He’s a star of stage and screen, has three BAFTAs, two Golden Globes and an Emmy, but there’s one title Stephen Merchant has his eye on and that’s become a national treasure.
With 25 years of showbiz experience, the Bristol-born star believes he’s the “Jack of all professions, masters none”, and that’s probably why he claims he’s never been now “choose my way” when it comes to my career.
Starting out as a popular comic, he moved into writing and directing as well as acting on stage, the small screen, and in Hollywood.
And his hit series, The Office, which he co-created with Ricky Gervais, has earned him international recognition.
It looks like it was part of a bold plan to ensure he goes down in history as one of Britain’s showbiz legends.
“My dream is to become a national treasure because my biggest worry is that I won’t appear in the memoir at the BAFTAs when I die,” he admitted with a twinkle in his eye.
“If I don’t do that, I will be completely gutted from the grave.
“Everything I’m doing is trying and making sure I’m in everyone’s mind about that in the memo.”
So what does the 47-year-old still have on his team list that he feels needs to tick to help him secure that spot?
“I feel like the Jack of all trades, not the master at all,” laughs Stephen.
“I have never chosen a path, so I want to direct a European art film and win an Oscar, but also direct a Marvel movie and a horror film.
“I also want to stand up more so people think, ‘He’s one of the greatest stand ups of all time. And then I started to branch out into the more serious field of acting.
“I did Serial Killer and I wanted to act more dramatic so people were like,
“God, we thought he was just a collective comedian. Oh man, the depth of this. I want to do it all!”
He may not have reached the dizzying heights of national treasure status, but it’s safe to say that thanks to his 6-foot, 7-inch tall stance, he’s unlikely to slip.
As he grew older, Stephen quickly surpassed his schoolmates and admitted that he suffered from anxiety about being the tallest kid in school.
But now he sees it as a superpower and he’s not afraid to use it to his advantage when it comes to telling a few jokes at his own expense on screen.
“I find that people are constantly drawn to my height in a way that, to me, is quite normal and a bit boring,” he said.
“I’m in LA at the moment and you always forget when you see other talented actors around. Oh yes, most of them are very short. Maybe that’s the reason. Actually, not many of us work in the entertainment industry. That’s me, Vince Vaughn and Jeff Goldblum.
“I would say 6 feet 4 is the absolute optimal height. Very manly, tall, you feel responsible, but you can still get your shoes and bed to fit.
“When you get to 6 feet 7, now you’re just a freak and it’s an airplane nightmare. I was in the pub not too long ago and I ordered a drink and someone sitting at the bar came over, it was a tall order and everyone was laughing.
“I get that constantly. I think people see it as an achievement, so they feel as though they can make jokes about it.
“I feel like that’s one of my comedic superpowers, really, really tall, sly and clumsy, so why not try that and exaggerate it for comic effect?”
And he certainly didn’t squander an opportunity in his BBC series, The Outlaws, which he co-wrote with Elgin James and other stars.
Set in Bristol, the series follows Stephen’s alter ego Greg Dillard, a lawyer who is caught compromising with prostitutes in a parking lot and must perform community service along with a set of agents. Chaos characters include Frank, played by Oscar-winning Christopher Walken. .
In the first episode, Greg meets other criminals for the first time, and to ease the tension he says: ‘Hi, I’m Greg, I’m 6 feet 7 inches, and no, I’m not fit – if I am I will be eight meters three! ”
That sense of humor and stellar cast is why the series, which aired last year, became an instant hit helping Beeb launch the biggest comedy of 2021.
And the bosses quickly gave the green light for the second series.
Stephen says that part of its success can also be because people can relate to the characters.
“I’ve been getting a few messages from people saying, ‘I’ve done a piece of community service. It’s amazing how many people have actually done it. I was in a dorm room.’ I was doing a little bit of community service and I was working out with a trainer and he said he did a bit of community service. I suddenly got a little nervous.
“Immediately came to check my wallet, but more people than you think have done it, including celebrities, that’s why we included a celebrity.”
It’s Lady Gabby – played by Poldark actress Eleanor Tomlinson – a fashion queen who has suffered from betrayal and is loosely based on Naomi Campbell.
Stephen explains: “I always think it’s funny that celebrities like Boy George and Paris Hilton have done it, and Naomi Campbell, who was a huge inspiration for Lady Gabby.
“There was a great article she wrote about her time doing community service in New York when she said something like, ‘I talked to a gentleman and he never left. plane and I’m not in the mood to tell him that I was. on three private jets that week’.
“I just think it’s a great idea to have someone who lives in rare air and hasn’t been with a hoypoloi before.”
On their second outing, which begins next month, the outlaws once again find themselves outlawed as they try to launder money for a local gang with hilarious consequences. .
And it looks like the whole gang had an equally enjoyable filming because as he got older, Stephen adopted the same naughty personality of his best friend, Ricky Gervais.
“In The Office, Ricky doesn’t like doing shots over and over again because he feels like it comes naturally, he’ll try and advertise or make new jokes. His great fun on set. is trying to make the other actors laugh and I used to get very frustrated as the person behind the camera because I was aware that the clock was ticking.
“But now I fall into the same trap, where I also get a bit bored doing the same lines. If I can make other people laugh then that is a great joy.
“Now I understand Ricky’s mind and, obviously, when I’m not directing, the other directors are cursing me like I’m cursing him!”
That sense of mischief comes in handy at the end of the series when Stephen destroys an original work by street artist Banksy, leaving viewers in awe.
He tried to talk to the illusion artist that they wanted one of his designs to feature on the show.
And he was overjoyed when they arrived on set one morning and discovered Banksy had jumped the fence in the night to paint a mural of Christopher Walken’s Frank.
The art was then destroyed during the closing scenes, which took the internet by storm.
Stephen laughed: “There was quite a bit of outrage. “People then accused us like, ‘How did the BBC destroy a Banksy?’
“But I have to try and impress people that it only exists to be destroyed.
“There was never a situation where I was going to knock it off the wall and take it to Sotheby’s. That was never an option! ”
But the stunt sparked more speculation, largely due to his height.
He added: “People have asked, ‘Is it Stephen Banksy?’
“If you want to think of me as Banksy, I’ll leave that to your imagination.
“Some of his artwork is on the high walls. I am tall. I can reach high places.
“It’s up to you to speculate!”
The Outlaws return to BBC One next month.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/stephen-merchant-sets-sights-going-27024617 Stephen Merchant makes a mark that will go down in history as a British showbiz legend