Steve Pemberton famously based his League of Gentlemen comedy on local life. And talking to ALEX KASRIEL, he proves to be a staunch defender of the community.

After years of dealing with starry celebrities, could this finally be the interview sent from God?

1. It's with Steve Pemberton, creator and actor in cult BBC2 comedy series, The League of Gentlemen

2. He's bringing out the film of the series next month

3. He lives in East Finchley

4. He chose to preview the film next week at East Finchley's Phoenix Cinema because it's a local cinema for local people, no joke'.

5. He knows the Hendon & Finchley Times really well'.

The creator of the catch phrase, It's a local shop for local people,' was hardly going to snub his own local paper after he announced the launch of the film, The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse. And more than that, he is really keen to promote the cinema.

"I told United Pictures, I really want to keep this screening local," he says.

"It's a local cinema for local people. It sounds like I'm making a joke, but it's true. As well, they need the money. They're not a big multiplex who can charge £3.50 for a box of popcorn. That's why I really pushed it. They need the money.

"I'm really delighted to be supporting the Phoenix. The following week I'm having my son's party there. They are screening Shrek 2 for him and his classmates."

The League of Gentlemen is a grotesquely strange and funny in a surreal way comedy set in a town called Royston Vasey (actually filmed in a place called Hadfield).

In it, the slightly crazed and disturbed characters are played by Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, after they created them at Leeds University's Bretton Hall, where they were studying drama.

Originally from Lancashire, Pemberton has lived in East Finchley for eight years. He and Shearsmith both moved here because, he says, they had to find somewhere quickly after their landlord, a doctor, wondered why he wasn't living in their home himself. But Pemberton is pleased he discovered it.

"It's kind of a well kept secret," he says of the delights of East Finchley. "It's especially nice now I have a family. There's much more space."

Pemberton could excite Finchley fans with details of the area which has helped to inspire the League of Gentlemen. He tells of a joke he heard in The Bald Faced Stag pub which appears in the series.

He adds: "In the All Aboard Charity shop I remember overhearing one woman say to the other, Oh, we don't do Thursdays said in a high raspy voice,' and bitching about the other workers. You keep your eyes and your ears open all the time.

"In the film, there is a scene where, in the background, there's photos of us outside the Local Caf and looking at film times outside the Phoenix Cinema. That's a nice local connection."

In the film all the people of Royston Vasey realise that they are just fictional characters and end up meeting their makers.

It's very self referential, and the audience gets to meet the real life Mark, Steve and Reece for the first time.

Pemberton explains how he and Shearsmith were in their local supermarket when they got the idea for the plot of the film.

"Reece says, Wouldn't it be funny if we saw Pauline the unemployment officer in Budgens spying on me?' We kept talking about it and laughing about characters coming after us. We told Mark and Jeremy and they really loved it."

For the first time, the audience will get a sense of who the real League of Gentlemen are.

We see them writing scripts in their snazzy Soho office, and we get a glimpse into Pemberton's private life.

"No one has an expectation of what Steve Pemberton is like," Pemberton says. "I'm not in the newspapers or magazines. We're not interesting. I play myself in the film quite a bit, but really that is dramatically how it worked.

"We decided to make my character the way it was for dramatic reasons. The Steve Pemberton character gets kidnapped by the Royston Vasey characters while Herr Lipp takes over Steve's life.

"I showed it to my girlfriend Alison and said, Tell me if you're embarrassed, or if you think people will think you're weird'. She was fine about it.

"It's not close to us. We made some hints that that character is similar to me, but mainly we wanted to make Steve Pemberton the opposite of Herr Lipp. He is basically an old gay man. It's hard to write a character that has got two small children which he has. So we got four. I did want six, but as in everything, the budget gets slashed. Toys strewn everywhere is familiar to me. But we have no idea what Herr Lipp is walking into."

Pemberton admits that there is a danger that it could get too self indulgent, but that is avoided by making the creators peripheral. We are rooting for the Vasey crew.

The League of Gentlemen may be well known to their devoted fans, but they do not court publicity. This film has required them to pander to the media more than they are used to, but Pemberton's good nature does not let this irritate.

"We're just so passionate about the film it doesn't feel like you're pedalling something," he says.

Doing these characters for ten years is bound to engender a real fondness, but he still would not let his children, Lucas, five, and Madeleine, two, see the show.

"I don't know when I would allow them to watch it," he says. "Some people come to see our live shows and bring their children who are seven or eight.

"My kids do see me on the telly occasionally. It's no big deal in this day and age when everyone can be on TV.

"Madeleine saw me in a musical drama where I sang a reworking of Don't Stop Me Now, by Queen. She goes round the house singing, I'm a sex machine, ready to reload,' but it's funny."

Pemberton says he was not particularly the jester at school who tried to deflect bullies by making them laugh, but he watched a lot of Hammer horror movies and spooky TV shows. He also liked to dress up as a mummy or a werewolf and make his grandparents laugh.

Now 37, he has been friends with the other members of the League for 20 years.

Who knows what (East Finchley) will inspire them to produce together over the next 20.

Steve Pemberton will introduce a special preview screening of The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse at the Phoenix Cinema, High Road, East Finchley, on Sunday, May 22, at 6.45pm.

This will be followed by a Q&A session with the rest of the League. Tickets for this special event are priced at £20 and can be bought from the (local) box office on 020 8444 6789.

All proceeds go to the cinema's seat campaign.