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Monday, November 23, 1998 Published at 17:58 GMT


Coogan's lottery jackpot

Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge: Now for the movies

Comedian Steve Coogan is to play a probation officer in his first major movie role - partly funded by money from the National Lottery.

Coogan will take the lead in The Probation Officer, one of 16 movies to be funded by DNA Films, which is run by Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald and Duncan Kenworthy, who produced Four Weddings and a Funeral.

DNA is allocating £29m to 16 films over the next six years, using lottery funds to finance its movies under a franchise deal with the Arts Council of England.

The company has revealed plans for 11 of the films, all of which will cost under £4m. Private finance must also be raised to match the lottery allocation.

Coogan, best known for playing spoof chat show host Alan Partridge, co-wrote The Probation Officer with Henry Normal, who penned BBC One's Mrs Merton Show and BBC Two's The Royle Family.

[ image: Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting: Macdonald hopes he can repeat his success]
Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting: Macdonald hopes he can repeat his success
He plays a probation officer fitted up for a crime who has to call upon the underworld knowledge of his old clients to prove his innocence.

"It's a naturalistic comedy, not the Dumb and Dumber kind of stuff," he said. "It won't be a showcase for me putting on wigs and beards, there will be no facial props involved."

He said he wanted to team up with Kenworthy and Macdonald because of their "mutual respect" for each other's work.

Coogan, who appeared in a minor role in the 1995 movie The Indian in the Cupboard, said he had received other film offers.

"The last two years I've had people from all over the place come and ask me to make a film.

"Making a film is not a problem, the problem is taking the time to make a good one."

Sifting through scripts

Kenworthy and Macdonald spent a year reading scripts to find the projects to back.

The first full-length feature will be Saracen Street, written and directed by Peter Capaldi, who starred in BBC drama The Crow Road. It centres on a Glasgow club singer's dealings with the city's criminal underworld.

Another of the films to be backed is The Final Curtain, written by John Hodge, who wrote screenplays for Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, and the forthcoming Leonardo DiCaprio movie The Beach.

The film looks at the way celebrities live their lives through the media, with the public sharing their world.

Hodge said he found working on low-budget movies liberating.

"You buy yourself more freedom by spending less money.

"This is a film about contemporary Britain for contemporary Britain, but at the same time it's rather an exciting and amusing film that could take off with the rest of the world.

"I don't necessarily have to please Japan, Utah and Idaho with this one," he said.

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