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A Cock & Bull Story - Rob Brydon interview

Rob Brydon in A Cock & Bull Story

Interview by Rob Carnevale

Q. Did Michael speak to you ages ago about playing the role of Walter and Tristram on TV?
A. Yes. I played a small part in 24 Hour Party People and I think Michael was blown away by it and was probably thinking could Rob have played the Steve Coogan role? [Laughs]
But seriously he called me up and said that he wanted to do a television series of many, many parts. I think it’s because I had done Marion & Geoff, which was talking to camera. I hadn’t heard of it, so I went to Waterstone’s, looked at it, thought it was too big for me to read and forgot all about it. It was only about two weeks into filming this that the penny dropped that this was the project Michael told me about two and a half to three years ago.

Q. As much as the characters of Steve and Rob in the film are not the real you, how much of the relationship between them is?
A. We take aspects of the relationship. Originally, the relationship between Steve and I in the film was meant to mirror that between Toby and Walter, in the way that Toby is quite deferential towards Walter. How that manifested itself would be that my character would be seen asking Steve’s character for advice on how to get acting work in America, etc. But I thought that the reality of our relationship was more interesting than that and less predictable in that over the years it’s been a very warm relationship but also a bit spikey. We’ve had our ups and downs and there is a competitiveness but it’s a healthy one. In the film we make it a little less healthy.
But the scene that opens the film, in the trailer, was an improvised scene that we shot halfway through the schedule just because it was raining and couldn’t shoot what we’d planned to. But that then informed a fair bit of the rest of the shoot – and certainly the final scene which takes place over the credits which was something we shot about three months after we’d finished shooting because I think Michael thought it would be nice to have a book-end to the first scene.

Q. Is this the film that will catapult you into superstardom?
A. We’re really happy with it and it’s been very well received so far. We’re certainly very proud of it but whether people go and see it is another matter altogether.
But speaking from a career point of view, that’s a different thing altogether. I was watching the documentary, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and they pinpointed the moment when suddenly a chart outlining box office takings appeared for the first time in the 70s and that was how films were then rated. It had never occurred to me that before then that wasn’t how you thought about films being successful – to a degree it was but they would put it in the paper for people to see.
But for someone like me, from a career point of view it’s just great to have something more than three lines in a movie and make a bit of an impact. I’m also very pleased because I’m doing the sort of humour that I think of as my style of humour and I’m very happy to see that on the screen. People always say ‘America, America’, but I’ve never yet been there and not felt a bit weird about being there and away from home. I’m sure it would change if I had a wonderful offer but there isn’t some great hunger in me for America.

Q. What do you like about your working relationship with Steve Coogan?
A. I think we’re generous performers, especially when we’re improvising stuff. You can have people that are ok at improvising and they’re good enough to do it. But with someone like Steve it’s at another level. An obvious example would be to do with pauses and being comfortable with leaving pauses. If you’re improvising with someone who’s not quite so good at it you’re afraid of leaving a pause because they’re instinct would be to fill it with something funny. With Steve and I, we’re very comfortable just to let something sit a while but also be aware that they may be teeing something up. There’s lots going on in that and someone who’s not perhaps quite so good at that would want to talk more, or jump in. Everything becomes very questioning and it’s pretty good but it’s not really good.