Set Visit: Interview with Russell Brand about Get Him to the Greek
In GET HIM TO THE GREEK, Russell Brand is reprising his role as musician Aldous Snow from FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL. But this time, Aldous is back to his old tricks...and by that I mean, heroin, alcohol...that sort of thing. I got a chance to visit the GREEK set in Los Angeles last year and speak with the man himself. As I'm sure you know, Brand is quite candid about his real-life battle with heroin. He gives us a look at how close this character is to his experience, what is different from FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (Jonah Hill's character), working with Sean Combs and his upcoming role in ARTHUR. Do yourself a favor and watch the red band trailer. Use the restroom first. You have been warned.
GET HIM TO THE GREEK opens in theaters on June 4th, 2010.
At what point after SARAH MARSHALL does this start?I think maybe um three years later.
And is the whole falling off the wagon thing, is that from, directly from that dinner in SARAH MARSHALL?No. Its, its meant to be as a result of a subsequent relationship not covered in the movie SARAH MARSHALL, but in this one, although that dinner and the awkwardness and the shirt can only contribute to the decline back into addiction.
Well do they talk about all that stuff in this movie? Or is it completely separate?Theres the occasional reference, which I wouldnt be surprised were they not to get used. Stylistically its a very tough film I think, and tone, its very different as well. Its sort of like...it brings a completely different aspect to it, like the casting...gives it a very different feel. And I think the sort of mood of it is like sort of like thats really defined by Jason (Segal) and his performance, and of course Jasons not in this movie...and then everythings set in Hawaii, and theyre perhaps the two defining attributes of SARAH MARSHALL, whereas this takes place in cities, you know, its in Vegas, London, New York, LA. And um, and its very much a sort of, it feels like it has that sort of metropolitan, urban feel...Id say its incredibly distinct and like the references that are there are kind of out of politeness as opposed to any kind of integrity in the action or a relationship between the films.
Jonah said theres elements in the film that reflect your own history, so is there stuff that maybe readers would recognize from your life.Yeah, there is. Because the character is like, you know, a heroin addict, and Im a recovering heroin addict...a really good friend of mine who used to make um, heroin for me, and he didnt ever want to, which is not nice, to buy heroin, and theres like scenes in this where I force [Hill's character] a reference from my own life, I once in a threesome accidentally ejaculated onto a friends leg, and uh, thats being used in this. So yeah, there are direct references to my own life in this film. Flatteringly.
Are you at all, are there any of those things that youre reluctant to bring to this? I mean like you know, or is it all sort of, because its in a cinematic context that thats--?Yes, and also because of the nature of the career Ive had in the United Kingdom and Europe as a stand-up comedian, my work is very confessional and biographical and of course Ive written an autobiography which was kind of one of the defining pieces of work of my career over there. So while over here I dont really have a profile in that [way, this] is old hat to me and its the kind of, thats the music of what I do. So it doesnt have the same resonance for me. Its, kind of anything that would truly be painful Ive kind of, people already know about.
Theres been a lot of talk about your book, doing a movie of your book. And so is there stuff that youre holding back thinking thats so good I want to save it for the--?No. Nick Stoller, Nicks sort of stolen all the best bits. If they were to make a movie of my life now, it would be a drab, Warholian, sort of single-shot of me, sobbing in the basin. Which Im keen to make. So I dont know if well do that anymore. Michael Winterbottom was interested in making it and I was of course flattered and thrilled at the idea of working with him, because hes brilliant, but I think now Ive got too old to play myself. Of course Ive been playing myself for so long, someone else should have a go, and I think Natalie Portman is the man for the job.
So its interesting to sort of watch the process of you guys working, that sort of free form thing. How is it sort of doing the improv stuff with someone like Sean (Combs), whos not necessarily an improv actor?Its really funny. He has to just get into it and stuff comes out of him thats sort of sweet and surprising, so yeah, hes incredibly enjoyable to work with, hes an absolute gentleman, very accommodating, and I think hes adapted to this way of working remarkably quickly.
