24 Aug 2016

'There's a little bit of Brent in all of us'

From Afternoons with Jesse Mulligan, 1:10 pm on 24 August 2016

Fans of The Office will know just how much sales rep David Brent pined to be a rock star. Now Ricky Gervais' unforgettable character is trying to make that happen.

In the new mockumentary film, David Brent, Life on the Road, a film crew follows Brent on a tour of the UK with his band, Foregone Conclusion.

David Brent: Life on the Road

David Brent: Life on the Road Photo: Rich Hardcastle

The film is set 15 years after the events of The Office. Inevitably things have not gone as Brent imagined and he's forced to use his pension to pay his band as ticket sales are too paltry to cover wages.

The world has moved on and Brent is grappling with some uncomfortable new realities, Gervais says.  

"The important thing about bringing him back was the world had changed. That's the exciting thing about this film, because you suddenly see an old friend coping in the new world."

Gervais says although Brent was famously floundering, incompetent and deluded as general manager of Wernham Hogg 15 years ago, in many respects he was at the top of his game back then.

"Back in The Office days he was the boss, he was 39, followed by this docusoap; he was at the peak of his powers and he basically worked with nice people.

"But now he's not the boss, he's not really liked because he's a bit of an old relic and he's out of time; he's struggling, he's fighting for acceptance. There's a little bit of Brent in all of us."

When we last saw Brent things were looking up; he had a blind date with Carol at the Wernham Hogg Christmas party and, unusually for Brent, it went well.

But there's no Carol to be seen in David Brent, Life on the Road – Gervais tells Jesse Mulligan why.

"You have to have David Brent in the market so he can embarrass himself. Also when you think about it, that was one blind date. How many single blind dates end up with a 15-year marriage?

"People say, what happened to Carol? And I say 'a second date happened to Carol.'"

The faux documentary as a comedy device is a cliche now, but it was a fresh idea when The Office introduced us to Brent, Gareth, Dawn and Tim, et al.

Gervais acknowledges films such as the early-'80s cult classic Spinal Tap as a big influence on the way The Office was presented.  

"You can't really say The Office started anything because I can tell you who gave me that idea, everything has got its root in something else. Nothing happens like a big bang. Everything has a seed or idea in something else. We are all products of our input."