Ricky Gervais Looks Back on His Friendship With David Bowie: ‘He Put My Life in Color’
For fans of squirm-inducing comedy, Ricky Gervais' HBO series Extras was a goldmine of delights offering viewers the chance to see celebrities playing versions of themselves that were often hilariously cruel — like David Bowie, whose appearance was but one memorable part of a friendship Gervais gave thanks for in a tribute published by the Hollywood Reporter.
Gervais spoke with THR during a whirlwind night that found him leaving the stage after hosting the Golden Globes and finding himself shocked with the news of Bowie's death, but he still managed to gather enough composure to offer a tenderly eloquent look back at what he described as a "bizarre and surreal" association he felt privileged to have.
"I never forgot he was my hero, even when he became my friend," said Gervais. "I somehow divorced the two concepts in my head. When I talked to people, I talked about this rock star who changed my whole outlook. He put my life in color. He made me believe: You can do anything; you're a working-class kid in Reading; creativity is freedom. Ability is a poor man's wealth. I loved everything he did. He never let me down, even at the end. I've never seen a more dignified ending."
Gervais admitted he knew nothing of Bowie's illness, and he initially hoped it was a hoax when he first saw word of his passing. "I was looking at an email he sent me a few weeks ago. It was as funny and fresh and smart as any in the last 10 years I knew him. That's integrity. That's f—ing privacy," said Gervais. "All this about being one of the most worshipped artists in the world — he never fell for it. I remember the first time I went to see him, I didn't know what to say. 'You're here for Mr. Jones?' I smiled — of course I was. Right then, David Bowie didn't exist. His apartment was as amazing as you'd imagine. There was a 3D Picasso-esque sculpture in the middle — beautiful. He said, 'My daughter likes to hit that with a hammer.'"
Gervais shares more memories in the article, including the phone call he placed asking Bowie to appear on Extras. You can watch their caustically brilliant skit in the video at the top of this post.
David Bowie Year by Year: 1965-2016 Photographs