In his native England,
Now, however, thanks to "Philomena," the dramatic biopic Coogan co-wrote, produced and in which he co-stars, the British funnyman has a new renown: awards-season underdog. On Sunday, Coogan claimed a BAFTA award for adapted screenplay, one of four awards (including best film) for which "Philomena" was nominated.
And heading into the
"I feel a tremendous sense of vindication," Coogan, 48, said last week. "It's one of the first times I went with my instinct. It was like an experiment: I wonder what happens when you're sincere?"
The film is hardly what you'd expect from a master impressionist known for his bone-dry, self-loathing humor, whose alleged cocaine use was assiduously reported by Britain's tabloid media and who was tarred as a "sex addict" by one-time girlfriend Courtney Love.
But after years of trying to parlay his U.K. stardom into Stateside celebrity, Coogan felt burned out by Hollywood and decided to take a more proactive role in his career.
“Part of me felt like, ‘What the hell am I doing? What am I doing here? Why am I doing this?’ ” he said, speaking from New York’s
After reading of Lee’s plight in a newspaper article four years ago, he maneuvered to bring former
In a delicious inversion of his celebrity sinner past, earlier this month "Philomena" was screened for Pope Francis' private secretary. And Coogan and Lee were invited to mass at the Vatican, meeting the pontiff in St. Peter's Square.
"There is definitely something about being put in a box. Being knocked back, being frustrated in that way," Coogan said. "Had I had a few breaks in studio films that I still didn't really like but that were still kind of glamorous and well paid, I may not have ended up doing this!
"There's a little poetry in the fact I was flatlining, I guess."