News of the World investigator had Steve Coogan's phone details, court told Actor and comedian wins court order forcing Metropolitan police to hand over copies of notes made by Glenn Mulcaire
26 January 2011
Steve Coogan's mobile phone number and account details were found in a notepad belonging to Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator who worked for the News of the World, the high court heard today. The actor and comedian won a court order forcing the Metropolitan police to hand over copies of notes made by Mulcaire, which were seized in a 2006 raid on his home in Surrey. Coogan, who was not in court, is suing Mulcaire and the paper's publisher, News International subsidiary News Group, part of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, for breach of privacy for allegedly hacking into voicemail messages left on his mobile phone. Mulcaire and News Group deny Coogan's allegations.
In his ruling granting the order today the judge, Mr Justice Roth, said: "Mr Coogan has ... grounds for suspicion he is a victim of phone hacking." The judge read out the contents of a letter to Coogan from the Metropolitan police in May 2010, in which Scotland Yard confirmed it had "some documents in our possession" that could show that Mulcaire hacked into his phone. They included Coogan's name, mobile phone number and account details, the letter stated.
Coogan is the latest public figure to apply for a court order in an attempt to obtain Mulcaire's documents from the Met and use them as the basis for a legal claim.
Top Gear's offensive stereotyping has gone too far, says Steve Coogan Comedy can't always be safe, and sometimes entertainers need to challenge social orthodoxies. But 'saying the unsayable' is different from simply recycling offensive cliches about Mexicans
5 February 2011
As a huge fan of Top Gear. I normally regard the presenters' brand of irreverence as a part of the rough and tumble that goes with having a sense of humour. I've been on the show three times and had a go at their celebrity-lap challenge, and I would love to receive a fourth invite. But I think that's unlikely once they have read this. If, however, it makes the Lads question their behaviour for a second – ambitious, I know – it will be worth it.
I normally remain below the parapet when these frenetic arguments about comedy and taste break out. But this time, I've had enough of the regular defence you tend to hear – the tired line that it's "just a laugh", a bit of "harmless fun". Some of the Lads' comments again, in case you missed them. "Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus, with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat" (Richard Hammond). Mexican food is "sick with cheese on it" (James May). Jeremy Clarkson added to the mirth by suggesting that the Mexican ambassador (a certain Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza) would be so busy sleeping he wouldn't register any outrage. (He wasn't and he did.)
OK, guys, I've got some great ideas for your next show. Jeremy, why not have James describe some kosher food as looking like "sick with cheese on it"? No? Thought not. Even better, why not describe some Islamic fundamentalists as lazy and feckless? Feel the silence. They're all pretty well organised these days, aren't they, those groups? Better stick to those that are least problematic. Old people? Special needs? I know – Mexicans! There aren't enough of them to be troublesome, no celebrities to be upset. And most of them are miles and miles away.
The BBC's initial mealy-mouthed apology was pitiful. It cited the more benign rivalry that exists between European nations (ah, those arrogant French, over-organised Germans), and in doing so neatly sidestepped one hugely important fact – ethnicity. All the examples it uses to legitimise this hateful rubbish are relatively prosperous countries full of white people. How about if the Lads had described Africans as lazy, feckless etc? Or Pakistanis?
What's more, this was all spouted by the presenters on one of the BBC's most successful programmes, with ratings that could only fail to impress Simon Cowell (very fast lap time). Forget the World Service; overseas, Top Gear is more frequently the public face of the BBC.
The Beeb's hand-wringing suggested tolerance of casual racism, arguably the most sinister kind. It's easy to spot the ones with the burning crosses. Besides, there is not a shred of truth in Top Gear's "comic" stereotype. I can tell you from my own experience, living in the US, Mexicans work themselves to the bone doing all the dirty thankless jobs that the white middle-class natives won't do.
What makes it worse is that the Lads wear this offensive behaviour as a badge of pride, pleased that they have annoyed those whom they regard, in another lazy stereotype, as sandal-wearing vegans with beards and no sense of humour.
Well here's some Twitter hot news: I don't have a beard, I'm not a vegan, I don't wear sandals (unless they're Birkenstocks, of course), and I have, I think, a sense of humour. I also know something about comedy. It's true there are no hard fast rules; it's often down to judgment calls. It's safe to say, though, that you can get away with saying unsayable things if it's done with some sense of culpability.
