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Part II: Interview with Declan Lowney about Steve Coogan and 'Alan Partridge'

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Part II (see Part I)

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Dorri Olds: Were you friends with Steve Coogan before the movie, “Alan Partridge”?

Declan Lowney: Oh yeah, I’ve known Steve for years and worked on many things with him in the past but only once on an Alan Partridge special. But you know, sometimes, when you go through those experiences you come out the other end and people never speak again. We’re all still pals. And that’s something.

You sound very fond of him.

I get on quite well with Steve. I think what he does is brilliant. When I’m working with him my job is to let him be as brilliant as he can be, to give him the space to do that and not hassle him too much. He says in the book out now, “There are days I’d come in and get that thousand yard stare from Declan Lowney. He’d say, ‘Steve, I need something. We’ve got to shoot something. I need to have it. We have to do it.’” He was referring to all the mornings we’d come in and they were rewriting the script.

That sounds trying.

Yeah, it is trying but at the end of the day there’s a bunch of really talented comedy people and what they’re doing isn’t designed to torment you. [Laughs] My job as the director is to protect the gags. To make sure the gags are well told and visually protected. Sometimes directors trample all over gags and it’s very weird when they don’t have a comic sensibility.

Alan Partridge is well known in England, right?

Yes, definitely because it was created there but he also has a big fan base in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. I guess people here don’t know the characters but Steve Coogan is very well known here. The fact that Steve got Oscar nominations here has helped his profile enormously. It’s exciting to think that Alan Partridge could find a whole new audience here.

How would you describe the show to Americans?

It’s funnier than “Anchorman” and the character has had so many reincarnations. It started on radio as a sports commentator then the character got a BBC chat show. On episode six he shot one of his guests dead accidentally. When that happened, people in the mainstream audience didn’t know this was a spoof.

Sounds like what happens with articles in The Onion here.

Yes, they thought it was a real chat show and couldn’t understand how a man could be so rude to all of his guests. They didn’t know the guests were all actors. Anyway that exploded him. Then you catch up with him three years later and he’s down on his luck and on local radio and his wife has left him. Then five years later he does another sitcom and now he’s living in a caravan with his Ukrainian girlfriend trying desperately to get another TV show but he can’t. Then he did a live show on the web. It’s a character that keeps being recreated and has lasted for 20 years.

There were some funny Jewish jokes.

[Laughs] Yeah, Alan said, “Never criticize Muslims. Christians, yes, and Jews a little bit.” And did you get that bit, “Neil Diamond will always be king of the Jews.” [Laughs]

Yes. Funny stuff.

But Steve would never have Alan making fun of a minority. Alan just always says the wrong thing. There’s quite a few Irish gags. There’s a scene where he runs out and tries to stop a car on the street. He says to a female driver, “There’s a madman.” She won’t let him in. He says, “He’s got a gun.” She won’t let him in. “He’s Irish.” She lets him into the car. [Laughs] I don’t think that’s an anti-Irish joke at all. It’s about how English people see Irish people. He doesn’t make jokes at the expense of a minority; he’s actually having a joke of English people.

Who are the regular characters from the TV show that made it into the film?

Lynn, Alan’s assistant, has been his assistant since the beginning of time. They’ve always had this weird relationship where you think she is in love with him and he’s horribly rude to her. She keeps coming back for more. She has nothing else in her life. It’s almost like a romance going on between the two but nothing will ever, ever happen. There is a security man who is unintelligible. He’s from New Castle, north of England. He’s Alan’s only friend. He worked at the petro station and filled Alan’s car every night after work. The fans love those characters. If we’d gone and made a movie without some of those regulars in there they would’ve hated that.

Alan Partridge” opens in theaters on April 4. It is available now On Demand and iTunes. Rated PG. 90 min.

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