Russell’s very own brand of humour
Russell Brand is the latest British export to take America by storm with his own unique brand of offence and banter. He spoke to film critic Tony Earnshaw.
“I’VE been plunged into water for seven hours. I’ve had to hang off a building on a wire, had to mimic having broken bones and been covered in vomit. I’ve been in sexually compromising positions, and I’ve had to take all manner of ‘narcotics’. I’ve performed live rock ’n’ roll. I’ve recorded an album...”
Russell Brand is living the dream. He’s made (or is making) ten movies including new projects with Oliver Stone and Julie Taymor, for whom he will play Trinculo in a film version of The Tempest, headlining Helen Mirren as a female Prospera.
Like Ricky Gervais, Brand has been taken up by the Americans, who seem to enjoy his variation on the hirsute hedonist on display on TV screens and on film – or on the airwaves via the internet.
It’s only two years ago that he played decadent rock idol Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Now he’s back as the star of his own flick, working in partnership with rotund actor/writer Jonah ( Superbad) Hill as the record company exec who has to deliver said rocker to a comeback gig.
Next up is a remake of Arthur with 6ft 1ins Brand in the title role once inhabited by 5ft 2½ins “sex thimble” Dudley Moore. He’s going to partner with Adam Sandler (again) in a new picture after their collaboration on Bedtime Stories. It’s all happening...
Not bad for an Essex boy who was expelled from drama school for drink and drug abuse and who famously resigned from the BBC after an obscene phone stunt with Jonathan Ross that went spectacularly awry.
If, like Gervais, Brand is an acquired taste, then the Americans are falling over themselves to work with him.
Jonah Hill “was dying to work with Russell again” after Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Brand himself realised there was the chance to do a spin-off when writer/director Nick Stoller pulled him to one side and asked whether he might care to do a subsequent film with Jonah Hill based on their good chemistry together.
On board as producer was Judd Apatow, the golden goose behind The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up.
“It’s very flattering that Aldous Snow’s been given life beyond the initial joy of playing him in Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” muses Brand. “I think the reasons that character resonated, at least with Nick and Judd, is that in this celebrityobsessed age, Aldous was an unusual take on celebrity. He’s not just a straightforward obnoxious twerp; although he is an obnoxious twerp, there is sort of a sweetness and vulnerability to his selfdestruction and selfentitlement.”
At 35, Brand has endured more than his share of selfdestruction. He’s a recovering alcoholic and a drug addict, having abused everything from cannabis and LSD to cocaine and heroin. He’s been arrested 11 times.
Now he attends AA and NA meetings as well as acting as a patron for anti-drug charity Focus 12. All of this, one assumes, lends credence to the creation of a character he describes as “a big, sexy lizard-man”.
“I’ve always wanted to play a rock star,” he says. “It’s more exciting than what I do, being a stand-up comedian, so it’s a real step up the ladder for me.
“Rock stars represent antiestablishment, which is always appealing. Also, rock stars are sexy, and we all want to be sexier.
“It was brilliant fun,” he adds. “I really enjoyed the performances enormously. It’s lovely, living out your childhood fantasies to be a rock star.
“All the times I pretended to be a rock star, with a hairbrush and tennis racquet… I got to live out those fantasies in front of thousands of people.
“[From now on] I’d like people to treat me like one! I want a helicopter, lots of ‘ Yes men’, a great deal of respect, a pet chimp, to be ‘sick and fancy’ by the bucket load and have every dream met.
“The truth is that it was quite good fun to imagine being a rock star for a while, but I don’t think I could really do it.”
MOVER AND SHAKER: Russell Brand with co-star Jonah Hill, above, and performing on stage, right, as rock star Aldous Snow in his latest movie GetHimtotheGreek.
OFF THE AIR: Russell Brand announcing his resignation from his Radio 2 show in October 2008 after the infamous phone prank.