Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan are back with a new series of their award winning series The Trip, this time exploring Greece. Here the pair talk highlights, winding each other up, their all time favourite celebrity impressions and why this will be their final TV trip together...
It was ten years ago that Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon took to the picturesque roads of the Lake District to film their first ever series of The Trip.
“We didn’t really know what to expect back then. The first one was was quite experimental and we were shooting scenes where we’d be thinking, ‘Is this actually funny?’” says Brydon when we meet the pair for our interview.
They needn’t have worried. The comedy series, in which the duo play fictionalised versions of themselves and tour local restaurants, dip their toes into the culture and mercilessly try to outdo each other with their celebrity impressions, proved to be a winning formula.
With two subsequent series, the first in Italy, the next in Spain, a clutch of awards and three feature films under their belts, the pair are back for a fourth helping, this time in Greece.
“We’re mimicking Homer’s Odyssey” says Coogan. “So we begin in Troy in Turkey and end up in Ithaca visiting places like Athens, Pilos and Hydra along the way.”
Here Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan share their Greek highlights, their favourite ever impressions and reveal why, despite its huge success, they’ve decided this will be their last series of The Trip…
How much of The Trip is improvised and how much is scripted or pre-planned?
Rob: Our director Michael Winterbottom provides the framework and plans where we go, and then we do the colouring in.
Steve: Sometimes Rob and I will be chatting off camera and he’ll say. ’Hang on let’s talk about that on camera because that’s really funny.’ We sometimes give each other lines …
Rob: I gave you that line about Michael Bublé in the Italian series, I said, ‘I can ask, ‘Where do you stand on Michael Bublé?’ and you can say ‘His windpipe!’
Steve: People wrote at the time, ‘Brilliant! Classic Coogan’ but actually it was Rob who gave me that line.
What’s it like spending so much time together, just the two you?
Rob: Quite intense but in a good way. We’ll have breakfast together, film all day and then have dinner together but it’s rather lovely and quite unusual at our age to spend that much time with a friend. And of course everything is taken care of and beautifully curated for us.
Steve: Filming takes about five weeks and during that time you don’t have to think about anything. It’s a bit like a being on a school trip and we’re the star pupils!
Rob: We’re the only pupils!
Does it take a while to adapt to being back home after being on the road filming for so long?
Steve: You become slightly child-like because everything is taken care of to the extent you think, ‘I can just walk across the street because if there’s a car coming someone will stop it. It’s not my job!’ And then you come back home to real life and realise you actually have to look both ways, you’re a grown up and actually have to think about what you are going to do with your day.
There’s always a lot of on-screen needling between your characters, do you ever push each other too far?
Steve: Yes. I get genuinely annoyed with Rob at times.
Rob: And vice versa. You’re poking each other and it’s all good fun and then occasionally you’ll go ‘Ouch! Did you mean that?’
Steve: Right at the start we agreed we couldn’t be offended. If it’s too comfy the series runs the risk of being dull. Sometimes I overdo the poking. I’ll have a real go at Rob and then afterwards there’s just this really horrible atmosphere.
Rob: I’ll be thinking ‘Jesus Christ! What was that?’
The series are always packed with celebrity impressions. Which are your favourites?
Rob: Steve is forensically good. I always love his Neil Kinnock, maybe because it’s Welsh. His Anthony Hopkins in The Bounty is fantastic. He was doing Jeremy Irons for me earlier. He’s got a remarkable array.
Steve: Rob does a very good Ronnie Corbett, his Tom Jones is very good and um….
Rob: It’s paining you to say this isn’t it?
Steve: Your Dustin Hoffman is quite good too.
Rob: Our director Michael’s always keen for us to do as many impressions as we can. When we were filming the very first episode ten years ago we weren’t really sure what we were making at that point. I remember Michael walking away and saying, ‘Do more Basil Brush’ This edgy filmmaker, Michael Winterbottom asking us to do more Basil Brush!
Steve: Basil Brush does actually turn up in this series too.
Will you be breaking into song again this series?
Rob: Yes, we always like a bit of singing especially on the car journeys. We do Knowing Me, Knowing You. We sang I Am Sailing on the ferry.
Steve: Some Bee Gees stuff too, we worked very hard on those harmonies.
Rob: I love the Bee Gees. I know all the words, I’m not ashamed of that.
Steve: I would be!
Rob: I know you would Steve, and that’s the difference between us.
What were your Greek highlights?
Rob: I really enjoyed all the travel by water we did. Adelphi was a lovely place to visit. It was a misty wet day when we went and then there was a huge thunderstorm. It was kind of Biblical.
Steve: I enjoyed Pylos too. We went to the harbour where the famous naval battle, The Battle of Navarino, was fought during the Greek War Of Independence. I’d only ever been to a few Greek Islands years ago, all the usual tourist places, so it was wonderful to see this completely different side.
What are your standout moments from all four series?
Rob: I’ve got very fond memories of being drunk at Ravello in Italy and talking about kumquats and Gore Vidal.
Steve: Yes I fell in love with Ravello. I’ve been back many times since. That was where we got very, very drunk. It was probably the most honest scene of the entire series. I don’t drink now. Rob drank quite a bit in the last episode we did in Spain. I was sitting there thinking ‘God what’s he talking about? He’s lost it!’
Why have you decided this will be your final series?
Steve: I was going to say quit while you’re ahead, but if that was the case we’d have quit after series three but quit while you’re not that far behind. Jump before you are pushed!
Rob: And the story arc and the narrative of this one works well as an ending.
Steve: You see me come home to the house where I lived with my fictional ex-wife. There’s this big reckoning. So, like the story of Odysseus, there’s a coming home element. After ten years I’m finally home.
Do you do any reading up on the places you are going to beforehand?
Steve: Michael and our producer Josh (Hyams) do a lot of research for us and plan the whole thing, there’s a road map, they give us the stuff to talk about. Josh does a kind of Brody’s Notes for us to crib. We get books that we’re supposed to read beforehand so that we can pepper conversations to include something that resembles substance! I definitely read more than Rob.
Rob: I didn’t do any research at all for the other series. On this one I thought, ‘Right, this time I want to go out with some knowledge of the subject!’ But I didn’t. I never got round to it. It’s very similar to my approach to taking exams when I was at school.
You’re playing fictional versions of yourselves. Do viewers confuse fact with fiction?
Rob: Oh yes! On the Italy trip my character has a moment of madness and spends the night with a deckhand. The day after it went out on TV, my wife Clare was taking one of our kids to school and a teacher came out and in all seriousness went, ‘This must be a very difficult time for you’. She actually thought she’d been watching a fly on the wall documentary where I’ve allowed a film crew into my bedroom to see me waking up full of remorse.
The Trip To Greece begins on Sky One and Now TV on Tuesday March 3 at 10pm