And I mean, you and Jonah, it was your chemistry in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL that really made this happen. How is that chemistry, has it changed at all since then? Especially since hes playing a very different sort of character?Its sort of really effortless. Its weird because I never really noticed it. I didnt notice it in SARAH MARSHALL. Ive noticed before that Ive got good chemistry with him but we do it, like it looks really good, like hello, were sparking. But whenever I watch it it does make me laugh, when I watch stuff with me and him, so I noticed its something thats kind of inherent and its not labored in any way. Its good. I know just like when Im watching stuff back and just seeing us in the same frame looks sort of stupid, so thats, I think it works really well. Its based on that some kind of tension or something, I dont know what it is.
Do you guys have a relationship off the set?Yeah, were mates, I like him, I think hes a lovely lad. Yeah, we hang out and chat and stuff. Socialize in LA you know.
He said that he wanted to a through the butt shot for the heroin scene. What do you think of that?I think that yeah, that could be the greatest breakthrough in cinema since CITIZEN KANE...think its going to be a defining shot...yeah, through the butt hole. Yeah, I think it could definite this movie if the technology can keep up with Jonah Hills imagination.
The way that he, or the way that the movies been described, its kind of his journey and youre this comic foil. Do you think in terms of defining like sort of emotionally what your characters like? Are you sort of primarily playing opposite what his story is?No, I feel like that my characterI feel like the characters work as a pair and the way that the film works, as far as Im concernedthis might actually be my egois theres like a double act, theres like an Apolline and Dionysian idea of him being sort of like afraid of revelry and me being embracing revelry and being some sort of Roger Rabbit character. Like sort of a journey of discovery, you know, sensitivity, sweetness, of acceptance, such as one might expect in a feel-good film. Or Roger Rabbit.
Well its interesting because the basic plot description sounds like it could be incredibly dark but you guys are obviously, are nothow dark is it?Some of its probably heavy, because you know like if I have to do a scene where Im talking about needing to score drugs or trying to stop taking drugs or wanting to get back with someone, Im, you know, Im drawing on you know, on a wealth ofclearly its not like I have to pretend that my dogs been run over. I just go I remember when you need heroinso Im able to sort of call upon those things. So it does have I would hope an authenticity thats atypical in films of this genre.
And how funny is needing heroin in terms ofIts not funny, Id like to think. Not at all funny. Really, the least funny thing. If anyone was to sort of try and make it funny when you actually did need it, youd probably kill them.
How do you make it funny here, though?I dont know that we do. Some of the things are like you know, I guess like you build the tension and then you sort of let it off, that sort of thing can work comedically with the release of the tension thats organically through that a legitimate desire, but yeah, some of this, I think, and obviously the way the film is being cut, it would seem like it would be a blend of sort of drama and also depth to compliment the...comedy.
Well that authenticity not withstanding how much do you see this like as a pure character as opposed to an iteration of yourself?Remarkably, its incredibly different...its like people think of, like when they saw SARAH MARSHALL...Ive got the same face and voice. Like, you know what I mean, like Jason was as similar to his actual self as I was, and so was Kristen (Bell) and so was Mila Kunis. So its just in the UK at least, Im famous for doing stand up, Im famous for doing TV and having my own shows on telly and stuff, and radio. The book and that. So for me...if I were saying Im a rock star called Aldous Snow, its like me saying Im an astronaut called Douglas, you know. You are still a person talking, unless I star, you know, sort of being in a wheelchair or wearing a hat. You know. Its going to be an approximation. No, its really, really different. Its much cooler, much more controlled, measured. You know me, Im a comedian, so Im like available in, socially. Hes cold, you know, a bit like mercurial and charismatic. There the similarities end.
Does that perception of you by people make you want to try and find roles that are deliberately dissimilar?No. I think that would be kind of obstreperous. I mean, I think like what, you know, I kind of have an idea of the next few things Im doing and you know, hopefully if I sustain a career and things go well, then perhaps that will become a concern. For the moment I kind of just like getting the money for doing this, so I try not to worry too much. Besides, other people I really, really like, like Woody Allen or Jim Carrey or Richard Pryor. You know, Richard Pryor announced that he wanted to play a unicorn. Or I shall be a mermaid. You know, so no, Ill just be happy if people will continue to pay me to, you know, not to have to do odd voices....
I saw ARTHUR up on IMDB.Yeah.
Is that something that you always wanted to play?No, they just came to us and goes do you want to do it? And Im from the same part of London as Dudley Moore, and I love him and Peter Cook and like hes a revered and adored character in my country, and its a sort of brilliant film, and when they offered it to me I said yeah, all right, Ill do that. Fuckin hell...Brunos writing it and its a dream, really.
