Martin Freeman, Lucy Davis and McKenzie Crook have all parlayed the success of The Office, both here and, on more of a cult level, in America, into burgeoning big screen careers with such films as Shaun of the Dead, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Garfield 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean.
But writer-director co-star Ricky Gervais – the man likely to be forever known among British viewers as the pompously inept David Brent – has been in considerably less of a hurry to get into bed with the movie industry.
Once manager of Suede and part of failed 80s pop outfit Seona Dancing, the Reading born 45-year-old actually made his film debut in 2001, the same year The Office was first broadcast, as a bouncer in forgettable Britcom Dog Eat Dog.
As far as the publicity machine was concerned, it was providing the voice of Bugsy in the underwhelming British animation Valiant that marked his move into the multiplexes.
However, had he had the inclination he could now have a film CV the length of his arm.
Although the homegrown version of The Office was only screened in the States on BBC America, Gervais reckons that half of its small (around a million) audience all worked in Hollywood. The offers deluge began.
"After the first episode went out, I was offered a leading role in a film." he says incredulously.
"I said ‘look, you want John Cusack for that’. What happens to a lot of British stars is that you get flattered very early on. Okay, it’s a film, but so what? It’s rubbish. It’s on the side of buses for a week and then straight to DVD. It’s better to do good TV than a bad film.
"I’ve probably been offered about 80 films. Half of them I’ve immediately said no to, they’re British. The half that are left are rubbish, and for half of them it’s arbitrary that it’s me in the part."
Among things he’s turned down have been small roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and Oceans Twelve, but as he
says, "What's the point? You can see they just want some roly poly comedian of the moment. It could have been offered to ten other people, and if it could I’d rather they had it. You want to feel you’re special. Not in an ego sense, but you want to eke out a niche; what’s the point me doing it if it could be done by anyone? Who do it just for the sake of it?"
Essentially, Gervais wants audiences to appreciate what he does, because he’s the one doing it and they get the joke on their own rather than being force fed. "There’s nothing wrong with something you do becoming successful," he explains. "The Office was much bigger than we ever dreamed, but we didn’t aim at that. That’s when you fall into the problem of second guessing. I actually want some people not to like what I do. There’s got to be a door policy at the club or why bother?
"You make what you do for like-minded people, for yourself, and if you don’t compromise and you don’t aim at the biggest demograph you can and don’t try to be the biggest thing that year, then something like The Office happens."
However, the past year has seen Gervais say "yes" to movies on three occasions for what are essentially cameos ("I’ve missed out the 20 years working my way up," he jokes) in films that have given him the chance to work with actors he holds in high esteem.
Next year he’ll be seen alongside comedy hero Christopher Guest and his regular ensemble in For Your Consideration and actor hero Robert De Niro in Matthew Vaughn’s fantasy drama Stardust. Before that, though, comes Night At The Museum, a CGI laden family adventure comedy from director Shawn Levy, in which Gervais plays the uptight curator of a museum where history quite literally comes alive.
He only has a couple of scenes, but they’re all opposite another of his comedy heroes, Ben Stiller. Fans of Gervais’s movies sitcom Extras, in which he plays out-of-work actor Andy Millman, will remember Stiller’s guest appearance in the first programme.
"In February last year," recalls Gervais, "I got an email saying ‘I’ve got a part for you, do you want to return the favour? No pressure.’ But I wouldn’t have taken it if it wasn’t right, so when I read the script I was relieved to find that it was good, because then I didn’t have to make an excuse."
So, after turning down so many other parts, what was it about Dr McPhee that prompted Gervais to accept this one?
"I think there’s an air of tragedy about him which I liked because that gives you some scope. From what was in the script and from talking to Ben and Shawn, McPhee emerged as the product of what he’s achieved.
"He’s at the top but he’s not naturally gifted and he’s had to stretch himself to get there. And he’s got a blind spot, which is one of my favourite comic things.
"He’s not as bright as he thinks he is but, deep down, if I met him I’d say ‘do you want to come down the pub?’ And I know he’d be shocked because no-one’s ever asked him before."
The scenes, largely improvised, between Gervais and Stiller provide some of the film’s better, funnier moments with their balance between the putz and the everyman.
"Like with Brent, it’s a joy to play stupid and fumbling. That’s what’s great about McPhee. The last thing he wants is to be funny, which is hilarious because he wants to be taken seriously.
"I remember at school this teacher going crazy because someone had drawn on their exercise book and he was saying 'shall I get a piece of paper so you can draw some genitals. Look, a penis with wings, dickie bird, is that funny?'
"And we’re thinking ‘yes it’s funny, because you don’t think it is.’"
On his own admission, Gervais says Night At The Museum isn’t the sort of film he’d thought he’d do first, but he’s happy that he did.
"It was sort of sticking my toe in the water, and you’re always at the mercy of things going wrong. I was only there for three days which was great because there was no huge responsibility. But when I saw the rushes, I wished I’d been it more. It really gave me the taste."