Comedy go-to man Declan Lowney is a directing veteran of countless TV shows including Father Ted, Little Britain and Sky One's Moone Boy. We talked to him about directing Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa and the pressures that come with bringing such a popular TV character to the big screen.
Sky Movies: Alan Partridge has taken a long time to get to the big screen...and you directed it. What does that feel like?
Declan Lowney: Directing Alpha Papa was a privilege. I don't think I realised when I first got involved how privileged a position that was. It's a job a lot of directors were after and I think people care an awful lot about Alan Partridge. There's a huge love and warmth for the character and whoever's going to be allowed to put that onto the big screen would have to do it in such a way that he didn't offend all those people. I didn't quite realise that when I got involved, what pressures there were. But there were enough people around us who made sure we protected Partridge.
SM: There's an awful lot of input from Steve [Coogan] and all the other writers. How did you bring that together?
DL: There is a lot input - Partridge comes with input because he's the creation of quite a few people - Armando [Iannuci] and Pete Baynam, Steve and now Rob and Neil [Gibbons] all carry the torch for him. It's frustrating sometimes, having so many opinions around and they're not always as one. But that's what makes that character so good. There's so many brains at work trying to form him, create him and fashion him. They don't let go - the boys stick with this until they think it's right.
SM: What's it like working with Steve?
DL: At the end of the day it's his baby and he knows Alan better than anybody else. But he is open to suggestion, open to 'how about that or how about that?' He's a great judge of those things and it's just great that he knows that character so well and he tells us what is and isn't right.
SM: Colm Meaney was a shrewd piece of casting as Pat Farrell, the DJ that goes rogue and takes the hostages. How did that come about?
DL: Colm came quite late and came in when someone else dropped out. We were very keen to have the character IrishIt was very important that the person who played the character of Pat was a proper actor as well. Colm is also a very good comedy actor and has done a lot of comedy acting as well. The Van and all the early Roddy Doyle things.
Steve had a very good conversation with him over the phone when he was living in Spain and told him this was slightly guerrilla film-making and Colm was up for it. He was fantastic and I think what was really brilliant was that he really roots the movie, he keeps it real. Because some of the stuff that is going on with Alan is a bit mad, maybe a bit silly. And then there's a guy who's alone and in his late 50s, his wife has died and they are taking away from him the one thing that he loves. And he's got nothing left to lose. You do get a sense of a guy on the edge.
SM: It's notoriously difficult to make transition from small to the big screen. How did you manage it?
DL: We were aware that there had been a lot of failures, that a lot of British TV comedies had tried to make it as feature films and failed. Steve knew that and Armando knew that. The story was probably the big thing and that was real and you could completely believe that something like this could happen to Alan at North Norfolk Digital, that he could become involved in a situation like that. For the audience it wasn't something that this character wouldn't normally do. It felt very real.
SM: The character of Alan is so rich, has so much depth, so much back story. Did you find that tricky to direct?
DL: I don't think so. I did think at first you would have to know Alan Partridge to watch this movie and enjoy it. But I think now if you don't know that character and come to this movie cold you'll learn about his character pretty quickly because everything he says and does informs the character so much. I think it is an easy watch. If you watch it again and again and again there's layers of detail. There's also some fantastic lines that people are missing because they're laughing so much. On DVD for example, if you're a fan you can go back and get so much more out of it, the nuance.
SM: Do you think Alan has got a future beyond this?
DL: Well, I think we're all delighted with how well the film's gone and how comfortably he made the transition from the small series to the big screen so I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted to go there again. Quite what they'd do with him I don't know.