Its sort of interesting about ARTHUR because that movie, the original, came out at the very end of the Hollywood where you could have funny drunks, and now drunks are very much not quite as funnyTragic.
Its tragic and sad, its horrible, they ruin families, but Arthurs a funny drunk. So I mean, are you, is that--?Weve made him a loveable pedophile. Hes just a, you know, hes a lot of fun, just dont really trust him around kids. No, hes like, no youre right, it has to be addressed differently culturally. Weve done some funny drunks and that is something that is something that Peter has brilliantly assimilated into his early work at least, and yeah, I think that will be addressed without losing, you know. It wont be lachrymose or preachy, but I think it will be, after addressed that alcoholism is a serious disease, not just a quirk.
Jonah said there was a lot of discussion about whether or not you guys would be playing the same characters at all in this movie, fromYeah.
And he is obviously notThey were going to call me something else, just so they didnt get confused. But then it would have looked a bit like I...claimed that I had a diverse career. Im another drugged out rock star. And this time called Peter.
Was that, howI dont even know what question Im asking here anymore.Briefly there was a discussion of making a clear distinction by making the characters entirely separate but
But why would you do that?Yeah, theres no point, is there? Its a funny character, well, its the character, and I think thats why Nick wanted to make this movie, so um yeah, I think that its good that they left it the same. Im glad they made it the same. Just because Jonah isnt the same character and they wanted to make that clear and didnt want to have some crazy backstory, him being a waiter in Hawaii and weve met before and all that.
You have a history as a stand up and thats a very solitary thing, you on stage doing your thing. These films areTheyre collaborative.
Very collaborative. Is that difficult to get into that headspace of Jonah throwing you a line and sort of like running with it or--?Yeah, it is. Because the whole set up is. Its not just the actual performance but the whole, I mean I would do like big tours and big venues, you know, play to like 15, 16, 17,000 people, right, and everyone that works is just like what do you want, I say, 'what time its going to start?', 'Im not doing that, Ill do that,' then Ill go on stage and do that. I cant act like that in this kind of situation and of course, you know thatsI dont like it. I want people to do what I want, when I want. So thats a big challenge, socially its as challenging as it is professionally, and I think I will continue doing stand up, mostly because I love it and would do it for free anyway. Also its good to have somethingthats why I got into stand up. I was trained as an actor in the first place, got thrown out of drama school, cant get work as an actor unless youre lucky. And I mean in stand up youre off. I mean, you just got to perform in front of ten people in a pub, and Im never letting go of that...ever, ever again because it saved me and I wontit belongs to me, I belong to it, I love it, you know, and I wont ever stop. Ill keep doing that forever.
Is this film more comfortably collaborative or do you feel like theres sort of a one-upmanship of coming up with lines or anything?I think you always complete a little, you know, but like its sort of healthy. And what I think is that we all do suchI dont see Jonah Hill and myself going for the same part any time in the future. Or me and Diddy or me and Colm Meaney or anything. So I think it can only benefit the film for everyone to be good and funny, and of course I want to be the best and the funniest but Ill do all that in the edit.
Its interesting with stand upsIll look at like Eddie Murphy, and as you get rich and famous, sort of finding the material that the audience can kind of get with is tougher because your life becomes art. Or do you not agree with that, do you--?No. But like, the reason that, I agree sort of like with bands, theyre always singing about tours and cocaine now, but with me, I um, am always a bit embarrassed and think that I always have that resource ofas long as Im me, I think Im going to beI think its kind of zen, comedy. I think that if youre in the right space, everything that happens to you, youll be going oh, thats funny, thats funny. And its changed from being like oh, scoring drugs under a bridge and this sort of embarrassing thing and a dealer, to oh, I like to go to Vegas with Diddy and we were trapped in his car andbut its still be being embarrassed and being able to relate that. Its just that Im relating a different experience. Just as long as I have the ability to convey those things, then Ill be all right. As long as I dont go mad, and Ive already been mad. Ive already had my fat Vegas period, Ive already been a drug addict, Ive already, I mean Ive done all those things, so hopefully as long as I dont go mental, I will stay in touch with the people I need to communicate with.
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