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Hamlet 2 in our magazines

SUBJECT: Hamlet 2

Steve Coogan
British actor Steve Coogan has enjoyed a successful career in Britain for many years, and is now making his mark in the US playing such eclectic roles as Octavius in Night at the Museum, harassed director Damien Cockburn in Ben Stillerís Tropic Thunder, and now as an earnest failed actor-turned-high school drama teacher, Dana Marschz in Hamlet 2. Danaís adaptations of popular movies, such as Erin Brockovich, arenít resonating with the 9th Grade drama critic at Tucson Arizonaís West Mesa High School, and so his department is targeted for closure. In a desperate attempt to keep his job, he conceives of doing Hamlet as a musical extravaganza that will disdain both political correctness and dramatic credibility. Hollywood Hotline spoke with Steve Coogan at the Beverly Hilton Hotel early August 2008.

Q: Why didn't you want to play Dana as an Englishman?:
Steve Coogan & Elisabeth ShueSTEVE COOGAN: When I read the script, I got a feel that what was coming off the page to me was quite clearly someone who was American. You sometimes hear an accent when you read something, and I definitely didn't hear an English accent when I read it. Also, the fact that he was so emotionally open and demonstrative is not really a British thing. People on the west coast of America explore themselves emotionally. You go into so many airport bookstores and there's self help books. As a British person I think, "God, how many books can you need on how to make yourself a better human being?" This character, Dana, is the kind of person who I'm sure would avidly consume all those kinds of books. I also thought I'd quite like to do something that's not English, especially in America so that I don't end up playing bad guys and butlers for the rest of my life!

Q: Did you have any drama teachers like Dana?
A: I went to drama school for three years, instead of studying properly at university. I met lots of people. Drama school is like a sanctuary for people who are terminally bewildered.

Q: Have you met an American like Dana?
A: Well, I think it's a combination of theatrical people who I've known in Britain, coupled with that west coast American thing of wanting to talk about how you feel all the time. That's something I see in a lot of people I know in Los Angeles. It's been very familiar to me and it amuses me. But it doesn't mean I judge it. It's important when you do a character for it to be real. When you do it you can be mocking, but you have to love the things that you mock, as well and give him real humanity. I think that was the hardest part of playing the role. It wasn't the comic stuff which is kind of mechanical and hard, but once you nail it, you've nailed it. It's doing the stuff which makes people connect emotionally with what you're doing. That's really the tough part.

Q: Was it difficult to conquer the musical numbers?:
Steve Coogan & Skylar AstinA: That was difficult. I mean, we had to rehearse because we were doing a musical show, and it had very specific moves. I did a little bit in it, but mostly it was the kids.

Q: Any feedback on the song in Hamlet 2, Rock Me Sexy Jesus?
A: Not specifically, although I've been told by people, the studio folks, that there are kind of rumblings from certain quarters about it. It doesn't worry me personally, not because I don't care, but because I think I can justify it. I'm not into the idea of being shocking for the sake of shocking, or the idea of being tasteless in a kind of an adolescent way. It's where the comedy comes from, what the intention is behind a joke, what the spirit is and the context. This movie has a kind of generosity of spirit. It's not mean spirited. Within that context, I think people will find it acceptable. Also, part of the joke is the inappropriateness. By its very nature, it has to be credibly offensive because there are protestors within the film. So part of the joke is a slight lack of sensitivity on his part towards those people.

Q: Are you looking for more American films?
A: I love working in America. I love working with Americans. Not the least because they give me an opportunity to do stuff which is different. I partly became a victim of my own success in Britain, being associated with Alan Partridge which was this huge success. Everything that I did was judged in the light of that, so it became a little bit of an albatross, but itís work I'm very proud of at the same time. I would never, ever have an opportunity to play a part like this in Britain, partly because I don't really get offered work. They either think I'm doing my own thing, or if they did work with me I'd have too many of my own ideas, which might be annoying.

Musical number

Written by Judy Sloane. Back to top

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Film Review, #699, August 2008 cover

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