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6 roles that prove Stan & Ollie star Steve Coogan is more than just a funnyman


Have you been to see Stan & Ollie yet? The movie, out now in Cineworld, is a tender and delightful salute to legendary comedy double act Laurel and Hardy, hinging on two powerful lead roles from Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly.

Of the two performances, Reilly's Golden Globe-nominated turn is perhaps the more attention-grabbing, so eerie is his physical resemble to the tie-twiddling Oliver Hardy, replete with note-perfect imitations of Hardy's exasperated grunts and looks to the camera.

However, this shouldn't lead us to underestimate Coogan's BAFTA-nominated contribution as Stan Laurel. Popular British comedian Coogan, famous as the creator of Alan Partridge, is very moving as the other half of the duo. Throughout the film Laurel must balance the affection for his companion with a ruthless kind of business acumen, as both Laurel and Hardy are compelled to tour the UK's variety theatres while their popularity seemingly wanes.

On that note, here are six other Steve Coogan performances that demonstrate he's so much more than a funnyman.

1. 24 Hour Party People (2002)

In the first of Coogan's collaborations with director Michael Winterbottom, he sheds the goofy Alan Partridge image to play legendary record executive Tony Wilson. There's a synergy of actor and character here – Coogan hails from Lancashire as Wilson did, and the actor demonstrates an obvious affection for the late, lamented industry figure.

The movie, brimming with energy and memorable bit part performances from the likes of Paddy Considine, is held together by Coogan's performance as it charts Wilson's rise to fame with Factory Records, exploring the 1970s Manchester music scene with a great deal of enthusiasm.

2. The Trip (2010-2017)

It takes an actor of genuine self-deprecation to play a satirical version of themselves, and that's what Coogan does in this amusing mockumentary series that spans Britain, Spain and Italy. Once again working with Michael Winterbottom, Coogan's fictionalised take on his own fame amps up the pompousness and egomania, while his opposite number Rob Brydon – with whom he travels on gastronomic tours – is portrayed as relatively more grounded.

Their duelling impressions have become the stuff of legend ("Michael Caine used to talk like this in the 1960s") but the series is moving too. Watch out for the moment at the end of the first series in which Coogan appears to reveal a kind of existential loneliness that has come with his celebrity status.

3. Philomena (2013)

Coogan's greatest artistic success came with this heart-wrenching drama, which he co-wrote and produced to Oscar and BAFTA-nominated acclaim. (The film's co-writer Jeff Pope is also the screenwriter of Stan & Ollie.)

Based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an Irish lady who sought to track down the son from whom she was separated, it's both an odd-couple buddy story and a powerful indictment of Roman Catholic Church practices. Coogan stars as journalist Martin Sixsmith who takes on Philomena's story, fashioning delightful chemistry with Judi Dench that keeps us laughing through the film's many heart-wrenching moments.

Coogan's skill in allowing the movie to unfold as equal parts detective story, comedy and quest for redemption is a sign of his humanistic skill, a trait that has been disguised to more sly effect in the likes of Alan Partridge.

4. What Maisie Knew (2013)

Henry James's 1897 novel What Maisie Knew was perhaps not the most obvious candidate for a contemporary makeover. Yet this emotive adaptation from directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel, set in 21st century New York, works surprisingly well.

It's a custody battle movie at the centre of which is young girl Maisie, who becomes something of a pawn in the struggle between rock musician mother (Julianne Moore) and her distant, absentee father (Coogan). Once again, Coogan proves he can shed the funnyman image, here playing a somewhat feckless parental figure who refuses to properly engage with the dysfunctional drama he has helped cause.

5. The Look of Love (2013)

The partnership between Coogan and Michael Winterbottom is surely the most fruitful of the actor's career. Following 24 Hour Party People and The Trip, Coogan once again sheds his actorly skin for the sake of the director's vision, this time emerging as infamous porn star Paul Raymond in a movie that explores Raymond's rise to fame.

Strip club owner Raymond (named in 1992 as the richest man in Britain) became notorious in swinging sixties London as the man who established the likes of Mayfair and Escort, and it's to Coogan's credit that he doesn't soften down the character's edges. Instead, he taps into that sense of wounded masculinity and social awkwardness that made Alan Partridge such a huge hit, holding together a messy biopic that shows more than it illuminates.

6. The Dinner (2017)

Herman Koch's novel The Dinner gets its third adaptation, this time with an all-star cast including Coogan. It's a prickly and tense story in which a history teacher, his wife, his brother and his brother's wife get together over dinner to discuss the crime their sons have committed together, and although the reviews weren't exceptional, Coogan's performance is worthy of note.

Paired with Laura Linney as his on-screen wife (the other couple are portrayed by Richard Gere and Rebecca Hall), Coogan stands out as a man who becomes increasingly frayed as to the right course of action.

If you can't wait to watch Steve Coogan sink his teeth into the role of Stan Laurel, then click here to book your tickets for Stan & Ollie. The movie is on release now in Cineworld, so once you've seen it tweet us your responses to his performance @Cineworld.