“I certainly think that comedy at the moment is highly valued,” says comedian Rob Brydon. “I think people just want to escape from this reality and laugh.” With The Trip to Greece, the latest and final entry in director Michael Winterbottom’s Trip series, Brydon and co-star Steve Coogan (who happens to be a seven-time BAFTA award winner) travel to new destinations to give audiences the opportunity to do just that, one celebrity impression at a time.
The endless number of gorgeous Grecian locations the comedians travel through and to, alongside meals that cause us to salivate and emit envy in equal measure, offer a strange, but welcomed sense of escapism in these “Stay-At-Home” times. However, it is the seemingly effortless comedic chemistry between Brydon and Coogan that make the Trip films what they are. So, why stop now?
“I have that comedian instinct of wanting to get off while they’re still laughing,” Brydon says. “You know, it would be such a shame to hear: ‘Oh, they should have stopped sooner.’ I love leaving people wanting more. I love making a well-timed exit.”
In the following interview, Brydon discusses what he’ll miss most about working on The Trip, if he was able to properly enjoy the scenery outside of work, whether or not the series could return in the distant future, and, of course, Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Bounty.
On Fatherhood During a Pandemic
Well, I’ve got my two youngest children here, and homeschooling an eight-year-old is not without its challenges. I think people are having different experiences depending on whether they have young children in the house. If they’re okay, they’re sort of having a mindful treat, a sort of literary workshop. They’re reading books. They’re watching this; they’re watching that.
We are watching stuff. We watched a lot at the beginning of the lockdown. It’s gone through phases, I think, in how we behave within it. We watched some of the old classics, like The Great Escape and The Bridge on the River Kwai. With the boys, we watched that Tiger Man thing. I’ve been watching this wonderful French series called Call My Agent, which is a television series set in Paris. I’m trying to exercise, do all that. But I do think that if you’ve got young kids in the house, it’s very different.
It’s a double-edged thing because, on the one hand, we’ve certainly, the four of us, grown closer; there’s more of a shorthand than there was because we are spending literally every minute of every day with each other. But equally then, obviously, people need a bit of space. And yeah, trying to get an eight-year-old boy to do his schoolwork is a challenge.
On Comedy During a Crisis
Well, I think it’s a different thing. This isn’t like 9/11; it’s not like a terrorist strike. It’s very different. It’s, as everyone has said, unprecedented. It’s a thing that’s loomed over us. You look at that doomsday clock and possible, worst-case scenarios, but it’s never really happened, never touched us. And now it’s basically touched everybody. And I think that people just want to laugh. The strange thing for me and people in my position to get our heads around is this idea of audiences. It’s impossible to have an audience now. I was on tour with a band doing a show of music and comedy when it hit, and we had to stop that. We’re trying to reschedule it, but it’s very hard to know when people are going to be allowed or even want to sit next to each other in rows in a theater. But I certainly think that comedy at the moment is highly valued. I think people just want to escape from this reality and laugh.
On Bringing The Trip to an End
It always had a slight feeling of, is this going to be the last one? Yes, I’m speaking personally. I have that comedian instinct of wanting to get off while they’re still laughing and a fear about overstaying our welcome. You know, it would be such a shame, to hear: “Oh, they should have stopped sooner.” But when we had done this one … I think it was after or maybe towards the end of filming because we shoot it all in chronological order, which is unusual. It felt, because of the story — the homecoming at the end for Steve [Coogan] and my wife coming to see me — kind of like an ending. But more than that for me, and I can’t speak for Michael [Winterbottom, series director] and Steve, but I love leaving people wanting more. I love making a well-timed exit.
I could imagine revisiting it in about 10 years, you know, after a substantial period of time, where our life circumstances could be quite different. I think that might be interesting. Then your lives are different. You have different responsibilities. That would be interesting to me.
