Steve Coogan Gets His British Foot in U.S. Door

It was his talent to revel in his character's inadequacies that encouraged Fleming and Brady to go after Coogan for "Hamlet 2." "He is very comfortable playing the comedy of failure," Brady says. "It's a British thing. He's not afraid of looking stupid. He has the ability to expose the suffering of a character. A lesser actor would just go for the laughs."

A lesser actor also wouldn't have saved the filmmakers the cost of a narrator with his dead-on Jeremy Irons impression.

A popular tabloid target back home, Coogan seems to have outgrown his penchant for randy roustabouts and drug-fueled misbehavior, much of which he has admitted to and has cost him a marriage. When questioned after being caught cavorting with lap dancers in a hotel room in 2002, he maintained his sense of humor as he responded, "I was under the impression that they were Latvian refugees who needed shelter for the night."

Those days appear to be over. As Fleming notes: "He was the one of the most professional people I've ever worked with. He was there very early every day."

Instead of capitalizing on his current double bill, Coogan is revisiting his past this fall with his first comedy tour in 10 years, playing 100 dates across England. The title? Steve Coogan Presents Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters.

Maybe it is wise to play a little hard to get with the American public. After all, he says, "if you chase something too desperately, it eludes you."

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