In 2002 Michael Winterbottom's film about Factory Records, 24 Hour Party People came out. Ahead of its release I travelled to Manchester to talk to Tony Wilson about his own part in the story. Wilson, sadly, died five years later. - Teddy Jamieson

If nothing else, the poster campaign for Michael Winterbottom's new film 24 Hour Party People is to the point. You may have noticed. There are three different posters in all, three faces, Ian Curtis, Shaun Ryder and Tony Wilson, or in this case the actors who play their parts in the movie. Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division who hanged himself as the group were on the verge of conquering the mainstream, is labelled ''Genius''. Ryder, the ecstasy-fuelled frontman of the Happy Mondays, the sniffing, snorting embodiment of Manchester's ''mad for it'' culture of the early nineties, gets called ''Poet''. And Wilson? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? What else could the punk proselytiser, broadcaster, professional Mancunian and mouthpiece for what was arguably the most important British record label of the last 25 years be called but ''Twat''.

Strictly speaking, it's Steve Coogan's picture that carries the legend, but Coogan is playing Wilson and Wilson has been getting called that and worse for years. He has been suffering it since he came back to the city of his birth from Cambridge University to work as a broadcaster.

Wilson likes to tell the Emmylou Harris story. Sometime in the seventies the country singer visited Manchester and made an appearance on Granada Reports. Wilson, a tyro journalist on the programme, interviewed her and asked if she would sing a Gram Parsons song. This was a year or two after Parsons, Harris's former boyfriend, had died. She demurred but later that night while on stage in the city she told the audience that a ''young man'' had earlier asked her to sing a Parsons song and now she was going to do it. ''That young man,'' she told the audience, ''is Tony Wilson.'' And at the mention of his name, the audience, all 2,000 of them, as one, shouted ''Wanker.''

Some 30 years on, Wilson should be used to the name-calling. ''The public image is 'wanker', isn't it?'' he says when asked. ''The idea is we'll all treat him as a tosser, though we all know he isn't a tosser ... quite.''

He has yet to be insulted today, well at least as far as I know. But that's not to say he's having the best of afternoons. He's coming to pick me up from a Manchester hotel but he doesn't know where it is. I let him talk to the receptionist and it turns out I'm just around the corner from his Manchester loft. He arrives in a monster of a four-wheel drive and as soon as I climb in, he starts talking. He doesn't stop for the next two hours.

About the second thing he tells me in the car is that he's just had a huge fight with his partner Yvette. ''She's told me to f*** off,'' he reveals. He also tells me he's got a rather large unpaid tax bill looming. That's why we're met at his loft by a local PR. She's going to help him sell it. As he shows her around the impressive living space they're talking price. Seven-figure numbers are mooted. For anyone who has the money and yearns to live in central Manchester it might be worth considering. The loft has been designed by Ben Kelly, the architect who designed the Hacienda. Wilson still owes him a couple of grand for the work. The open-plan room is decorated with a piano, a couple of guitars, a gargantuan table covered in books and magazines. A few posters from Wilson's Factory days adorn the walls.

Finally we sit down at the table. He apologises and says he has to roll a joint. One of those days. He spends the next hour trying to construct it with little success. His mouth is too busy for his hands to keep up with. He sits looking over his designer glasses, Gepetto-like, and spins his answers to my questions into long, discursive yarns of words, cluttered with asides and cul de sacs, name-dropping and imitations. When he quotes someone he adopts their voice and tone. It's quite an impressive trick, though he could do with brushing up on his Scots (even he admits that his Irvine Welsh needs some work).

He says he knew from the beginning that he would probably not come out of the Winterbottom film well. ''It occurred to me very early on that they would have to take the piss out of me, which they do. Otherwise it would be sentimental which doesn't work. I didn't expect it to come out well. I didn't expect anyone to make some hagiography because that's not how it works. In fact it was Yvette who said to me 'They're going to take the piss, aren't they?' I said 'Yeah, they're going to take the piss.'''

That hasn't stopped him taking an active part in the film. He has, like nearly anyone who played a passing part in the Factory story, a cameo role in the film and he has even written the novelisation of the film, which like the script plays up the piss-taking angle. Others haven't felt quite so understanding. Wilson has married twice before and neither former wife is said to be too keen about their appearance in the film. It has also been a bone of contention with his current partner as he explains in a typically fluid, digressive Wilsonian manner.

''There's an awful scene in the movie where I supposedly ... well, where Coogan gets a blow job from these two prostitutes in the back of the van. Completely concocted. Concocted out of some other story that I always tell about Don Tonay the great gangster figure ... well not so much a gangster, an ex-gangster who ran the Russell Club who's played by Peter Kay in the movie as a much less charming and elegant gentleman. I don't think Peter Kay could play charming and elegant as well as that. He's very good in the movie but he ain't charming and elegant. Anyway, Don at the end of the night we'd see him leave. A van would draw up with two beautiful ladies of the night. One would be driving and one would get out. He'd sit in the middle in his cashmere overcoat and drive away between the two prostitutes. I often tell that story about Don. The scriptwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, Scouse Catholic, turns that into a blow job in the back of his van.

''So my poor partner Yvette is offended by that. The film is a nightmare personally. I've got a younger partner. And the worst thing about a relationship with a younger partner is not the age difference, because she's more mature than I am, but it's the baggage the older person brings. Makes life difficult. And this film is about the baggage. So I've had a difficult year and a half. And in fact there was even a f****** row about it this afternoon which is why I've no idea whether she's still talking to me.''

You have to wonder, given the inevitable personal grief, and given the fact that he admits much of the film is made up, why he has been so prepared to nail himself so tightly to its mast. ''I like the film,'' he answers, ''because it's very funny. It makes you laugh.''

