Ricky Gervais has revealed that he was in close contact with music icon David Bowie, shortly before his death from liver cancer in January.
"I was emailing him two weeks before, so he must have known," the Golden Globes host told BBC Radio 5 Live on Monday. "He kept it from everyone."
"What dignity," the comedian added of Bowie's desire for privacy. "He was an amazing man. It was something for him and his family. Dignity to the end. And amazing work to the end."
Gary Gershoff / WireImage
The unlikely pair became friends following the success of Gervais' 2001 hit show The Office, when they "sort of became pen pals" says Gervais.
They later hung out in New York and London, with Bowie going on to film a cameo role in Gervais' comedy series Extras in 2005. During the filming Bowie sung a seemingly off-the-cuff song called "Little Fat Man" on a bar-side piano. The lyrics poked sharp fun at Gervais' fame-hungry character Andy Millman, describing him as a "pug-nosed face," who "sold his soul for a shot at fame."
Yet Gervais reveals that the song was anything but spontaneous. "He was a fan of comedy," Gervais added to Five Live, while revealing that despite their correspondence, Bowie's death came as "a total surprise."
"He was amazing in Extras. I sent him the lyrics and I said: 'Do something quite retro like "Life on Mars"' and he went: 'Oh yeah, I'll just knock off a quick "Life on Mars!'"
Gervais spoke to Five Live ahead of the launch of his Netflix Original drama Special Correspondents on Friday. The satirical comedy – which also features Lone Survivor star Eric Bana – focuses on a radio news team that misses a flight to South America where they are supposed to be covering a rebel uprising. Instead of admitting their mistake they set up camp in a New York apartment and cover the events from there, even going so far as to fake their own kidnapping.
In August, Gervais will also be releasing David Brent: Life on The Road, which picks up the life of David Brent, star of the original U.K. version of The Office, some 15 years after the documentary filming has ended. Brent was the basis for Michael Scott in the U.S. version of the comedy series, played by Steve Carell.
“Writing, directing, then starring and then editing a Hollywood movie is a full time job," Gervais told ITV breakfast show Lorraine on Monday. "I did two at the same time, which was ridiculous. I'm never doing it again. I actually thought I'm going to have a breakdown now. I was filming [Special Correspondents] and finishing the script of The David Brent Movie.
"David Brent is so much fun – being an absolute arrogant idiot," he adds. "It's one of my favorite things, that delusional character. Everyone's got a David Brent in their circle of friends and if you don't know who it is, it's you. We all know one."