Coogan & Brydon & Tristram Shandy

DATELINE: Early Teaming of Coogan & Brydon

 Cock & Bull.

If you truly want the roots of the duo of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, you need to go back to 2005 and the costume drama they almost made. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Storyis a fascinating Fellini-like motion picture. You will even hear music from Fellini’s 8 & a Half.

It is only ancillary about the Laurence Sterne novel. It is about trying to make a movie about it. From the opening scene of Rob and Steve in make-up having a witty repartee to the end of the film when they do their Pacino imitations after a viewing of rushes, you have the basic motif of theTrip pictures.

Tristram Shandy’s behind the scenes take over after nearly half-an-hour of the novel narrative. Debates brew about how to play it, amidst the personal crises of the actors. Roger Allam shows up as the thankless agent of Coogan.

Director Michael Winterbottom set the course five years before the first of the trip films. In Tristram, they argue over leading role status, their looks, and already Steve Coogan playing himself (in variation) has sex scandals brewing in the media.

Coogan plays Tristram and his father, as the film never really goes beyond his birth and early childhood. Rob plays his brother/uncle. When Steve arranges for Gillian Anderson to join the cast, it doubles Rob’s role. Steve’s ego is mortified at what he has done.

This is a semi-friendly rivalry that would be more fully studied in the four subsequent semi-fictional films in which they continued to play movie versions of themselves.