The situation is piquant with comedy analogies. An actor with a £10million fortune and whose latest film is called Greed is reported to be relying on the taxpayer to pay the bulk of the salaries for his laid-off domestic staff.
But then that is not the only irony concerning a man who is normally to be found parading his (mainly) Left-wing views on the airwaves yet is none too comfortable when it comes to discussing his own at times dubious and lurid lifestyle.
No bandwagon is allowed to pass without Steve Coogan jumping aboard: Brexit – as a Remainer he sneered at Brexiteers whom he labelled ‘dinosaurs’; Extinction Rebellion – a tricky one this for a jet-setting Hollywood star but he supported the climate activists who brought chaos to London last year; and, most famously, his hostile campaign to shackle the free Press.
His latest film, the aforementioned Greed, about a billionaire fashion tycoon, has been described as a thinly veiled satire on the bombastic retailer Sir Philip Green
How interesting it would be if the BBC, which normally fawns over and flatters Coogan – he is a regular on programmes such as Question Time and Newsnight – asked him to explain the thinking behind his decision to furlough the gardener and housekeeper at his £4million Regency property which sits in 75 acres of Sussex countryside.
According to The Sun newspaper, the pair were unable to carry out their duties because of social distancing rules and the actor had taken advantage of the Government scheme which covers 80 per cent of salaries up to £2,500 a month to put them on leave.
It’s all perfectly legal, of course, but it does ask troubling questions of a man who so often judges the morality of others.
Comedy has made Coogan, 54, a wealthy man and no wonder some were asking yesterday if this was perhaps the outline of his latest blockbuster. His laughs, after all, always come with an edginess.
His latest film, the aforementioned Greed, about a billionaire fashion tycoon, has been described as a thinly veiled satire on the bombastic retailer Sir Philip Green.
With success have come great riches, his current home, an old rectory with a tennis court and swimming pool which he bought in 2017, as well as a fleet of sports cars
Until now the public who love his work have been prepared to put up with his politics. He supported Ed Miliband in 2015 and Corbyn two years later. He supported Remain and then the People’s Vote campaign. In all of those decisions, he appears to have been on the wrong side of history
But Coogan was offering no explanation yesterday beyond apparently saying: ‘This is a non-story.’ Instead he suggested it was all a by-product of his legal actions against The Sun’s publishers.
Others disagreed. Tory MP Andrew Bridgen said: ‘He may have a service company and both people probably worked for it so he could be totally entitled to furlough them, but he appears to have lost his sense of humour over this.
‘And I’m not sure that the majority of taxpayers will see the funny side of it either.’
The furlough scheme, said Mr Bridgen, was there to protect businesses that are suspended and cannot operate during the pandemic, adding: ‘It’d be difficult to see how Steve Coogan’s earning potential has been diminished.’
Little, it seems, has inconvenienced the comedian, and over the years this son of a strict Roman Catholic family has had plenty of experience of being in the public eye.
He has enjoyed huge success on TV thanks to his Alan Partridge persona and there have been critical triumphs for his movies such as 2018’s Stan & Ollie, about Laurel and Hardy, and Philomena, about a woman’s 50-year search for a child she gave up for adoption.
Comedy has made Coogan, 54, a wealthy man and no wonder some were asking yesterday if this was perhaps the outline of his latest blockbuster. His laughs, after all, always come with an edginess. He is pictured above in the film Greed
These, together with his campaigning, turned Coogan-worship into an essential theme of the chattering classes. For years he has been a fashionable cause; a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, he has been feted and admired.
With success have come great riches, his current home, an old rectory with a tennis court and swimming pool which he bought in 2017, as well as a fleet of sports cars.
He was behind the wheel of one, a Porsche, when he was caught speeding this year.
On that occasion he escaped a driving ban after arguing that it would cause ‘exceptional hardship’ for his film crew who would lose their jobs if he were to lose his licence.
It has also brought him fame – and notoriety – in part because of louche stories of drug-taking and sexual excess.
He has enjoyed huge success on TV thanks to his Alan Partridge persona (above) and there have been critical triumphs for his movies such as 2018’s Stan & Ollie, about Laurel and Hardy, and Philomena, about a woman’s 50-year search for a child she gave up for adoption
Coogan was born the fourth of six children to a working-class Irish Catholic family in the Manchester suburb of Middleton.
He studied theatre at the city’s polytechnic having been rejected by Rada, and had his first big break as a voice on Spitting Image, impersonating both Margaret Thatcher and the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock. His comic creation, the blundering, self-important Norfolk radio personality Alan Partridge, has defined his career ever since .
But his success has been marred by cocaine abuse, drug-induced panic attacks, and a turbulent private life.
His penchant for lap dancers and a taste for Class A drugs led to his featuring often in the pages of the now defunct News of the World. This in turn saw him emerge – along with fellow actor Hugh Grant – as a poster boy for the celebrity crusade against the newspaper and its phone-hacking culture.
