Ricky Gervais has won strong reviews in the US for his first role as a leading man in a Hollywood film.
By Tom Brook
Entertainment reporter, BBC News
Gervais says he is more concerned with writing than acting
The picture in which Gervais stars - called Ghost Town - was released in the US this weekend. But despite good reviews, the film itself hasn't generated a lot of heat at the box office.
Gervais appears opposite Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni as a New York dentist who finds himself unwillingly involved in a supernatural love triangle.
One of America's top film critics, Roger Ebert, wrote: "Gervais has at last found a leading role in a feature, and it's a good one."
The New York newspaper, Newsday, said Gervais was "among the funniest men in film".
But there were one or two dissenters. Time Out New York made the observation that "the film's idea of humour is to have Gervais wear his dentist uniform outside the office".
On initial estimates, Ghost Town came in at only eighth place in the list of top 10 films at the US weekend box office.
Gervais appeared on stage at Sunday night's Emmys
But Paul Dergarabedian, from the tracking company Media By Numbers, said it had been a very competitive season for comedies.
He stressed that Ghost Town had shown that "as a leading man, Ricky Gervais proves he is a terrific actor".
At first sight, playing a romantic lead seems quite a stretch for Gervais given his track record with The Office and Extras.
But he is quick to explain that he's not doing the stereotypical Hollywood leading man.
"It's not a Brad Pitt role," he says.
"I'm still playing a putz who says stupid things.
"If it was Die Hard or The Matrix I wouldn't know where to start and I wouldn't sleep at night thinking I'm going to make a fool of myself, but with this I know what I'm doing."
Gervais - who spoke onstage at Sunday night's Emmy Awards - maintains that having an onscreen Hollywood profile is not a top priority.
He says: "I'm much more interested in developing the writing and directing career - that's always excited me more.
"If I do the odd role or the odd lead then so be it but that's not what I'm trying to develop.
"Who wants to see my fat face all over the screen? I'm a better writer and director than I am a leading man and I know you know that."
Even if he isn't seeking Hollywood stardom, Gervais has another film in the pipeline packed with star power called This Side of the Truth.
Gervais co-wrote and directed the fantasy comedy and he stars with an illustrious cast that includes Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe and Patrick Stewart.
Although Gervais has a strong and loyal following in America, he isn't that well known outside the big cities.
Mr Dergarabedian believes that, as a result of Ghost Town, that may now change.
"He's not necessarily a household name here yet in the US but I think he will be," he added.
At the very least Ghost Town, which was seen in some 1,500 American cinemas over the weekend, is going to help Ricky Gervais boost his profile and, with its strong reviews, probably increase his currency in Hollywood.