I've been fortunate enough to work with the likes of Peter Baynham, Armando Iannucci, Chris Morris, Simon Pegg, Julia Davis, Caroline Aherne, Ruth Jones, and the Mighty Boosh – some of the funniest and most innovative people in British comedy. And Rob Brydon too. It's a diverse, eclectic group of people with one common denominator: they could all defend and justify their comedy from a moral standpoint. They are laughing at hypocrisy, human frailty, narrow-mindedness. They mock pomposity and arrogance.
If I say anything remotely racist or sexist as Alan Partridge, for example, the joke is abundantly clear. We are laughing at a lack of judgment and ignorance. With Top Gear it is three rich, middle-aged men laughing at poor Mexicans. Brave, groundbreaking stuff, eh?
There is a strong ethical dimension to the best comedy. Not only does it avoid reinforcing prejudices, it actively challenges them. Put simply, in comedy, as in life, we ought to think before we speak. This wasn't one of those occasions. In fact, the comments were about as funny as a cold sweat followed by shooting pains down the left arm. In fact, if I can borrow from the Wildean wit of Richard Hammond, the comic approach was "lazy", "feckless" and "flatulent".
Richard has his tongue so far down the back of Jeremy's trousers he could forge a career as the back end of a pantomime horse. His attempt to foster some Clarkson-like maverick status with his "edgy" humour is truly tragic. He reminds you of the squirt at school as he hangs round Clarkson the bully, as if to say, "I'm with him". Meanwhile, James May stands at the back holding their coats as they beat up the boy with the stutter.
It's not entirely their fault, of course. Part of the blame must lie with what some like to call the "postmodern" reaction to overzealous political correctness. Sometimes, it's true, things need a shakeup; orthodoxies need to be challenged. But this sort of ironic approach has been a licence for any halfwit to vent the prejudices they'd been keeping in the closet since Love Thy Neighbour was taken off the air.
Also, a factor little picked up on elsewhere in the Lads' remarks is that they do, after all, present a car show. And archaic attitudes are endemic in a lot of motoring journalism. I confess I am an avid consumer and I have to wade through a sea of lazy cliches to get to anything genuinely illuminating.
Jeremy unwittingly cast the template for this. Twenty years ago, when I bought Performance Car magazine, his column was the first I would turn to. It was slightly annoying but unfailingly funny. Since then there have been legions of pretenders who just don't pass muster. There is a kneejerk, brainless reaction to any legislation that may have a detrimental effect on their God-given right to drive cars anywhere at any speed that they consider safe. They often remind me of the National Rifle Association in the US who, I'm sure we can all agree, are a bunch of nutters. It's a kind of "airbags are for poofs" mentality and, far from being shocking, it's just shockingly dull.
It would be fine if it was confined to a bunch of grumpy men in bad jeans smoking Marlboros at the side of the Millbrook test track, but it's not. As I pointed out, it's the voice of one of the BBC's most successful programmes.
The Lads have this strange notion that if they are being offensive it bestows on them a kind of anti-establishment aura of coolness; in fact, like their leather jackets and jeans, it is uber-conservative (which isn't cool).
Gentlemen, I don't believe in half-criticisms and this has nothing to do with my slow lap times. But, increasingly, you each look like a middle-aged punk rocker pogoing at his niece's wedding. That would be funny if you weren't regarded by some people as role models. Big viewing figures don't give you impunity – they carry responsibility. Start showing some, tuck your shirts in, be a bit funnier and we'll pretend it all never happened.
Partridge film shooting next year Steve Coogan confirms it
The long-awaited Alan Partridge film will be shot next year, Steve Coogan has revealed. He confirmed that he is currently working on the script with long-term collaborators Peter Baynham and Armando Iannucci.
Coogan told movie website The Playlist: ‘We left it behind for a while, but we came back to it because we got a few ideas. We're writing it right now, going to shoot it next year. Don't know who will direct it, but Pete Baynham [Borat co-writer] and Armando Iannucci are writing it with me. We've already started it.’ Last year, Iannucci said the team had agreed a storyline for the film – stating emphatically: ‘It's not Alan goes to America.’
This better be true or I'll burn my VHS collection of James Bond movies in protest...
Steve Coogan is writing Alan Partridge’s memoirs, to be released this autumn. The character famously couldn’t shift any copies of his book Bouncing Back in the TV series I’m Alan Partridge – but HarperCollins will be hoping this real release is a bigger hit.
