Ricky Gervais to make David Brent movie

BBC-backed film Life on the Road will follow what happened to the aspiring musician after the events depicted in The Office

Ricky Gervais is to bring David Brent back to life on the big screen, more than a decade after The Office ended on BBC2.

Brent, the actor and comedian’s most famous creation, will appear in Life on the Road, a film about the paper merchant turned travelling salesman’s last-ditch attempt to be a rock star.

The film, shot in the now familiar mockumentary style of The Office, is backed by the BBC and will go into production next year, it was confirmed on Tuesday.

Brent has not been entirely absent from the nation’s consciousness since 7 million viewers watched the climax of The Office in 2003. Gervais revisited the character last year for a Comic Relief special, and Brent featured in a series of spoof guitar tutorials on YouTube.

Gervais also took Brent on the road for a series of sold-out gigs with the character’s band, Foregone Conclusion.

Since The Office ended, none of Gervais’s subsequent projects, including BBC2’s Extras, have enjoyed the same blanket acclaim. His most recent TV series was Derek, which aired on Channel 4 and followed the life of a kind-hearted care home worker.

The forthcoming film will focus on Brent’s life as he goes on tour 15 years after being made redundant from the Slough paper merchant Wernham Hogg.

“He thinks it’ll be like Scorsese doing the Rolling Stones, but we’ll show the full horror. He’s had to take two weeks off work and cash in his pension, because the session musicians in the band are costing him more than he’s getting in ticket sales,” said Gervais.

Life on the Road is in development with BBC Films, which was one of the producers behind Steve Coogan’s Alpha Papa.

Film adaptations of TV sitcoms were traditionally seen as problematic, but the runaway success of the Inbetweeners movie three years ago altered expectations dramatically.

The adaptation of the E4 sitcom about four teenage boys broke box office records, making more than £13m in its opening weekend in the UK alone. A sequel opens in UK cinemas this week.

The Office made Gervais a star and was shown in more than 100 countries and remade in countries including the US, where it was recreated with Steve Carell in the lead role. Gervais went on to star in films including Night at the Museum, The Invention of Lying and Cemetery Junction, which he wrote with The Office co-creator, Stephen Merchant.

The sitcom also boosted the careers of stars including Martin Freeman, now familiar to BBC1 viewers as John Watson in Sherlock and as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s big screen adaptations of The Hobbit, and Mackenzie Crook who played the rival salesmen Tim and Gareth.

The Office was largely unheralded when it first appeared in 2001 when only one show did worse on the BBC’s audience appreciation index, a measure of how much viewers said they enjoyed the show – a ladies bowls tournament that was cancelled because of rain.

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John Plunkett

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