Almost 25 years have passed since Coogan’s first brush with the red top tabloids he loathes. He was then in the heady early days of his TV fame – widely regarded as the brightest comic talent of his generation – and it was revealed that he had consulted a Catholic psychotherapist to help sort out his turbulent and busy private lift.
Then aged 30, he had taken this bizarre and almost desperate step after admitting to a string of affairs.
His conquests included a publicity hungry record company receptionist called Katrina Russell and two dancers, Susan Acteson and Nancy Sorrell – the latter was to become the wife of comedian Vic Reeves.
The reason he resorted to phsychotherapy over this? Because of the presence in his life of a 26-year-old solicitor called Anna Cole, who had been his girlfriend for nearly four years and who was pregnant with his child. They had been sharing a flat in North London.
For her part Ms Russell, who delighted in being photographed with celebrities such as Liam Gallagher of Oasis, Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall and singer Robbie Williams, described Coogan as a ‘red hot lover’ who liked his women to wear stilettos during sex.
It was the final straw for the quietly spoken Ms Cole, who ended their relationship.
He had apparently already cheated on her with Ms Acteson, who had appeared in three episodes of his TV show, and dancer Ms Sorrell, then 21, who memorably told how Coogan flung £5,000 in £10 notes on his bed and told her: ‘Lie on them. Go on, lie on them.’
He later explained this embarrassing moment as ‘me being crassly ironic about what you do when you’re famous’.
In fact there was a fourth woman who slept with Coogan during his time with Ms Cole – a journalist who was said to have enjoyed an on-off fling over several months.
Her account of the affair, though, was revealing. ‘Steve is incredibly frustrating,’ she said at the time, ‘because although he would have affairs with people like me, he always returned to Anna in the end.’
This time she didn’t have him back and soon afterwards Coogan was reported to have been seeing a sex therapist having, apparently, remained celibate for four months.
By now the pattern had been set and not even settling down with a wife could make him change his ways. His brief marriage to society beauty Caroline Hickman, whose great uncle was the late Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Basil Hume, was merely a preface for more debauchery.
She ended it after more revelations about Coogan’s cocaine-fuelled encounter with two lap dancers. Once again he laughed it off, saying: ‘I was appalled and shocked to find they were lap dancers. I was under the impression they were Latvian refugees who needed shelter for the night.’
A witty enough line but by now the comic was descending into a lifestyle that was far from amusing.
In 2005 he had a two-week liaison with Courtney Love, the actress, ex-junkie and widow of rock star Kurt Cobain. According to Love, the pair enjoyed drug-enhanced sex during which he was alleged to have filled their hotel room with sex toys and Viagra and wanted a prostitute to join them in bed.
When the brief affair ended, Love branded Coogan an inveterate substance-abuser and a ‘sex addict.’
She also accused him of getting her pregnant, which he denied. In one arrogant aside, he said: ‘I have never claimed to be a paragon of virtue.’ But then, after turning 40, and citing his then nine-year-old daughter, he said: ‘It is time to clean up my act.’
The situation is piquant with comedy analogies. An actor with a £10million fortune and whose latest film is called Greed is reported to be relying on the taxpayer to pay the bulk of the salaries for his laid-off domestic staff
But by then the phone-hacking scandal was concentrating his energies. Motivated by his hatred of the tabloid, he declared he would do ‘everything in my power’ to campaign against media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.
It is hard of course to separate this loathing for the tabloids – and wish to regulate them – from the disclosures the very same papers have made about his behaviour. The sound of scores being settled was as shrill as the hypocrisy.
For Coogan said he saw no conflict in dealing with the film and TV arms of the Murdoch empire.
For four years he lived with Loretta Basey, above, now married to society heir Nat Rothschild. He was linked to TV presenter Melanie Sykes, Downton Abbey actress Daisy Lewis, and Canadian beauty Jacqui de Padoin Goodman
His biggest hits include Night At The Museum, and its sequels – they contributed to his fortune and were produced by 20th Century Fox, then owned by Murdoch.
But then perhaps Coogan’s principles were a little more elastic than his moralising would suggest. The girls, however, have continued to come and go.
For four years he lived with Loretta Basey, now married to society heir Nat Rothschild. He was linked to TV presenter Melanie Sykes, Downton Abbey actress Daisy Lewis, and Canadian beauty Jacqui de Padoin Goodman.
At the same time his career has continued to flourish. The only setback came when his dreams of conquering US TV failed after the series Happyish was cancelled after one season. Critics described it as ‘smug’, ‘vulgar’ and ‘unremittingly dark’. One review witheringly described Coogan as a ‘sanctimonious, pedantic, incessantly outraged man of privilege’.
Until now the public who love his work have been prepared to put up with his politics. He supported Ed Miliband in 2015 and Corbyn two years later. He supported Remain and then the People’s Vote campaign.
In all of those decisions, he appears to have been on the wrong side of history. But as a wealthy man, many are now asking whether in taking taxpayers’ money for his domestic staff, Steve Coogan is not just out of step with the public – but also displaying the very greed he sends up in his latest film.