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Learn how The Dinner got out of hand when Richard Gere punched Steve Coogan

THE Dinner is a challenging meal of a movie to swallow. As actress Laura Linney put it at Berlin’s film festival earlier this year: ‘You have four people sitting round a table. Can you make that sustainable and dramatic for over two hours?’

Still, you’re in with a good shot when that foursome comprises Steve Coogan, Richard Gere, Rebecca Hall and Linney.

Based on Herman Koch’s 2009 book, The Dinner sees two brothers and their wives meet in a fancy restaurant to discuss (or largely fail to discuss) a terrible thing their teenage sons have done.

With no laughs involving his character, a bitter, possibly mentally damaged American history teacher, this was a step outside the comfort zone for Coogan.

‘I certainly wouldn’t make casting lists in the UK for anything like this,’ admits the comedian, who was nominated for two Oscars for 2013 comedy/drama Philomena.

‘But it’s been an advantage that Alan Partridge never caught on the way that The Office did in America, so it doesn’t define me. They just see me as this interesting actor who appears in indie films.’

Gere was pals with Linney, the pair having made Primal Fear (1996) and The Mothman Prophecies (2002) together. ‘We like to check in every ten years to see how our lives have gone wonky,’ Linney jokes.

But The Dinner was a gamble all round. ‘The beginning for me to be able to work is trust, otherwise my creative process shuts down,’ explains Gere. ‘Steve and I were new friends and you need to know if you’re going to back each other up.’

That trust was tested when Gere accidentally gave Coogan a black eye in an on-screen fight. ‘I didn’t move quick enough and he caught me with a right hook,’ Coogan recalls.

‘As I was sitting, stunned, holding a bag of peas against my face, Richard came up and whispered: “That’s for taking the p*** out of me in The Trip” and walked off. I was a bit worried but after that he was great.’

The Dinner is out on December 8