Top 5 unsung Steve Coogan performances
Steve Coogan hamlet 2

It’s Steve Coogan’s birthday today, so we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate one of the the UK’s leading comic acting talents.

While most of you will be familiar with the star’s excellent turns in films like 24 Hour Party People, The Trip and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, there are plenty of great Coogan roles you may well not have encountered.

Mark Butler takes a look at his five greatest unsung movie performances…

Steve Coogan hamlet 2
[Dream Theatre – Coogan takes to the stage in Hamlet 2]

The Parole Officer (2001)

Not content with netting a BAFTA nomination for Best Newcomer for his screenwriting efforts, this farcical gem also sees Coogan take the lead role as the hapless, crisp-munching probation worker of the title. And boy does he deliver.

Notching up plenty of laughs as he’s framed for a brutal murder and forced to team up with his ragtag gang of ‘clients’, the likeable and highly reluctant hero serves up a top-notch array of neurotic outbursts, deadpan one-liners and glorious physical comedy. The roller-coaster  and museum scenes are things of utter beauty.

Happy Endings (2005)

Don Roos’ smart, compelling multi-stranded creation sees Coogan deliver a phenomenal supporting performance. He plays a gay LA resident who suspects his lover is the biological father of their friends’ child – and has a rather alarming paternal secret of his own.

Sitting at the heart of a tangled web of relationships that are explored as the film progresses, his brooding, intense turn demands attention – and is one of the best things in this cult drama.

A Cock And Bull Story (2005)

Years before they played themselves in The Trip, Coogan and Rob Brydon pulled a similar trick in this deliciously off-the-wall film-within-a-film, which riffs on Tristram Shandy – and sees them making a screen adaptation of it.

Coogan is an absolute riot as an arrogant, bitter, bed-hopping send-up of his persona, sparring verbally with Brydon and contending with all manner of problems, both personal and professional.

Hamlet 2 (2008)

Perfectly blending the realms of tragedy and comedy, Coogan is magnificent as the deluded anti-hero of this inspired high school romp, which sees his failed-actor turned teacher stage a sequel to Hamlet that features time-travel, Jesus, and song-and-dance numbers.

Managing to be ludicrous, jaw-dropping and sympathetic all at the same time, he’s the unstoppable driving force at the centre of this razor-sharp and very funny film.

Ruby Sparks (2012)

Despite having only a few minutes of screen time in this surprisingly dark and complex fantasy romantic-drama, Coogan makes a big impact as a veteran novelist who is torn between envy and admiration when it comes to the heralded “boy wonder” played by Paul Dano.

More nuanced than your typical dirty old man, with just the right amount of charm to make him likeable, and just the right amount of edge to make him dangerous, he succeeds in driving a wedge between the film’s two lovers with perfectly-judged aplomb.

Mark Butler

What’s your favourite Steve Coogan performance?

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