Bros. CFO Kim Williams Tapped for Interim Leadership Team (EXCLUSIVE)

    Warner Bros. Entertainment is setting an interim leadership team to lead the Hollywood studio following the abrupt dismissal of CEO Kevin Tsujihara on Monday. As Variety first reported, the team will consist of Warner Bros. motion pictures group chairman Toby Emmerich and Warner Bros. television group president and CCO Peter Roth. It will also include [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content