Coogan will write the book with Partridge co-creator Armando Iannucci, and comedy writers Rob and Neil Gibbons – who also worked on the recent Mid Morning Matters web series. The book, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan, will be published on October 13, the Bookseller reports, which will coincide with the first TV transmission of Mid Morning Matters. The long-awaited Partridge film is also due out next year,
Anna Valentine from HarperColllins said the book was a ‘refreshing antidote to the inevitable raft of showbiz memoirs coming this autumn. She added: ‘This is a real coup for HarperCollins . . . The book promises to be everything that Alan Partridge fans have been waiting for, offering Alan's utterly hilarious outlook on his life and career so far.’
Steve Coogan - 2011-06-09 - NPR
An 18 minute interview with Steve Coogan, mainly about "The Trip", though at the end there's a few comments about the Partridge movie - and how there's to be a Dog-Day Afternoon type hostage situation...
Steve Coogan scores hit in phone hacking campaign Private eye Mulcaire must now name names at NotW after comedian wins legal battle
By Nigel Horne
August 20th 2011
Steve Coogan has scored a resounding victory in his fight for justice on behalf of phone hacking victims. It has been revealed that as a result of legal pressure brought by Coogan, private detective Glenn Mulcaire has been given until the end of August to disclose who exactly at the News of the World instructed him to access the voicemails of supermodel Elle Macpherson and five other public figures.
In February this year, lawyers for Steve Coogan, himself a victim of phone hacking, argued at the high court that Mulcaire should be forced to reveal who told him to hack into the voicemail of Macpherson, Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes, PR Max Clifford, football agent Sky Andrew, former head of the Profession al Footballers Association Gordon Taylor, and legal adviser to the PFA Jo Armstrong.
The high court duly ordered Mulcaire to name names but he has spent six months refusing to do so. According to the Guardian, Mulcaire tried to get the Court of Appeal to overturn the order but on August 1 Lord Justice Toulson rejected his application for leave to appeal.
John Kelly of the law firm Schillings, who act for Coogan, told the Guardian that Judge Toulson's decision was "a very significant development". Kelly said: "He [Mulcaire] will now have to identify exactly who at the News of the World asked him to access the mobile phones of the named individuals and who he provided the information to at the News of the World. Mr Mulcaire is due to provide these answers by the end of the month and we await his answers with interest."
Coogan's anger at the invasion of his and other public figures' privacy by News of the World reporters has been evident since he appeared on BBC Newsnight in July to comment on the paper's closure. "People keep saying it is a very bad day for the press," said Coogan, best known for his TV character Alan Partridge. "It is a wonderful day for the press: a small victory for decency and humanity." He called the News of the World "a misogynistic, xenophobic, single-parent-hating, asylum-seeker-hating newspaper".
When Paul McMullan, a former deputy features editor on the paper, tried to argue that celebrities such as Coogan sought publicity and deserved what they got from the tabloids, Coogan let rip, calling him "risible" and "morally bankrupt". McMullan and his colleagues peddled "tittle-tattle", said Coogan, while hiding behind a "smokescreen" of phony support for the freedom of the press.
Steve Coogan in cameo role for student's low-budget horror film
A TEENAGER shooting his own low-budget movie has recruited comedian Steve Coogan for a cameo role. Liam Hooper, 17, was amazed when the creator of Alan Partridge got in touch to appear in his horror film Darkwood Manor. With a £1,000 budget, the movie also stars A-level student Liam’s friends, family and teachers at his school.
He said: “I thought he might like my tongue-in-cheek script. But I never thought he’d agree to take part.” Liam, of Brighton, said he didn’t want to give away too much about the film, adding: “All I can say is he appears at a pivotal moment.”
Coogan pledged to try to attend next month’s premiere in the city near his home.
Alan Partridge: 'I'm pretty gung-ho about cod liver oil' The veteran broadcaster has taken a few knocks in life. But he's back, he's in great shape – and he's 40 times the broadcaster he used to be
Why have you decided to publish an autobiography now?
It just made sense to do it while I can. When a man reaches my age the risk of prostate cancer pretty much skyrockets. The spectre of an inoperable genital tumour aside, the money will come in handy too! That's not to say I'm not earning much (I am earning much), it's just that I'm forced to surrender a lot of it in the form of tax, thanks to the political stance that you and your newspaper have helped to popularise.
Is it a tacit acknowledgement that your best years in broadcasting are behind you?