On Being a Tourist During The Trip
When we were on Ithaca, we had a day off, and Steve and I chartered a boat so that all the crew could have a day out. We went for a lovely lunch, and that was a payoff. We covered a lot of miles during filming, so as we would be driving from one area to another, you’re taking it all in. The one thing with it is that everything is curated for you. People may ask me, “Where did you go?” It was a year ago now. And I know we went to Ithaca, and I know we went to Hydra. But there are quite a few places where if you asked me, I wouldn’t know the name of the place. Because it’s all arranged. And you know, you’re an actor, and you turn up, and you’ve got your job to do, and you do your thing, you know? Because people often ask, “What’s your favorite meal?” And I always say that I don’t have my strongest memories of the meals, because during the meals, all I’m thinking is, What am I going to say next?
Some of these journeys are just coming back to me, and, you know, you get to experience extreme weather, and we drove from Delphi to Athens in absolutely apocalyptic rain and thunder and lightning. It was just something else. I remember that, and I remember it was a beautiful time of the year. It was sort of early June. So, things are still coming into bloom. It’s a curious thing because when you look back on it, what a mixture of memories it was. It’s an acting job, but you choose quite close to yourself, having experiences that you might have, but then there are all these other experiences you’re having that are not part of the story. So, it’s really a unique working experience for us. It’s not like anything else.
On What He’ll Miss About The Trip
The individuality of it. I’ll miss the tightness of the crew, the feeling of creativity you get because it’s not like a big movie. Because we improvise so much of it, you feel so creative. That’s a wonderful thing when it’s flowing, but that’s a wonderful fear. I’ll miss that. And I’m very fond of Michael, Melissa [Parmenter], who produced it, and Josh Hyams [co-producer]. I have known them for a long time. I’m hugely fond of Steve. I mean, I’ve known Steve for a hell of a long time. And we have these experiences where, because we improvise a lot of it, there’s a pressure there. And you see the sort of brothers in arms kind of feeling, because it’s the two of us out there at the front, and therefore, the responsibility is ours as to the quality of that bit. So, you’re always searching for the best stuff you can create there. I will miss that.
When Jokes Went Too Far on The Trip
There was one on this one [to Greece]. We’re at the restaurant in Pireas, which is where we do the stuff about Dustin Hoffman and Marathon Man. And I said something to him that touched a nerve. Michael said, “Okay, let’s have a little break.” We said to each other that everything is fair game. We have a sort of gentlemen’s agreement, because you don’t want it to be bland. So to avoid that, you have to push it a bit, but it’s worked both ways. I’ve had times where I’ve said, “Whoa, hang on.” So, I remember that happening, but I don’t remember what it was, but it was something, But then it’s forgotten about. We might sit a few minutes apart, but we’re quite pragmatic, and we just crack on with it. And then it’s forgotten. I can’t remember now what it was. There was something. Yeah, but we don’t dwell on it. But having said that, you can’t help but wonder sometimes if he [Steve Coogan] really means it. I’m sure that the audience is wondering that.
On Sir Anthony Hopkins and The Bounty
I should say Anthony Hopkins is a great actor. Yes. I mean, he really is on the stage or on the screen. He is as good as it gets. Basically, I think we just remembered that performance. I mean, it’s very singular, isn’t it? When he starts to shout at Daniel Day-Lewis,and he’s going [does impression of Hopkins in The Bounty]: “Damn your eyes, Mr. Fryer. You turned your back on me. You turned your back on me, man. God damn your eyes, Mr. Fryer.”
Oh, there’s a famous story. I don’t know if it’s true. He’s doing a kind of a Cornish accent. Cornwall is an area in the southwest of England, where [speaks in Cornish accent] they sort of talk like that, right? A little bit like that. Yes. And he turned up on the first day, and there is a story that they start to shoot and the director says to him, “I’m not sure about the accent.” Apparently, Anthony Hopkins said, “Are you not? I am, shall we start?” He says, this is what I’m doing. I’m doing my thing. Don’t you worry about that. And you know that there are very few actors who don’t get kicked out of there. And that’s it.