Thanks for speaking to us, Mr Coogan.
Yes, yes, very funny. I get mistaken for Steve quite often. Last time was in a supermarket when we were shooting A Cock And Bull Story. We were shopping together like two gay guys who had retired to the Norfolk Broads. Clearly word had got round that Steve was in the supermarket so a shopper bought The Parole Officer on DVD and came running up and asked me to sign it. So I did, with Steve stood next to me. [Interview is taking place in a bingo hall. Tannoy comes on: “Last two games.”] Did I say that? Don’t write that I said last two games, that would be weird. Are we going to get a game in soon?
Absolutely. How often do you do your Tom Jones impression?
Every day, without fail. Day to day I’m more Tom Jones than Tom Jones is. I start the morning with a bit of a Tom cough. [Breaks into Jones impression] “Cu-Huh. Huh.” Then I’ll say, “Wyclef. Wyclef. From the Fugees. F-F-F-F Fugees.” Then around lunchtime I’ll say, “Cerys, Cerys from Catatonia.” And then around teatime I’ll say, “The Stereophonics, you know they’re a young band.” And then I’ll finish it every night, as I go to bed, as I hit the pillow, I’ll say, “It’s like Elvis said,” and I’ll just say that once. And then I go to sleep. I try to not let it take over my life. Wyclef-W-W-Wyclef.
Have you met him?
Yes I have. I gave him a copy of Tom Jones’ Greatest Hits, which I had signed. As I handed it over I said: “I got you this. I thought it was very you.”
You play a history quiz show host in Annually Retentive. What’s your ultimate quiz panel team?
Well done, good question. I’d have to say Fry, Stephen. Baker, Danny. Sessions, John.
Why Danny Baker?
I only met him once, but I liked him immensely. The man is an encyclopaedia. He amused me actually by pointing out that line in the song Hotel California which goes: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.” Which of course makes no sense. But he pointed out that there isn’t a man in the world who hasn’t listened to that and gone, “Yeah, I’m feeling that,” like it makes perfect sense. I have. And I bet you have.
Who would you put them up against?
Kenneth Williams would be the opposing team captain and I’d team him up with Bill Murray for his brilliantly sardonic answers. I’ve had no woman yet. And I’d have Elvis. I am aware of his shortcomings, and I would never name my children after him nor would I have his name tattooed onto any part of my body. But I’d like to see him in that team.
What would you say your favourite moment in history is?
September 13, 1974. But I will never tell you what happened that day.
This interview is in the same issue as our 100 top man-skills. Have you got one for our readers?
If you want to get ahead in life, look people in the eye and laugh when they say something funny. It will take you a long, long way.
Give us an amazing pub fact.
Ready? Sure? The last song on the last album released by Elvis Presley was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Oh yeah. That’s right.
Did you have to have a quiet word with David Walliams before he did your best man speech so as not to humiliate you?
He wasn’t my best man. Let’s quash that rumour. He was an usher. But he managed to mount this whispering campaign that made people think he was my best man. Enough is enough. That honour fell to my best friend, Rhys John.
Who is more of a ladies man: Walliams or Coogan?
Careful how you answer this, Brydon. David is more of a ladies man, for Steve it’s more of a vocation. They are both the same side of different coins. Like it? Makes no sense at all.
You hosted our company awards last year and got obsessed with a girl from Kerrang! who had ample knockers. Did you keep in touch?
I think the word touch is a dangerous one to use in these circumstances; we’ll have to wait for the courts to make their decision. I want to make it quite clear there was no touching. Lovely girl. I do a lot of those corporate award events and I will tell you why: I absolutely love money.
You played a traffic warden in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. Give us a story from the set.
My first day I had a call saying we may not need you on set because Vinnie Jones has been arrested for brandishing a shotgun near his neighbour. Anyway, in the end I did go in and I went to have my lunch on the catering bus while I read my newspaper. The article was about Vinnie and the shotgun and as I read it I sensed someone on the other side of my newspaper. Lowering it, there was Vinnie, staring right at me! It was like in those old chase movies on trains when you see a picture of an escaped villain in your paper and he’s right there in front of you. Great guy though, Vinnie.
You were also in First Knight with Sean Connery. Why, oh why?
I am very bad in that film. I overact like crazy. Nobody should ever watch it. And I didn’t even get to meet Sean. I met Richard Gere though, he gave everybody a gift at the end which I still have – it’s a little sword on a piece of leather twine and it says “Thanks, RG” on the back. I’ve got to remember to stick it on eBay.
You’ve done a fair few TV ads. How do you keep your enthusiasm up for the likes of Toilet Duck?
As I said earlier I have this really deep passion for money. So that helps. Michael Caine once said: “To have a high standard of living you sometimes have to do a low standard of work.” Never a truer word said.
Is it true Catherine Zeta Jones watched you play Luke Skywalker in a school production of Star Wars?
Absolutely. She was a few years below me and may not remember that it was me. We really struggled to make an R2-D2 – the cylindrical head was a nightmare – so we made K9 from Doctor Who instead. The Stormtroopers wore cricket whites and white skateboard helmets. Work to your limits in life – there’s another tip.
You used to flog tat on the shopping network – what’s the worst thing you had to showcase?
Paula Yates hand cream.
What would you do if we keyed your Lamborghini?
I would thank you for locating a car I don’t have. I think it’s unlikely you will see me riding a Lamborghini. Sack your researcher. I have an Audi A4 Sport Edition convertible and a Mitsubishi Space Wagon people carrier. How rich do you think I am?
Very. How good a feeling is it to do a great lap in the Top Gear car?
Fantastic. Simon Pegg texted me the other day and it just said “1.46.05 seconds” or something to that effect. I thought it must have been meant for the director of Hot Fuzz, and it was a cut he was recommending in the film or a time code. I replied: “It’s a lovely length of time, but I have no idea what it means.” And he said, “I have just done Top Gear and beaten you!” So yes, it means a lot. When I did it I was in third place just behind Jodie Kidd and Jay Kay. I beat Steve Coogan too, that was terrific. It irked him.
Lastly, we have to ask, is Courtney Love an absolute nutter?
She’s lovely. I had drawn an opinion of Courtney Love, I had made up my mind what I thought of her and it wasn’t very positive – that’s the frightening power of the press. But I met her, and, don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t want to leave her in charge of the nuclear button, but she was sweet, vulnerable, soft and best of all she was a huge fan of yours truly.
Original interview by Tom Cullen in the May 2007 issue of FHM UK magazine