But much to his chagrin, many people know Coogan best for a comment Courtney Love made associating him with Owen Wilson’s attempted suicide last summer. Coogan and Wilson (who was also in Night at the Museum) had been spotted together at parties, but Coogan denies that he was a bad influence in Wilson’s life. He told The Times of London earlier this year: “I have never had a drink or taken drugs with him,” and has pointed out that he hadn’t seen Wilson for months before his hospitalization.
It wasn’t the first time Love and Coogan had faced off in the tabloids. Two years earlier, the British tabloids were obsessed with an alleged sex-and-drug romp the pair supposedly conducted in an L.A. hotel room. She was quoted as saying he had gotten her pregnant, though they both later denied that. Asked why Love has repeatedly maligned him, Coogan laughs nervously, leans back in his chair and begins to shovel M&M’s from a nearby bowl into his mouth. “Honestly, if I elaborate beyond ‘no comment,’ it will only lead to—nothing good will come of it,” he says, clearly on edge. But Love is not the only source of his bad-boy reputation. For a decade Coogan has been something of a tabloid fixture, plagued by reports of drug use and sexual affairs. In 2004 a hotel rendezvous with two lap dancers was blamed for his divorce from socialite Caroline Hickman. And in 1996 the Fleet Street press detailed how his girlfriend of four years left him after he had an affair while she was pregnant with their daughter.
“I’ve had a checkered past,” Coogan admits, though there’s little sign of it as he sits here, looking healthy and sipping nothing stronger than an Arnold Palmer. It’s apparent that this is uncomfortable conversational territory. “Really, I think it’s just things that happened years ago get repeated over and over and over, ad nauseam. I’m in a stable relationship,” he adds. (Last year he started dating China Chow; when photos of her frolicking in the ocean with Keanu Reeves surfaced after this interview, his rep maintained that Coogan and Chow are still a couple and says Chow and Reeves are “just friends.”) “Though my experience has been that, for all the benefit of trying to set the record straight, I’d rather forgo that and have people have the record wrong. I’d rather keep something for myself than keep correcting them.”
Coogan is currently talking to Winterbottom about making another movie together, and there’s also been ongoing chatter that he’ll make an Alan Partridge film. “Is that going to happen? Probably. Maybe. Let’s say yeah. But,” he stresses, “I have all these other things, and I’d rather try to make some progress that doesn’t involve him.” This fall Coogan is doing a 100-date stand-up circuit in England, his first major tour in a decade. So will Partridge still be part of his shtick? “He will,” he admits, tucking his chin down into his neck and rolling his eyes like a guilty schoolboy. “The tour is called Steve Coogan Presents Alan Partridge and Other Less Successful Characters.”