WATCH: Steve Coogan on Cynicism, Bad Journalists and Working with Dame Judi

Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in 'Philomena' (Photo: BBC Films/Baby Cow Productions)

Dame Judi Dench and Steve Coogan in ‘Philomena’ (Photo: BBC Films/Baby Cow Productions)

Among the Brits attending the New York Film Festival next week is Steve Coogan, who’ll be in town to promote Alan Partridge, the first big screen presentation of the hapless Norwich-based fictional broadcaster who’s appeared in several radio and TV comedy series in the U.K.

Alan Partridge won’t open in the U.S. until next year, but, in the meantime, Coogan has been getting heaps of praise for portraying British journalist Martin Sixsmith in the forthcoming drama Philomena to be released in December.

The picture, directed by Stephen Frears, tells the true life story of an Irish mother trying to track down her adult son who was forcibly taken from her when he was an infant — and put up for adoption — by nuns in the convent where she toiled.

The mother, played by Dame Judi Dench, enlists the help of Martin Sixsmith, a former BBC correspondent, to help find her son.

It’s a sobering tale but one leavened by the often comedic odd couple relationship between the mother, a warm unpretentious woman of faith, and the initially cynical Oxbridge educated journalist Coogan is playing.

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The actor spent a lot of time on set with Dame Judi. He says: “I was quite starstruck by working with this iconic figure, but she had all this makeup on. She didn’t really look like Judi Dench to me. She was just this little Irish lady, and that made it easier for me.”

Many people think that this is Coogan’s strongest performance ever in a serious role. The positive press he’s garnered should help bring in an audience for next year’s Alan Partridge film — which may be hard to sell to U.S. audiences given that few Americans have that much knowledge of this much-loved British legend.