Paul Raymond was the man who porned the future as we know it. The man known as The King Of Soho has been brought to the big screen by Steve Coogan. Steve Pratt reports

STEVE COOGAN and the press have had a love-hate, mostly hate, relationship in recent years. The comedian who brought Alan Partridge to life has found his talent for making people laugh overshadowed by a string of salacious stories about him in the tabloid press.

Last year, he volunteered to give evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. He complained about the media intrusion into his personal life, and claimed he’d been misrepresented by various racy stories about him.

Now he’s back on the big screen playing porn baron and strip club owner Paul Raymond in The Look Of Love, a film charting Raymond’s rise to success as The King of Soho. The movie also follows his relationships with his wife Jean (played by Anna Friel), his porn star mistress Fiona Richmond (Tamsin Eggerton) and his beloved daughter, Debbie (Imogen Poots).

Raymond lived his life in a hedonistic whirl of sex, drugs, parties and naked women. But he lost his wife and girlfriend as they tired of his endless philandering, and his drug-addict daughter died of a heroin overdose.

“It’s a bit grubby,” admits Coogan. “It became exhausting playing him. He seemed to live the life of a vampire. He hardly ever ventured out into the day, and at the end of it I just wanted to see some daylight.”

So was the media’s fascination with the porn king’s private life something he identified with in Raymond? “You can draw parallels with some of the effects that Leveson looked at. In so far as Paul Raymond gave the public what they wanted, which was this sexual thing, and was often judged by the media for being sexually excessive.

And yet at the same time, they revelled in his notoriety,” he says.

“At their worst, some newspapers are hypocritical because they’re both sanctimonious and judgmental, but at the same time revel in the sordid details of their stories.

“But that’s not really why I did the film, I did the film because it’s an interesting story.”

It was Coogan’s idea to make a film about Raymond.

He approached director Michael Winterbottom, with whom he’s worked several times – notably on 24 Hour Party people, A Cock And Bull Story and TV’s The Trip.

“It’s a very un-celebrated story, because it’s largely about sex – something that ironically makes a lot of British people clench their buttocks,”

Coogan explains. “The discomfort of the subject matter is the thing that paradoxically attracted me to it.”

The world of striptease and the playboy lifestyle appears exciting to begin with, but the troubled life of Raymond’s daughter and the touching relationship she has with her father, adds a sadder dimension. “We wanted to avoid it just being titillation. Literally and metaphorically, titillation,” says Coogan.

“Because there’s a lot of titillation in it. But then, in actual fact, what rapidly became our concern was that it was too dark and too sad. So we had to try and put a bit more joy into it. We wanted to show there’s an element of fun to it, but inevitably there’s a sort of Faustian pact that he makes with the devil by just purely pursuing this unhindered hedonism.”

THERE’S never a hint that Raymond took advantage of or was derogatory to women, despite his profession. He was a businessman and he could only measure success in terms of material wealth “and, like many people, he didn’t recognise that you don’t achieve happiness in the same way,” he says.

“If people are expecting a Carry On film, they’ll be disappointed. It’s funny, but it has a sort of bleakness to it.”

Coogan has another film on the way too – the long-awaited Alan Partridge movie Alpha Papa, which will finally be unveiled to fans this summer.

He’s admitted in the past that he sometimes resents Partridge’s popularity because the character became impossible to escape. So how does he feel about bringing him to the big screen?

“As long as I’m doing other interesting things, then I don’t mind talking about him, or doing him in fact. Really, I’ve only ever done Alan when I wanted to do him,” he says.

“We didn’t need to do it, that’s the important thing. It wasn’t as if I was kicking around and thought, ‘well I’d better bring back Alan’. We did it because we wanted to and we thought it was funny. It made me laugh, and hopefully it will make other people laugh.”

  • The Look Of Love (18) is now showing in cinemas