Steve Coogan takes Sundance by storm

LAST UPDATED AT 08:59 ON Thu 24 Jan 2008

Actor Steve Coogan, star of television's Alan Partridge comedy series and of a number of low-rent British movies in recent years, is the unlikely star of the Sundance Film Festival. Just when the stock market crisis looked set to spoil the chances of any big deals being done at the festival, the screening of a late-entry film, Hamlet 2, starring Coogan and Catherine Keener, was greeted with loud laughter and followed by a bidding war for the rights to distribute the film. They went for $10m, the biggest deal made so far at the festival, which runs until Sunday.

Hamlet 2, directed by Andy Fleming, has Coogan playing a hopeless-case high school teacher (he's not just bipolar, but infertile too) who sets out to save his drama department by writing a sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Along the way, the film takes politically incorrect jabs at such inspirational classroom movies as Mr. Holland's Opus.

The film also features Elisabeth Shue (above with Coogan), the actress best known for her role as the prostitute Nicholas Cage befriends in Leaving Last Vegas. She plays herself, under the concept that she has given up on Hollywood and moved to Tucson, Arizona to become a nurse. "The script said she was a has-been actress and I just thought that was hilarious," said Shue at a post-screening press conference, during which she and Coogan reenacted a rather slobbery onscreen clinch.

Focus Films, who beat the likes of the Weinstein brothers for the rights to the film, will be hoping it's another Little Miss Sunshine – which was also bought for around $10m when it was shown at Sundance two years ago. It went on to make millions at the box office and win two statuettes at last year’s Oscars. · 

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