Look at this either from Alan Partridge’s perspective or Steve Coogan’s, and the transformation of Coogan’s greatest comic creation from beleaguered local radio host to mainstream movie star is quite astonishing.
Could Coogan have imagined when he first helped birth Partridge as a presenter on radio show On The Hour more than 20 years ago that he would be portraying him on the silver screen as the unlikely hero in an even more unlikely crisis?
No doubt Alan would throw himself into any high profile job, but even he might have struggled to visualise himself as a film protagonist sent in to save the day.
This Wednesday, though, the Declan Lowney-directed movie Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa hits cinemas – from mainstream Odeons and Vues to boutique art houses like Cornerhouse – and in it Norfolk’s most famous, knitwear-clad DJ and his trusty sidekick Simon (Tim Key) find themselves solving a very big problem.
They are hosts of the Mid Morning Matters show at the North Norfolk Digital radio station when a management reshuffle results in the axing of some of the older DJs as the station repositions itself as Shape.
Late night presenter Pat Farrell (Colm Meaney) looks certainly to be culled and he takes a colleague hostage, armed with a shotgun.
By chance, Alan is outside the building when the siege begins so police recruit him as a hostage negotiator to talk to Pat and resolve the stand-off.
Of course, he’s in it for the glare of the spotlight and when he’s dubbed the “face of the siege” and his long-suffering personal assistant Lynn (Felicity Montagu) and plucky security guard Michael (Simon Greenall) turn up to see him in action, he’s in his element.
It’s a role that Coogan can easily fall in to, but it’s also one he’s happy to put back in the box for a while now the filming is over.
“Alan is a funny character for 90 minutes, but if you spend seven weeks constantly being him, always stuck in a room with him – imagine that!” says Middleton lad Steve.
“It does send you a bit crazy. I often found myself thinking ‘What would Alan say about this?’ … Alan is a lot of my worst fears, so sometimes the things he says are the things that I really hate. Other times, Alan might say things I secretly think but haven’t got the guts to say.”
Does that mean he’s done with Alan?
“It’s weird, a lot of people have asked me that over the years if I’m tempted to kill off Alan,” he adds.
“I used to wonder why everyone was so obsessed with killing Alan.
“Barry Humphries is never asked if he’s going to kill off Dame Edna, she’ll die when he dies, and the same is probably true of Alan – as long as I can do other things too.
“If I was just playing him the whole time I might be tempted to push him off a cliff at Beachy Head, but for now I think he’ll always be there. In the background, in a box. As long as I can put a bolt on it. And lock it.”
Full review of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa in next week’s Citylife. On general release from August 9 and limited preview release in cinemas across Greater Manchester from Wednesday. Cornerhouse has special screenings on Wednesday (2pm, 6.30pm) and Thursday (3.30pm, 8.20pm), £5.50/£7.50.