Let me walk you through it like a simpleton (you being the simpleton). I broadcast a four-hour radio show, five days a week. The suggestion that that is somehow a step down from presenting a half-hour TV talk show once a week (20 hours of weekly output, versus 0.5 hours) is a genuine side-splitter. I'm statistically 40 times the broadcaster I was then. That's just maths.
Your new book, I, Partridge, has a unique aural component. Can you explain how it's meant to work?
Sure can. My autobiog has a suggested soundtrack. At key moments in the book I give the title of a song that should be played to enhance the experience of reading that particular paragraph. For example, the song Japanese Boy by Aneka for the section in which I describe the drunken night out in Tokyo where Sally Gunnell encourages me to throw a bin through a shop window. I wanted my publishers to put the soundtrack on a CD and give it away with the book but – to be frank – I don't think they could be arsed. No wonder we're in a recession.
You have a gift for unexpected simile, eg, "Snowflakes fell from the sky like tiny pieces of a snowman who had stood on a land mine." Who are your literary influences, if any?
A true writer, a good writer, refuses to be influenced by any other writer – it's cheating otherwise. My influences come from elsewhere. I'm inspired by the chord choices of Sting, the camera angles of Scorsese, a dog catching a frisbee, the satisfying gu-dum of a German-built car door shutting, the shimmy of Shakira's sweet ass. I draw on every one of these things when I'm in my study.
The book is a very personal account of your life and career to date. Would you call it a "warts and all" portrayal?
It's warts, verrucas, moles, psoriasis, the lot. I'd even include the blackheads on my nose. I looked at them with a shaving mirror the other day actually. Disgusting. It was like the world's most densely-packed dot-to-dot puzzle. I tried to get rid of them with a blackhead gun made out of a ballpoint pen. But there were simply too many. I just ended up with slightly fewer blackheads and a very red nose. Hey-ho.
You write a lot about your unhappy childhood. Was it really that bad?
It was pretty dark. My father was a naturally gifted corporal punisher. He was also fearless – when conscripted to fight in the second world war, he was delighted. Apparently he just punched the air and said: "I'm off to save a Jew or two!" But he came back a troubled man. To be honest I don't think he did save a Jew. Or two.
You have an incredible memory for detail. Have you always kept a diary?
The only diary I keep is the one inside my mind. Plus a written one that I fill in at the end of every day. I keep my brain in shape by doing the Daily Mail quick crossword. (Love their ironic use of the word "quick".) I'm also pretty gung-ho about cod liver oil tablets. Though I'd be just as happy with oil from the liver of any other fish. In fact it wouldn't even need to be from the liver.
A lot of authors use their autobiographies to settle old scores. Were you tempted?
God yeah. Originally there were revelations in there about all sorts of people, until I spent a fascinating and hilarious afternoon going through the book and audiobook with my lawyers. Armed with a red pen, we totted up the offending passages and the final scores were: defamation (144), slander (72), libel (72) and malicious falsehood (1). All I can say is that as a result one particular celebrity will have breathed a very big sigh of relief. I won't reveal who it is, other than to say it's John Craven.
You furnish your readers with some interesting strategies for living – Alan's Desk Design, your Nando's Efficiency System – have you ever thought about writing a self-help book?
I've explored this territory before. After bouncing back, I designed Forward Solutions™, a highly successful self-improvement programme supported by the twin crutches of corporate buzz-words and rock music. I delivered it to sales teams the length and breadth of parts of the UK and, in nearly a third of cases, sales briefly went up. The strategies you mention are probably better suited to housewives than successful men, but it's an interesting idea for a book. Call my office in the morning.
If an election were held tomorrow, how would you vote?
Quickly and Conservatively. I recently read that George Osborne changed his name from Gideon to George because he thought it sounded more prime-ministerial. He was 13 at the time. Now if that's not the kind of guy we want running our country, I don't know what is.
Who would play you in the film of the book of your life?
Morgan Freeman. He's such an incredible actor you'd quickly forget he's one of the blackest men in Hollywood. Or ITV man John Stapleton. He's not known as an actor – but he will be. I've seen him act out domestic arguments and exchanges with shopkeepers and I've seen enough to know he will become one of our best-loved actors. He has bags of talent.
Without wishing to spoil the ending, would you describe yourself as a happy man these days?
So far today I've done my radio show, had oven chips for lunch and been to Laser Quest. What's not to be happy about? It's at times like this that I think Belinda Carlisle was right when she said that Heaven is a Place on Earth. Though she should have added "and that place is Norwich". Saw her on TV the other week actually. She's ballooned.
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