Get Him To The Greek - Russell Brand interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
RUSSELL Brand talks about reprising his role as rock star Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall follow-up Get Him To The Greek and what it was like to revisit some of the darker elements of his past.
He also talks about the difficulty of approaching a scene such as a three-some and what it’s like working with Puff Daddy and then Helen Mirren for the forthcoming Arthur remake…
Q. Did you ever imagine that when you played Aldous Snow for the first time in Forgetting Sarah Marshall that he’d be headlining his own movie a few years later?
Russell Brand: No, it was really an astonishing surprise. I thought that was done when I finished Sarah Marshall, but then Nick Stoller [director] phoned up and said: “Do you want to play that character again with Jonah [Hill]?” Obviously, I said: “Yes please, that would be lovely. I liked playing him last time with Jonah…”
Q. Where do you think Aldous rates in the bad boy rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame?
Russell Brand: I think he’s got to be up there. He’s fictional. The people who have done it in reality are constrained by physical rules, whereas Aldous Snow is not. Aldous Snow is in a fictional world. If he wants to he can go into Narnia, he can live underwater, he can fire emeralds out of his sex organs, and he can literally sweat blood. Keith Moon, for example, there’s only so far he could go before death claimed him! But Aldous Snow has none of those barriers.
Q. So, how liberating is it to play a role like that? And how much input do you have?
Russell Brand: I had quite a lot of input because Nick Stoller, the writer-director of the film, interviewed me thoroughly about some of the areas where I had ‘expertise’ and where he had little experience… eg smuggling! My input was necessary there. In fact ‘putting in’ and ‘input’ are one of the vital components of any successful smuggler.
Q. Some of Aldous’ exploits could be said to mirror the bad boy elements of your past…
Russell Brand: Some of them do… yes they do, indeed. That’s quite, quite true, because I suppose there’s going to be a certain corollary of any person who is an entertainer for a living and who has addiction issues is going to throw up certain things: travel problems, narcissism… those kinds of things.
Q. But what was it like for you to have to visit those darker elements of your past by way of a comedic performance for Get Him To The Greek?
Russell Brand: Sometimes it was a bit sad pretending to be really desperate for heroin, or pretending to be really sad and lonely, to dig up them old graves…but you know, it was necessary for the film so I suppose that’s what acting is. You have to do some pretending sometimes.
Q. Do you like the dramatic element of things… are those the days when shooting that you look forward to most or least?
Russell Brand: I don’t look forward to them but, in retrospect, I understand the necessity of them. One of the things that people comment on is that the film does have heart and is a beautiful story that’s emotionally real and engaging. It’s a genuine story and it takes you on a journey as well as being really, really funny. So, I’m glad that we did those things even though some of them were hard to film.
And remember, I got caught on fire, I got pushed into a fountain in Trafalgar Square, I had to go on about being a drug addict, so there was a lot of emotional and physical pain but I’m very, very proud of the results and pleased that we did it.
Q. Did you almost chip a tooth as well on The Today Show segment?
Russell Brand: I did! It happened with a microphone when I was singing. I think I was showing off and the microphone just happened to go into my tooth. I didn’t chip it, though… thank God.
Q. There’s a lot of outrageous comedy in Get Him To The Greek… but what’s it like to film a sequence like your three-some with Jonah Hill and Elisabeth Moss? Is it hard to keep a straight face?
Russell Brand: Well… I didn’t really want to have sex with Jonah or Elisabeth. Elisabeth is obviously a really beautiful actress, and Jonah is a beautiful actor, but when you’re in that situation it’s not like you’re thinking “phwoargh” or giggly; it’s actually very technical. Say, for instance, me and you now had to take off all our clothes and start kissing each other, we wouldn’t be laughing and shouting: “Let’s have it!” We’d be nervous [laughs]. So, it was like that.
Q. Do you also get nervous when you’re about to star alongside big names? I mean were you nervous about approaching a scene with P Diddy? And who’s more intimidating: P Diddy or Helen Mirren [in Arthur]?
Russell Brand: Well, before you meet Diddy, you sort of think: “What’s he going to be like?” I only really know him from hip hop and how he’s presented in his videos and his various successful commercial products and projects. But when you meet him he’s charming and lovely and sort of easy to be around. He’s funny and nice to tease. Helen Mirren… sometimes people have such grace and elegance about them that just to be in their company is enriching. Helen Mirren is like that.
Q. So, what can you tell us about the Arthur remake?
Russell Brand: It’s going to be brilliant. Helen Mirren plays the John Gielgud role and instead of it being a butler, it’s a nanny in this film. I’m very, very excited to be working on it [Brand plays Arthur]. There’s a beautiful script by Peter Baynham, who is one of the best British writers I think… he’s done The Day Today, Brass Eye, I’m Alan Partridge, Borat and Bruno – all those things. It’s a wonderful script, so I think it’s going to be really, really funny.
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