Ricky Gervais has a cold. He just flew home to England after a stint in the U.S., and he’s jetlagged. Nevertheless, he worked a full day, putting the final mix on his upcoming movie David Brent: Life on the Road, which is due at the end of the week. “It couldn’t be a worse time, because my ears from the flight are bad, and all I had to do today was listen to the minutiae of the movie,” he says in the sort of remarkably dry tone that, unique to Gervais, always sounds a bit like a routine, even when he’s serious. “I’ve got three more days to go back and find out what I didn’t hear right.”
Nevertheless, he’s in good spirits. “I’m in my study with my feet up,” he says. “I’ve just had a bath, and I’ve just poured myself a first beer. But remember, it’s 6 p.m. here, just so you don’t think … ” As his sentence trails off, Gervais breaks into one of his trademark cackles. “I think if I walked around every day and people said, ‘Do you want a beer?’ I’d say, ‘Yes,'” he says, chuckling. “Luckily, that’s only on Christmas.” When Rolling Stone says that drinking all day long would be the life of a rock star, he laughs again. “Oh dear, yeah, I’m so rock & roll,” he says. “If you could see me now in my slippers and my pajamas on this really soft sofa and my lovely parquet floors. I do have three guitars in my study, though, so that’s pretty rock & roll, isn’t it?”
Regardless of would-be rock cred, Gervais lives by his own code. Fifteen years after The Office made him a star – at age 40 – the comedian, now 54, has continued to mastermind his own TV series and movies, a comic auteur who insists on and gets final approval on his works. These include Extras, about desperate actors, An Idiot Abroad, a travel show where he sends his frowny friend Karl Pilkington around the world, Life’s Too Short, which focuses on little-person actor Warwick Davis, and Derek, about a nursing-home resident who enjoys life’s simplicities. All have found loyal followings.
His latest release is the Netflix-exclusive movie Special Correspondents. Based on a like-titled French film, it stars Eric Bana and Gervais as a radio journalist and down-on-his-luck technician who fake their reporting on a war in Ecuador – and the mayhem it creates. He also has another film in the works, David Brent: Life on the Road, which will show what has happened to The Office‘s clueless boss in the last 15 years. Both movies, he says, he proudly made on his own terms.
“People think it’s arrogant when I say, ‘If you get final edit and it turned out exactly as you want, you’re bulletproof,'” he tells Rolling Stone, during a lengthy, in-depth and hilarious interview. “Some people take that as meaning, ‘Oh, arrogant. He doesn’t take criticism.’ No. It means that I enjoy the creative process. I’ve always enjoyed doing it my way, because not getting your way is worse than anything. Luckily I’ve always sort of gotten my own way.”