Steve Coogan: We ignore the imbalance between wealthy and poor


Steve CooganImage copyright Sony

Having spent loads of time in Greece recently – filming his new film Greed, and the ultimate sequence of The Trip – Steve Coogan is in a suitably philosophical temper.

Reflecting on capitalism and his personal profession (from inside a elaborate London lodge) he is poised like Pericles and able to “point the finger” on the retail trade.

“I think Plato said, ‘If you have no enemies, then you have no real friends’,” the actor muses.

“Because I do different things I suppose I can’t be fired by [just] one person, so I can afford to annoy some people along the way.”

In Greed, Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom goal billionaire bosses of multinational firms, who he says are turning over “massive profits” whereas factories they use in growing nations like Sri Lanka pay their employees round £three a day.

“That’s not a secret,” says Coogan. “But no person talks about it.

“Nothing we’re saying in the movie is anything that isn’t a matter of public record. What we want to do is shine a light on that.”

‘Elephant within the room’

In an period when previously “fringe” or “eccentric” points like gender politics and environmental issues are actually a part of the “national conversation”, the 54-year-old sees such “exploitation” as a still-unspoken fact.

“It wasn’t like we wakened one morning and began recycling. It occurs steadily and the dialog turns into louder, so it turns into one thing you may disagree with however you’ll be able to’t ignore.

“Right now, you can ignore and most people do ignore the huge imbalance between the rich and the poor, because it’s the elephant in the room and it’s awkward to talk about it.”

Greed is only one letter away from Green, and though Coogan’s character Sir Richard McCreadie is fictional, although loosely-based on the controversial entrepreneur Sir Philip Green, Coogan says the movie “is not a direct attack on him”.

Green, the Monaco-based Arcadia Group chairman, has been accused of tax avoidance and was quizzed on his function within the demise of BHS.

Arcadia, which owns Topshop, has denied utilizing sweatshops and expressed disappointment when it “found a supplier had clearly breached our strict code of conduct”.

The firm has not responded to the BBC’s request for remark in regards to the launch of Greed.

“There are many people who make their money by exploiting people,” opines Coogan.

“Most of them behave discreetly they usually do not wish to draw consideration to themselves, however [Green is] the reverse. For a very long time he was like, ‘Check me out, see how profitable I’m. Look at my cash. Look at my events. Look at my pals’.

“Because he’s a charismatic figure, it was a good basis on which to develop this movie idea.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sir Philip Green, with fashions/actresses (left to proper) Suki Waterhouse, Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, Sienna Miller and Naomi Campbell in 2014

Coogan hopes the character will make audiences suppose twice in regards to the value of quick vogue, “wince” and snort in equal measure.

“Even though he’s horrible to people he’s got a funny turn of phrase, so you go along for the ride and that’s important,” he stresses.

“If it’s just obnoxious, reprehensible behaviour then you’re not going to stick around too long.”

As the creator of one of many nation’s most cherished obnoxious comedy characters, Alan Partridge, Coogan just isn’t precisely wanting a bob or two himself, and he wasn’t hostile to the excessive life both.

“I used to be a party animal, but not for a long time,” he says.

More not too long ago, the TV humorous man has collected Bafta awards and Oscar nominations for extra critical roles in Philomena and Stan & Ollie.

He’s additionally rallied on behalf of the Labour get together and the BBC – which he describes as “second only to the NHS in its cultural importance to this country” – in addition to in opposition to the covert actions of some factions of the British tabloid press.

Coogan gave proof to the Leveson inquiry after having had his telephone hacked, and was finally awarded six-figure damages.

‘Rise like lions’

In the brand new movie, which options Isla Fisher, David Mitchell and a cameo from the late Caroline Flack, McGreadie seems earlier than an analogous panel, to clarify his dodgy off-shore dealings and work practices. The story then centres round a decadent star-studded party thrown on the Greek island of Mykonos to assist restore his fame.

It’s just like one thrown by Green in actual life, however with an added asylum seeker side-story, gladiator metaphors, and, oh, a lion.

“I suppose you could relate it to [Percy Bysshe] Shelley’s call to arms,” declares Coogan, earlier than launching into an (almost) word-perfect final stanza from the Romantic poet’s Masque of Anarchy.

“‘Rise, like lions after slumber / In unvanquishable quantity’… What is it?, ‘Free your chains to earth like dew / Which in sleep have been positioned you: Ye are many – they’re few.‘”

“I’m assuming that Michael [Winterbottom, the director] used the metaphor that way,” he laughs. “But there’s a lion in it!”

Image copyright Sony Pictures/Michael Garcia
Image caption Steve Coogan was given the shiniest white smile cash might purchase for the function of Richard McCreadie in Greed

Promotional interviews apart, Coogan explains, he will not be “grandstanding” on the subjects tackled within the film – a la Joaquin Phoenix on the Oscars and Baftas – as “the film does that for us”.

The actor and director crew have labored collectively for many years, on movies like 24 Hour Party People (talking of events) and the favored naturalistic TV sitcom, The Trip.

Coogan and Rob Brydon play exaggerated variations of themselves within the obvious mockumentary street journey sequence, which has taken them throughout the UK, Italy, Spain and now on to Greece subsequent month, for what he admits may very well be the final time.

“I wasn’t entirely sure it was the last one,” he hesitates. “I felt prefer it is likely to be and doubtless actually ought to be. But then it began to really feel prefer it had a finality.

“I believe Michael secretly already knew it was going to be the final one.

“So it was sad. I’m sure in a few years’ time I’ll feel very nostalgic about our trips, but when you’re in the middle of it you’re just in the moment.”

Image copyright Sky
Image caption Coogan says Rob Brydon’s impression of him, which he performs recurrently in The Trip, is merely “a caricature”

The Middletonian admits he hasn’t truly watched each episode however enjoys how the “half-fictional/half-real” nature of the present provides it a deeper private “resonance”. “It’s more like looking through a box of old photographs.”

It additionally affords him “licence” to say issues he “wouldn’t say in reality, even though I might think them”.

“That’s a part of what made it pleasant, considering; ‘If I mentioned this in actuality, I’d simply suppose I used to be an entire ass!’

“We take a kernel of truth and grow something that’s distorted from it.”

As effectively as The Trip, Coogan will reprise his function as Alan in an upcoming travelogue TV sequence (which helped get him to flee a driving ban final yr) and a second sequence of This Time.

The TV sitcom introduced the notorious broadcaster again and dragged him into the fashionable publish #MeToo world, in agonisingly humorous vogue.

Image copyright BBC/Baby Cow/Colin Hutton
Image caption Alan Partridge returned to our screens final yr on This Time, which has been re-commissioned by the BBC

“It’s far better to deal with that stuff than to not deal with it,” says Coogan, who will sort out sexual politics additional in a forthcoming new Channel four comedy, Chivalry, with Sarah Solemani.

“Sometimes the best way to talk about things is through a fictional comic narrative because it lets you off the hook to talk about it more freely.”

Partridge as soon as boasted of his “basic grasp of Latin”, not Greek, however like Plato, he is not in opposition to making enemies. Last day trip, he discovered himself embroiled with Irish insurgent singers, stay on the BBC.

“It felt like a punk rock moment,” Coogan proudly states.

“I’m half British and half Irish and that’s where they bumped into each other.”

Greed is out on 21 February

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