Steve Coogan is set to star in an adaptation of the bestselling memoir The Penguin Lessons for production company 42. Oscar-nominee Peter Cattaneo will direct.
Released in 2016, The Penguin Lessons is author Tom Michell‘s memoir of his time teaching English at an Argentinian boys’ school in the late ’70s, as the country recovered from the fall of Juan Perón‘s regime. During this time, Michell took in a Magellanic penguin who had been injured in an oil spill; naming it Juan Salvador, the seabird became Michell’s constant companion. The book follows Michell and Juan Salvador as they bond with Michell’s seemingly-unteachable students, and learn important life lessons from each other. “With its visceral setting of the political strife of late 70s Argentina and a man’s unexpected bond with a penguin at its heart, I’m so excited to bring this original, charming, life-affirming and meaningful true story to the screen,” says director Cattaneo.
Coogan is a mainstay in the British comedy scene, famous for playing hapless media personality Alan Partridge in a number of productions, and for The Trip series of comedies, in which he and Rob Brydon play fictionalized versions of themselves on scenic restaurant tours. He received great acclaim for 2013’s Philomena, which he co-wrote, produced, and starred in, netting him Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Last year he wrote, produced, and starred in Stephen Frears‘ The Lost King with Sally Hawkins, about the modern-day search for the body of Richard III. He can next be seen in The Reckoning, an upcoming BBC drama about Jimmy Savile, a prolific British TV presenter whose public persona covered up a litany of depraved sex crimes; Coogan will play Savile.
Director Cattaneo made his feature debut in 1997 with the sleeper hit comedy The Full Monty, which grossed over $250 million on a $3.5 million budget, and earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. His subsequent films include 2008’s The Rocker with Rainn Wilson and Christina Applegate, and 2019’s Military Wives starring Kristin Scott Thomas.
42 partners Rory Aitken and Ben Pugh will produce The Penguin Lessons with Robert Walak. The script is by Jeff Pope, who will also executive produce alongside 42 partner Josh Varney, Josh Horsfield, and author Michell. The Penguin Lessons will be shopped at the upcoming European Film Market. Stay tuned to Collider for future updates.