Considered by many to be the natural heir to Peter Sellers, Steve Coogan is determined to raise his profile in the US as a prodigious creative talent.
Recent events have conspired to raise his profile though not, perhaps in the way he might have wished.
While Coogan's prestige as a screen performer is rising, with roles in movies ranging from Around the World in 80 Days to Night at the Museum, he has made some enemies along the way. Notable among these is Courtney Love, the rock singer-cum-actress, with whom Coogan had a two-week affair resulting in her alleged pregnancy. Both have subsequently denied the rumours though Miss Love clearly harbours a grudge against Coogan, if her latest allegations are anything to go by.
In a candid outburst to US Magazine, she claimed that Coogan bore some responsibility for the recent suicide attempt by their mutual friend, Hollywood actor, Owen Wilson.
This will come as a surprise to those who believed that the sole reason for Owen's actions was the break-up with his girlfriend Kate Hudson, Goldie Hawn's daughter, and the subsequent pictures of his ex kissing her new inamorata, Dax Shepard.
Love's claims are not necessarily reliable. Her own lifestyle has been far from blameless and she clearly has an agenda concerning Coogan that may have coloured her attitude and prompted her outburst. Coogan's lawyers have described the allegations as "entirely false and without foundation".
Nevertheless, Love went back on the offensive on Wednesday night by turning to reporters outside her Hollywood home. "There's just some people who are good influences and some people who aren't good influences," she fulminated. "Hopefully the guy [Coogan] leaves us alone in this town and goes back to Brighton, or wherever the hell he's from and just maybe stays there."
The scandal – if that is what it is – could not come at a worse time for the British comedy star. Even if they are unfounded, the allegations threaten to leave a taint that it would take a bigger star than Coogan to overcome. Hollywood, contrary to popular belief, is a forgiving place. Many bankable stars in the past have been brought back into its mink-lined embrace after being caught with their pants down, or excessively powdered nostrils.
For Coogan, it could prove more difficult. He is a British star on the make in Hollywood, a comic actor whose genius is widely acknowledged in the UK but is only just starting to make waves in America. He has not yet reached the stage where he is scandal-proof. What's more, Ms Love knows that and has timed her accusations to perfection. Moreover, Coogan is a self-confessed womaniser with two long-term relationships on the rocks plus a string of affairs. In 1996 it was claimed that he had been unfaithful to his pregnant girlfriend, Anna Cole, who subsequently dumped him.
This was followed by the tale of a topless dancer who claimed that they had made love on a bed strewn with £10,000 in ten-pound notes. In 2005 he divorced his wife of three years, Caroline Hickman, only to be caught up in the Courtney Love two-week bonkfest and the ensuing pregnancy scandal.
Coogan is also incredibly ambitious and his greatest dream is to conquer Hollywood and become a bona fide movie star.
"Fame and wealth are not enough for Steve," said his friend, writer and producer Patrick Marber. "He wants more than that. He wants to be brilliant and be perceived as brilliant."
Coogan's Hollywood friendships, with Ben Stiller, for example, will carry him through a few tough headlines and his appearance in Stiller's new film, Tropic Thunder, from which Wilson has pulled out, should cement their collaboration.
It remains to be seen if his new Hollywood pals will rally round him and keep him from serious career damage. Clearly, it is a tough time for Coogan and the ranks of Hollywood's A-listers will be divided. The Wilsons (Owen and his two brothers) are well liked, and Coogan may find himself excommunicated from the Church of Tinseltown if there is any substance in the allegations.Reuse content