A Cock and Bull Story

A Cock and Bull Story (marketed in Australia, New Zealand and the United States as Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story) is a 2005 British comedy film directed by Michael Winterbottom. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne's 18th-century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Gillian Anderson and Keeley Hawes also play themselves in addition to their Tristram Shandy roles. Since the book is about a man attempting but failing to write his autobiography, the film takes the form of being about failing to make the film.

A Cock and Bull Story
Film poster
Directed byMichael Winterbottom
Produced byAndrew Eaton
Screenplay byFrank Cottrell Boyce
Based onThe Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
by Laurence Sterne
StarringSteve Coogan
Rob Brydon
Keeley Hawes
Shirley Henderson
Dylan Moran
Jeremy Northam
Naomie Harris
Kelly Macdonald
James Fleet
Ian Hart
Gillian Anderson
Music byMichael Nyman
Nino Rota
CinematographyMarcel Zyskind
Edited byPeter Christelis
BBC Films
Baby Cow Productions
EM Media
East Midlands Media Initiative
Revolution Films
Scion Films
Distributed byRedbus Film Distribution
Release date
  • 17 July 2005 (2005-07-17) (Cambridge Film Festival)
  • 20 January 2006 (2006-01-20) (United Kingdom)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


The film depicts Steve Coogan playing himself as an arrogant actor with low self-esteem and a complicated love life. Coogan is playing the eponymous role in an adaptation of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman being filmed at a stately home. He constantly spars with actor Rob Brydon, who is playing Uncle Toby and believes his role to be of equal importance to Coogan's, calling himself the "co-lead".

The film incorporates several sequences from Tristram Shandy. Not all of these are part of the film-within-the-film. The latter are limited to the story of Tristram's conception, birth and christening; Uncle Toby's experiences at the Battle of Namur and Tristram's sudden and accidental circumcision at the age of three. Uncle Toby's wooing of Widow Wadman (Gillian Anderson) takes place in a sequence dreamed by Steve Coogan and after the cast and crew have viewed the "completed" film ending, with Walter Shandy fainting at the sight of his wife giving birth, the question "How does the book end?" is followed by the concluding scene of the novel, in which Yorick says "It is a story about a Cock and a Bull – and the best of its kind that ever I heard!" Yorick is not in the film-within-the-film; in this scene he is played by Stephen Fry, who appears elsewhere in the film as Patrick, a caricatured version of the actual curator at Shandy Hall. The DVD extras include a scene of Fry talking with the curator he portrays.



The film's soundtrack is notable for featuring numerous excerpts from Nino Rota's score for the Federico Fellini film , itself a self-reflexive work about the making of a film. Other non-diegetic musical references are made to Amarcord, The Draughtsman's Contract, Smiles of a Summer Night, Fanny and Alexander and Barry Lyndon. Michael Nyman, composer of The Draughtsman's Contract provides a new arrangement of the Handel Sarabande featured in the latter film, while the tracks of The Draughtsman's Contract (the original soundtrack recordings, the score has been re-recorded numerous times) serve as a temp track to film of the Sterne material.


The film was recorded at a number of locations in England:[1]


The film has received very positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 90% of critics have given the film a positive review, based on 127 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon add madcap, knowing performances to the mix, and the result is a fun, postmodern romp."[2] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 80 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[3]

Home release

A Cock and Bull Story was released on both Region 1 and Region 2 DVD in July 2006.

The Trip

The fictionalised versions of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon seen in the film reappear as the central characters in Michael Winterbottom's 2010 BBC series The Trip.[4]


  1. Filming locations for A Cock and Bull Story. IMDb. Retrieved 14 December 2013.
  2. "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Archived from the original on 6 May 2009. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  3. "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  4. "Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan: 'We're not the big buddies people think we are'". The Guardian. 26 October 2010. Archived from the original on 1 December 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
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