Spirit Awards: Q&A with host Steve Coogan

02.20.09 9 years ago

AP Photo/Nick Ut

While Hugh Jackman has been rehearsing from coast to coast for his inaugural run as Academy Awards host, another first time emcee is getting ready for is own debut, new Spirit Awards host Steve Coogan. 

The popular British comedian has recently gained notoriety in the states with roles in “Tropic Thunder,” “Night at the Museum” and as the unforgettable acting teacher Dana Marschz in “Hamlet 2.”  Unbeknownst to many moviegoers though, Coogan has legit indie cred on his resume. Highlights include the acclaimed “24 Hour Party People,” Don Roos’ “Happy Endings” and “Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story.”

Coogan will also be joining a list of unconventional hosts for one of the more up and down award shows on the circuit. Previous hosts include Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Silverman, John Waters and last year’s host, Rain Wilson.  He took some time from his busy schedule last week to chat about what he’s working on for the show and his own neurosis in hosting a live gig like the Spirits.

Q: Obvious first question, how did you get this gig? Did you throw your hat in the ring?
Steve Coogan: No, they asked me if I was interested in hosting the Independent Spirit Awards and I said I’ve got nothing better to do, so I’m here.

Q:You’ve got a nice history of work in independent cinema, have you ever attended the ceremony before?
SC: Never.  I’ve seen them on TV and also when I came to do this and I watched a bunch of them.

Q: It’s customary that hosts and producers of the Oscars get tapes for almost every Oscar show they want to watch.  Did the Spirit producers send you all the previous shows?
SC: Wow. They sent me like three.  And they sent me some of the [nominated] movies.  I’ve tried to watch a bunch of those and they sent me a bunch of the awards ceremonies. I try to think how mine is going to work in that context.  I’ve done live comedy in the U.K. I just did a tour [last] fall. So, I’m certainly not petrified about being in front of a live audience, but an American audience is very different or me.

Q: Last year’s show was probably the most elaborate ceremony they have put on. You’re limited somewhat by the show taking place in a tent on the beach, but do you have anything special planned?
SC: I’ve got some special stuff I’m planning on doing. There is going to be some pre-recorded stuff I’m kind of excited about. There are going to be some celebs I’m going to be enlisting the help of and I’m going to be doing a bit of comedy myself.  Apart from that, just getting through the ceremony as painlessly as possible in my own, unique, British way.

Q: This year’s Oscar show has sold itself on being filled with more surprises than the past.  Are you following their lead?
SC: Yeah, [we’ll have a] couple, but nothing so exciting they are going to be nervous about. I’m trying to do something that’s not been done before, but like all awards ceremonies more or less everything has been done before, so I don’t want to say too much to build up the expectations and then have everyone be ultimately disappointed by whatever it was I did.  There is lots of funny stuff I’m writing. We’re going to poking fun at some of the nominees and there is a nice kind of rock n’roll feel to the whole evening so that lends itself to what I’m doing. 

Q: Sarah Silverman created a lot of drama because of the outlandish things she said when she hosted the show twice.  Have the Spirit folks set any limits with you? 
SC: Yeah, there is a little bit of ‘Don’t go near that area’ and I’m like, ‘Why can’t I kind of go in that area if I sort of do this and sort of say that,’ but they give you a lot of latitude. They are pretty accommodating. It’s probably one of the few awards ceremonies where they don’t mind.  They actually want you to be a little racy.  They don’t want a super conservative kind of approach to it, because that’s what most of the more orthodox mainstream ceremonies have to be – safe – and therefore, they want to differentiate themselves because they are the maverick of award show ceremonies and they have to shake things up a bit. It lends itself to me to be a bit risque.  People don’t go there thinking people aren’t going to make fun of them. That’s part and parcel of the whole gig.

Q: What are you most nervous about?
SC: I’m most nervous about some people in the audience going ‘Who the [expletive] is he?’  That’s probably my biggest fear and I know that some people are going to do that, but I hope to humiliate them by saying they should know if they have got any indie movie credentials, because I have done my indie movie work.  And just hoping people get my British sensibility which can be quite dry.  I have done a lot of live stuff and I’ve been doing this a long time. If it doesn’t destroy you, it makes you stronger.

Q: So, there is no fear of the ticking clock?
SC: No, of course there is, but I’ve been there so many times. I’ve been scared out of my pants so many times I kind of take it in stride.  So, yeah I’m gonna be nervous and yeah, I don’t know how it’s going to go and I’ll be scared out of my ass, but I think we’ll be OK.  I’ve always been like this in the past and things have turned out O.K. However much I am trying to put a brave face on it, there is always the possibility I may make a complete and utter ass out of myself.  That’s what makes you concentrate.

Q: Have you watched all of the nominated films?
SC: No, I’ve watched half of them.  There are some pretty good films out there. They are all depressing and dark, but that doesn’t make them bad films just pretty heavy going.

Q: Will you be taking any jabs at the Oscar show the next day?

SC: Oh, wait, let me take a note about that.  ‘Make fun of Oscars.’ Good thank you. You just reminded me to do that. Great.

Q: Have to ask you about another topic. Word is going around that ‘Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian” is much funnier than it’s predecessor.

SC: It is, it is.  I’ve seen large chunks.

Q: Was that a specific goal this time around?
SC: Yeah, you know you’re on to a good thing when you are competing against yourself and doing the sequel it had to be bigger and better, more action is happening and [it had to be] funnier.  Owen Wilson and myself do our little guys and in both movies [director] Shawn Levy allowed us to do a large amount of improvisation and it was no different in this movie.  And the stuff we do is funnier in this movie.  In the first movie we found our feet and in the second movie we knew how to go about it. We know who the characters are and you get into a groove rather quickly.  I’m really excited about it.  More meaty stuff to do.

Q: What’s next on your slate?
SC: Literally what I am doing next is this whole thing and then I’m touring Australia doing a live comedy show.  Then I’m coming back here to do a couple of movies this summer. They are all wound up ready to go, but I don’t want to say what they are in case I jinx them.  And I’ll also be shooting something for HBO.

Q: Is the HBO project a concert special or a series?
SC: It’s a pilot with a bunch of other episodes we’re going to write that could lead to a short series.

The Indie Spirit Awards will be broadcast live, Saturday Feb. 21 at 5 PM EST, 2 PM PST on IFC.

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