Steve Coogan's Alan Partridge character had a film premiere release in Norwich. The film, Alpha Papa, was to be shown in Anglia Square at lunch time and then Leicester square in London that same evening, with Steve hopping on a helicopter to make a live appearance at both.
I was commissioned to make a realistic looking Alan Partridge, based on the film release, from a gorilla shaped statue. This was to be completed in time for a red carpet appearance at the premiere alongside Break Charity and Abbot fox estate agents. I had 4 days!
The timescale was very tight. In fact, to turn the gorilla into a man made it almost impossible. The first task was to totally remodel the gorilla skull shapes into something that resembled Alan Partridge's shape and individuality. This required over 2 kilos of filler and molding pastes which was applied into the early hours of the morning on day one. This would take 3 days to harden and there was a worry about it being ready in time. All that could be done was get on with the body and hope!
Making a surface look like jeans was a real challenge. Brush painting, sponges, airbrushes, profanities ... were all used before it finally looked acceptable. Multiple monitor screens displayed film resource images of Alan and his clothes were carefully modelled. Phil was particularly pleased with the trainers for some reason! They just looked right. Working long into the night the layers built up till his attire started to look suitably "cool". Blocking in colours over and over before final touches and spraying folds in cloth was a very time consuming process. But came out well.
Phil's daughter Sam helped get Alan the gorilla (Alanrilla) to look ready for his premiere. Using a conte painting and various photos they attempted to model and paint the features onto the sculpture. Flesh tones and lips are extremely difficult to get right on a conventional painting. But to then attempt that on a fibreglass non human shape was a nightmare. Alan's lips made him look like a pantomime dame at times but eventually it all came together.
Alans sponsors, Abbot Fox, were an amazing support in the promotion and preparation that Alanrilla needed to hit the streets. Working alongside Break Charity they had Alanrilla at the film premiere where Alan Partridge signed him and the media took him to heart instantly. It was very strange to see both Alan's side by side and I realised that he was no longer a simple gorilla statue. Not only did he look more like a human on all fours but he was also a superstar. Time to let him go...
Alan on the streets. With Alan. Alanrilla met his alter ego, attended a party with Epic studios then took pride of place in the window of Abbot Fox. All in a days work for a mega star actor wannabe gorilla sculpture. Phil often feels sad when they leave the studio, but this one was even harder. Alan had really taken on a human form and following. He left a space in the studio. The very next day images appeared online of children with Alanrilla in his shop front window, full of smiles and satisfaction. Art does have a purpose.
Alanrilla "Film star" out on the streets
International film star and a well dressed gorilla spent several weeks in the summer before being sold at auction where he raised several thousands of pounds for Break Charity. Being a movie star he currently lives, very fittingly, in the Odeon Riverside cinema, Norwich. Very apt.