Directing has been good to Steve Coogan, at least on the big screen.
If playing the beleaguered and uh, shall we say ill-fated director of the film-within-the film that is Ben Stiller’s “Tropic Thunder” hasn’t already made the comic actor’s summer, then his lead role as the high school teacher/helmer of something called “Hamlet 2” certainly will.
The irreverent parody from this year’s Sundance gathering goes wide this week, fresh on the heels of “Thunder” plundering the box office the last two weekends.
“August is a big month for me,” Coogan says. “I’m very happy to have a small part in a big movie and a big part in a small movie."
“Hey, maybe some people seeing ‘Tropic Thunder’ will say, ‘You know that kind of funny guy that you’ve nearly forgotten about because he disappears in the middle of the movie? He’s got another one coming out. Let’s go see it!’"
And the difference between producing “Hamlet” and “Thunder?”
“Oh, about $180 million and (shooting) in Albuquerque, N.M., or Hawaii, take your pick. Generally, though, the actual working method is not really especially different on a big or small film. Maybe Ben has more technical things to worry about but, at the end of the day I think movies live or die on the small things – the things that don’t cost any money or those tiny moments that connect with people or not. That’s the same in a big budget movie or a low budget movie.”
Still, you probably wouldn’t see Tom Cruise in a small comedy such as “Hamlet 2.” The indy-propelled likes of Catherine Keener and David Arquette are left to co-star with the likable Coogan in that one. Cruise, of course, did make his overblown cameo in “Tropic Thunder,” as Coogan’s studio cretin/boss.
“Tom wasn’t on set for the (teleconference) scene he shot, but he was there for a day of rehearsal at the studio,” Coogan recalls. “My job in that movie was to get freaked out by everybody. He just eyeballed me and gave me that thousand-yard stare that he can muster, and he said all those pretty nasty things to me that were quite effective.”
Coogan, 42, currently is filming another movie opposite Stiller, “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian,” in which the funny Brit reprises the role of Octavius.
John M. Urbancich
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