On Being Sort Of Alan Partridge 8

Michael Winterbottom has been talking about Murder in Samarkand

Arlington, Va.: Hi Michael! I’m a big fan of yours as well as Steve Coogan’s. I loved “24 Hour Party People” and “Tristram Shandy” (and I’m fairly obsessed with everything Alan Partridge). I saw that you’re going to be reunited again for “Murder in Samarkand,” but I was wondering if you two have any comedies in the works as well?

Michael Winterbottom:”Murder in Samarkand” is hopefully going to be funny. It’s a black comedy about torture in Uzbekistan. Steve will play Craig Murray, the British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who spends a lot of time in bars and at dancing clubs. It’s sort of Alan Partridge or Tony Wilson, trying to prevent the British government from using information they’ve obtained through torture.


If I wasn’t so easy-going, I might be a bit alarmed. But A Mighty Heart seems to show that the US public doesn’t want a serious exploration of the “War on Terror”, no matter how critically acclaimed.


My hope for Murder in Samarkand is that the film might be the MASH or Catch 22 for our generation, helping cement a growing popular cultural consensus on the stupidity of the “War”. That would be worth my coming over personally as an idiot.

Never understimate humour as a political weapon.

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8 thoughts on “On Being Sort Of Alan Partridge

  • peacewisher

    Coogan's "The Parole Officer" was on television last night. It was slagged off by the critics at the time with some justification. The jokes are corny, and the main character is just a bit too cringe-worthy.

    However, the film was released pre-9/11, and our society have moved on (or moved back?) so much in those years. The ruthlessly corrupt policeman doesn't quite seem so ridiculous now, and the sight of free and spontaneous protest on the streets of Manchester without arrests being made is another reminder of "the way we were".

    I'm old enough to remember Omar Sharif, and noticed that he had an excellent cameo role in this film, as the mysterious "goodie" in the background.

    Such a giant of the screen would surely be perfectly typecast as a character (hopefully a "goodie" – I'm sure you could think of someone) in a movie based in a former Soviet Republic. Maybe he'd say no, but any appearance by the former Dr Shivago would add gravitas, don't you think?

  • Craig


    The bad news is that I don't think I have any input on casting. I watched The Parole Officer too, and thought it was pretty feeble, though OK as light hearted fun. I heard Omar Sharif in an Egypt-set BBC Radio drama series last year, and he was excellent. Great to see Julie Christie getting critical acclaim agin too (sorry, there's a Dr Zhivago thing going on here). She is a loyal supporter of Stop the War. I met her to hand in a petition in Downing St last year.

    I presume that casting will be finalised in a few months now. As soon as there is any news I am allowed to tell, I will do so.


  • johnf

    Dear Craig,

    Sit back, relax.

    You are a writer. What is more you are writing about events you personally lived through which are filled with vivid and powerful memories and images. What you did and saw is now in the hands of other people.

    As a writer myself who has been through this process scores of times it is still not easy. Because what they see, what they film is never the same as what you envisioned, remember so intensely. It always jars. Their interpretation of your deeds and experiences are always different, if only slightly, to your own. What you have to pray for is a gifted and dedicated cast and director who have integrity and who will work their socks off to acheive the truth of your vision – not the literal truth, but the poetic truth. And in Winterbottam especially, I think you have such a director who is experienced and dedicated enough to do that. Believe me, there are far, far worse.

  • Phil


    I must admit I'm horribly worried about this film, mainly concerning Steve Coogan playing you. The joke in the Alan Partridge shows is Alan Partridge. Steve Coogan probably desparately wants to escape it, but I suspect that he IS Alan Partridge. And when Winterbottom specifically invokes AP it is especially worrying.

    It is really important that you come across as you do in your book. Most people (yourself included I suspect) would view some of the things you did as foolish, or at least naive. (The interesting thing is where different people draw the line. What I would see as heroic would be seen as foolish by the F.O.) But you are evidently not a fool, much as the FO would like to paint you as one.

    Would anyone take it seriously if Alan Partridge said "We must do something about this"? You might as well have Borat.

    Humour is great, but if your character becomes the joke all your message is lost. And not just the message of the book, but your present and future work.

    Why is Winterbottom not thinking "Quiet American" rather than Alan Partridge?

    Sorry to be negative, and I dont know if there is anything you can do to influence the film now, but I would hate to see it become a travesty.


  • johnf


    I don't think Steve Coogan played Alan Partridge in 24 hour Party People. To start with, he played someone who was completely aware and clued into what he was doing. Who used knowing irony throughout. Alan Partridge's whole comedy comes down to the fact that he's intensely UNaware of anything and everything he does, he's in a complete world of his own rigid reality. I suspect Coogan is an actor before he's a comedian.

  • Craig


    Thanks – I see the dangers, but I agree with johnf there's a big difference between the Tony Wilson and Alan Partridge characters. Remember also that Michael made Welcome to Sarajevo, In This World and The Road to Guantanamo, so I trust him.

  • ChoamNomsky

    Humour can be a good vehicle for serious issues. More people will watch Bremner Bird And Fortune than read books by Noam Chomsky or John Pilger.

  • johnf

    More Americans get their political information from the Daily Show than they do from TV news.

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