x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Look out for the big-screen debut of comic character Alan Partridge

Steve Coogan's classic comedy character Alan Partridge is set to return in a new film. So will he still retain his old magic?

It's one of the most famous careers of modern British showbiz. He started out as a plucky radio sports reporter unafraid to ask the big questions ("When did you first want to be a racing driver?"), moved to television sports news under a cloud of confused metaphors ("He's got a foot like a traction engine"), hit the big time with his own chat show, which failed due to "poor scheduling" (it was broadcast at the same time as News at Ten), plummeted back to local airwaves and tried to get back on TV with ideas such as "monkey tennis", and recently emerged as a disc jockey presenting a mid-morning slot on an obscure internet radio network. But now, having hit rock bottom and bounced back on several occasions (Bouncing Back is also the name of his autobiography), it looks like he's finally making it to the silver screen. Yes, after years of rumours, Alan Partridge - undoubtedly the greatest creation of Steve Coogan - is to follow in the footsteps of so many comedy greats and have his own film.

Fans of Partridge, a socially incompetent, insecure and insensitive bully whose deeply awkward personality has provided the blueprint for David Brent along with numerous other TV characters, have been licking their lips for some time over the prospect of a full feature film. News first surfaced in 2005, when Coogan's production company, Baby Cow Productions, announced the film. Unfortunately, the plot - which would have had Partridge attempting another TV comeback only to see his plans thwarted when terrorists hijack the BBC offices - didn't sit well following the London bombings later that year and the project was sidelined.

In 2007, the cogs started churning again, with Coogan announcing that he'd written some of the dialogue for his negotiations with the terrorists - "Your position is that you want to destroy the West. The West's position is that, broadly speaking, they don't want to be destroyed" - but then it went quiet again. "Yeah, we are planning on making a movie. We're talking at the moment. What it is we're not quite sure," was the soundbite Coogan gave to the BBC in 2009 that kept the embers alive, but by this stage many believed that with the last I'm Alan Partridge broadcast in 2002, it might be too late for a successful return of the world's most famous fan of Wings ("the band The Beatles could have been").

But speaking at this year's Tribeca Film Festival in New York, Coogan has finally given some firm confirmations about the project. "We left it behind for a while, but we came back to it because we got a few ideas," Coogan told The Playlist. "We're writing it right now, going to shoot it next year."

Thankfully, rather than emerging from the showbiz wilderness and running the risk of looking dated to a new generation of viewers, Partridge will be heading to the cinema screen having seen a recent resurgence in popularity. Mid-Morning Matters, a 12-webisode series that first went online late last year, saw Partridge take his monstrous ego to North Norfolk Digital, a fictional radio station based in his home county with brilliant (and painfully uncomfortable) results. Bickering with his unfunny sidekick and insulting almost every guest with his ill-informed, xenophobic and elitist views, Partridge was resurrected.

Further good news for Partridge fans is that Armando Iannucci, who helped create the character with Coogan in the early 1990s, will be working on the film, along with Borat's Pete Baynham. Iannucci, who has seen recent success with his brilliant political TV comedy The Thick of It, previously announced that he would have nothing to do with a film spin-off because "the idea of spending two more years in a room with that voice is more than I can take". But it appears he has changed his mind (or bought some earplugs).

As yet, there have been no suggestions as to the storyline, with Coogan, Iannucci and company remaining tight-lipped about whether it will return to the original BBC terrorist takeover or take a different route. What is established is that Partridge won't be going down the same cinematic path as so many TV characters before him.

"The Partridge news is that we've now agreed a story for the film. It's NOT Alan goes to America," Iannucci tweeted. "We don't see Alan, for example, getting Simon Cowell's spot on American Idol and going over there. That's too good for Alan. Alan's future is always brighter in his head than it is in the real world." All together now, Aha!