High price of taking the Ricky
The Office, Extras, movies . . . Ricky Gervais says he’s uncomfortable with his fame, writes Sara Nathan
RICKY Gervais couldn’t care less about his own fame. The 47-year-old comedian shot to prominence as David Brent on the groundbreaking TV series The Office and stayed on top with Extras, both of which he co-wrote and co-directed.
His popularity rose further with sold-out stand-up shows.
Now Hollywood has beckoned with supporting roles in movies Stardust and Night at the Museum and the lead in Ghost Town.
‘‘I’m more famous than I should be,’’ he says. ‘‘I was never proud of having money — it nearly ruined becoming a success for me.’’
Despite the smash success of The Office and Extras plus a dazzling array of awards, the 46-year-old reveals he doesn’t watch his own shows — adding that his family would give him a slap if he got too big for his boots.
In fact, the only thing he’s splashed out on is a new home in Hampstead, north London, to share with girlfriend Jane Fallon and their cat, Colin.
The security-conscious star says: ‘‘I’ve turned it into one big panic room. It has steel shutters, just in case. It’s like James Bond — if I could have lasers on the gate I would.
‘‘We’ve already got the security cameras. Actually, if you come near my house I can put you on YouTube.’’
Gervais had plenty of opportunities to observe the effects of fame when he played acting hopeful Andy Millman on Extras. Guests included some of Hollywood’s biggest stars — including Ben Stiller, Kate Winslet, Samuel L. Jackson, Orlando Bloom, David Bowie, Robert De Niro and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.
Stars including Madonna and Will Ferrell have said they want to be in the show if Gervais decides to film a third series.
‘‘Andy is me if I’d made all the wrong decisions,’’ he says.
Gervais contrasts his own take on fame with that of David and Victoria Beckham.
‘‘I think the Beckhams are famous enough now,’’ he says. ‘‘They’re probably a very sweet couple — but really, they don’t need to do any more photo sessions.
‘‘I think that when fame is your job that’s a problem. It’s bizarre.’’
His own fame — he collected a fourth Emmy in September — brought repeated offers to appear on the UK version of Big Brother. ‘‘I would never do it,’’ he says. ‘‘Never. I won’t do it even if my career takes a turn now and I lose my money. I’ll work in a bar.
‘‘I really think it’s like the Victorian freak shows. On Big Brother and the X Factor you’ve got people bordering on the mentally ill.
‘‘Where will it end? It just worries me that they’re fodder for entertainment . . . and I’m the worst, I watch it. It’s my guilty pleasure.’’
Despite having millions in the bank and a host of celebrity friends including movie legend Steven Spielberg, Gervais insists: ‘‘My values really haven’t changed. If you knew my family and friends and Jane you’d know I can never get away with anything.
‘‘Obviously, my circumstances have changed. I don’t work in a normal environment any more really.
‘‘I’ve had the same five friends for 20 years. I have some new friends and a lot are in the media but that’s because it’s my job now.
‘‘People think it’s odd that I know David Bowie. It’s not odd. I’ve worked with these people. It would be odd if I only had famous friends. Now that would be suspicious.’’
Gervais’s TV fame has blossomed into movie success. He recently spent three months in New York filming Ghost Town, in which he plays dentist Bertram Pincus, and liked the city so much he and Jane have been hunting for a place in Manhattan.
Next up he is turning an idea he had for a TV sitcom — Man At the Pru, about young men living in a seaside town in the 1970s — into a film with Extras and The Office comedy partner and co-star Stephen Merchant.
Ricky Gervais insists his values haven’t changed, despite all the money and celebrity.