Well, now and then. It has to be said 24 Hour Party People is not a good movie. It's lumpy and overly self-conscious. Overly pleased with itself, too. At least the soundtrack is good.

Choosing Wilson as the central character allows the film-makers to forge a narrative that can encompass the post-punk years and the arrival of the acid house era 10 years later. But it also means the musicians who were the true heart of the Factory story play second fiddle to Coogan's comic turn. Some critics have suggested the film adds fuel to the Tony Wilson myth, another example of the man playing up his importance in the story, even overplaying it. ''That's complete f****** crap,'' says Wilson.

''I don't in any sense at all. I repeatedly tell people I didn't create anything. I just don't like saying no. I'll talk to anybody. And then you get a reputation for being a bigmouth.''

Wilson is one of those fascinating marginal characters who pop up on the British music scene from time to time. The Brian Epsteins or Malcolm McLarens who can't make music themselves but still play a pivotal role in pop culture. All his achievements, he says, have been the achievements of his friends. ''I'm the only f***** who talks about them and so I get all the credit, don't I? But I couldn't write the songs. I couldn't design the record sleeves. I couldn't do any of that shit. I'm an enthusiast and I hang out with clever people. My main aim is to hang out with people who are cleverer than I am.''

That hanging out began in the mid-seventies. Wilson was the bloke who read the news on Granada, the broadcaster they would send off to film the ''And finally'' stories. In his spare time he liked his music. On June 4, 1976 his mate Alan Erasmus took him to see the Sex Pistols at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. It's a night that now outdoes the Pistols' appearance at the 100 Club for mythic quality. There were 42 people in the audience. Among them pretty much everyone who would become a someone in British music in the next 10 years - Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks were there, the four members of Warsaw who would soon metamorphose into Joy Division, Steven Patrick Morrissey and even Mick Hucknall.

Suitably inspired Wilson invited the Pistols onto his music programme So It Goes, the only time the band would perform on British television. With Erasmus, Wilson then decided to stage a punk night at the Russell Club. That's where he met Ian Curtis and the other members of Joy Division. Wilson agreed to release a record for the band and Factory records was born.

What did you do at Factory, Tony? ''I was the boss. Not really. There's a great moment in the movie where Coogan says 'I run Factory Records ... I think.' And that kind of sums it up completely. It was a co-operative of boys and I'm enthusiastic, so things happened.''

Things like The Hacienda, the birthplace of acid house and for a while the hippest nightclub in Britain, at the very least. Things like Dry, the country's first designer bar (Factory played as big a part in reshaping the face of Manchester as the IRA). Things like the Happy Mondays, idiot savants, perhaps the one true example of hooligan genius the British music industry can lay claim to.

Wilson has a great affection for the Mondays. Despite the fact they played a major role in Factory's downfall by going on an extended bender in Barbados when they were supposed to be making an album, an album that might have saved Factory's bacon as the recession hit.

Indeed, he still takes a child's pleasure in the Monday's excesses. ''A couple of years ago Channel 4 did a Rock n Roll Babylon and they interviewed us about the Mondays. The programme went out at Christmas and the first act were The Stones. F****** outrageous. And then Aerosmith. And I was thinking 'f****** hell we're going to look pathetic by comparison'. We came on and blew the rest of them away. The first bit was (producer) Tina Weymouth saying 'Well yes, they caused problems from the very first afternoon they arrived. They upset all the maids because they had taken the middle out of all the toilet rolls and used them as crack pipes.''' Tony Wilson is 52, by the way.

The phone rings. It is Yvette. She's still talking to him after all. We go out in the car to pick her up. Wilson first met her at Granada where she was looking to do some work experience. A former Miss UK, she has been Wilson's ''emotional and business partner'' for the last 12 years. ''We are completely different,'' he says. ''Her family are upper middle class and she's also a Tory blah blah. I come from the lower middle classes. Socialist, anarchist, student background blah, blah, blah. But what we have in common apart from attitude is we have exactly the same obsession with art galleries, hotels, films, books, everything that's a question of taste.''

''Tony's a good, moral person,'' Yvette says. ''He tries to be a moral person. He tries to be too much of a moral person sometimes, which drives me bananas. 'Take me for who I am and very few people have the strength to be that way.' And I'm not trying to be nice to him because I don't like him very much at the moment.''

Define your morality, Tony. ''Catholic. Be good. Be honest.''

''There's a lot of guilt in it,'' says Yvette.

''Yeah. Don't make money. Money's bad.''

''The point is that Tony's not interested in the least in money,'' says Yvette. ''Couldn't care less.''

That hasn't stopped his business interests. He and Yvette organise the annual music conference In the City. They have set up a website,, to sell music straight to the masses. The future, he says quoting Bamber Gascoigne, is micropayments. And throughout the rise and fall of Factory records and beyond he never gave up the day job. He still works for Granada even now. ''Richard Branson said in the mid-eighties 'Tony's very good at selling records and he's very good at presenting and he'll never be great at either until he decides what's he f****** doing'. And I accept that,'' he says. Frankly, though, he doesn't seem too bothered.

I leave Tony Wilson, a neophiliac who is now probably destined to spend the rest of his life talking about his past, to kiss and make up. It won't be easy. A couple of days later he tells me on the phone that he's just received a blistering text message from Yvette who has just learned the blow job sequence is in the trailer for 24 Hour Party People. But he insists he has no regrets. About anything. ''Steve Coogan told me 24 Hour Party People was the first time he didn't want the job to end. 'I love being you,' he told me ''I'm not surprised. I f****** love being me.''