Page last updated at 08:05 GMT, Tuesday, 21 October 2008 09:05 UK

Gervais 'proud' of Hollywood role

Ricky Gervais

By Fiona Pryor
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

"The reviews were amazing. I know. I read them all the next day," says comedian Ricky Gervais.

The 47-year-old, who is appearing in his first Hollywood lead role in movie Ghost Town, insists he never usually reads what critics have to say.

"Honestly, I never usually do that, people would have to put them underneath my nose.

"All I was thinking was 'that's a good one, that's a good one, that's a good one'.

"Then I thought 'oh no there's going to be one bad one and that's the one that Britain's going to pick up on. That's the one my family is going to read'."

Ricky Gervais
Gervais plays a grumpy dentist who eventually falls in love

The Office star plays Bertram Pincus, a grouchy dentist who dies unexpectedly during a routine operation.

After being revived, he realises he has the ability to see dead people who all want something from him.

The idea of the living being haunted by the dead is not completely original, as the concept has already appeared in several films including Over My Dead Body and Sixth Sense.

Despite that, Gervais says he is pleased he signed up for it.

"I'm proud of it and what I like about it the most is it's like a throwback.

"It almost feels like an antidote to the erection joke factory that's coming out of America at the moment aimed at 12-year-old boys."

Gervais reveals that, after accepting the part, he sat down with writer David Koepp to make some changes.

'Sweeter and emotional'

He says the script originally called for Pincus and Gwen, played by Tea Leoni, to kiss at the end.

"What does that mean? I just think it's so easy to do that, that really is like saying that's the end of the film," Gervais says.

The star, whose favourite romantic comedy is The Apartment, recalls one of the final lines in the movie: 'Shut up and deal!' is also the best part of the climax.

"That shows they're soulmates, that means so much more," he says.

I did this because it's the best script I'd read in five years and I love the film
Ricky Gervais

The kiss in Ghost Town was later replaced with dialogue that Gervais hopes is "more sweeter and emotional".

He adds: "I think people react more on what they feel than what they see and hear. There's just something that hits you on a different level with greater emotional content."

Despite that, the movie only reached number eight in the North American box office when it was released in September.

"No-one cares about that opening weekend. The pressure is to care about it because you can be taken out of cinemas and that would be a shame, but we were lucky," he says.

"If we had been put in 3,000 cinemas I think we would have been pulled, but because our release was limited and we were doing well they let us stay around for a while."

Cameo film role

"It went to number eight and then it stayed in the top 20 for a couple of weeks, it went back up and then it went back in. It's hanging around," he says.

It remains to be seen how Gervais's British fans will take to the movie, but whatever the reaction the actor is glad he took the role.

"I did this because it's the best script I'd read in five years and I love the film," he says.

Other than the odd film cameo, Gervais has confined his work to television.

He appeared in the 2006 film For Your Consideration because Christopher Guest is his "comedy hero".

Ricky Gervais
Gervais is revived back from death but can still see dead people

In the same year he played Dr McPhee in Night at the Museum as he was "returning a favour" to Ben Stiller.

And his small part in last year's movie Stardust was accepted because he got to spend two days working with veteran actor Robert De Niro.

Having achieved commercial success in the US, with Bafta, Emmy and Golden Globe awards to his name, Gervais reveals comedy that "resonates" with people is the key.

"We wanted people to think about it and talk about it the next day."

He thinks The Office worked in the US because it involved "universal themes".

He adds: "It was about the futility of life, wasting your life, a bad boss, boy meets girl."

Despite the pilot scoring the lowest focus group score ever for BBC Two, Gervais went with it anyway.

"We didn't change a thing, because if you pan it and water it down you'll just churn out the same stuff and there's someone out there who wants something different.

"If you do something that has never been done before, you'll get a market."

Ghost Town is released in cinemas across the UK on Friday 24 October.


SEE ALSO
Gervais wary of presenting Oscars
17 Oct 08 |  Entertainment
Ghost Town boosts Gervais profile
22 Sep 08 |  Entertainment
The Office to be remade in Russia
25 Jul 08 |  Entertainment

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