Recently we sat down to a press conference with Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, director Jason Winer, Writer Peter Baynham for their latest film Arthur. The press conference was quite long, so we do not have the whole thing for you, instead we’re focusing in on the main attraction, the man who can’t stop himself from a humorous and promotional monologue, Russell Brand (with a few fun lines from Dame Helen Mirren).
Brand’s answers are long and he’s easily distracted by things like… actually he’s distracted by just about anything that pops into his head — but, he knows how to promote a film and get to the heart of everything. So bare with him (us) we’ll get there together. At least he makes the journey fun!
Russell, I understand on CBS News you talked about how your past history with addiction helped inform you to play Arthur. Can you talk about that?
RB: Yes. I’m such a thorough actor that I did two decades of research into alcoholism just to make sure it was 100 per cent right. The difference, of course, is that Arthur is a fictional alcoholic and has much more latitude for clowning and fun and often his adventures don’t lead to broken glass and howling women, although he’s arrested at the beginning of the film. It was very important that we established a context where the alcoholism was humorous and good fun but was not irresponsibly portrayed. This is 2011 and it’s important to see a resolution to the problem of Arthur’s alcoholism. That’s one of the aspects, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I was particularly happy with how that was rendered.
Now this is a sweet, but bit silly question, which means Russell gets a chances to riff, and riff he does, but notice how he always brings it around to promoting his film…
Russell, when you get caught between the moon and New York City, what is the best that you can do?
RB: The best thing you can do is fall in love. This is why this film resonated so strongly with me and why I’m so happy with it. My life has been changed by falling in love so I know that whilst that is a romantic idea, and in this case fictional, it’s something that’s happened to me. That’s why I’m so enamored of this story. I loved the original movie. Dudley Moore is a great hero of mine and to be able to recreate that film with such a talented ensemble of people was an incredible gift – to work with this Oscar-winning wonderful actress in Helen Mirren, a brilliant director like Jason Winer who I think this is but the first of what will become a great career of excellent movies – someone who accommodated my improvisation but told the story so wonderfully well visually.
It’s almost a trite cliché to hear that “Oh we used the city as another character in the movie,” but I think if you watched this film, you see wry peaks of a bridge from a hospital window. The city is truly present. It makes Manhattan seem like a magical fairy story. I think that Greta wonderfully brought to life a different aspect of the character’s trajectory with her experience in independent films – a more naturalistic and gentle performance that spoke to the child in Arthur. And then it was written by Peter Baynham. That was in retrospect a mistake. But Peter Baynham, for an Englishman, is a much comedic hero to me as is Dudley Moore. He’s one of the great comedy writers of the last thirty years. Alan Partridge, Bruno, Borat. It’s a great honor to work on this film.
The following question was asked by an elderly, female reporter…
Russell, you want to say something about…?
RB: Is this about sex?
Well that comes later.
RB You’re very presumptuous. I like it! [gives out his room number at the hotel] 1206. Which is also my favorite position for those of you who know the Kama Sutra.
You’re an executive producer on this film. Can you tell us what you do?
RB: Nothing! Executive producers don’t have to do anything. Nor do any kind of producers. They just sit around on deck chairs watching stuff and if it gets cold, they leave. So why were they there when it was not cold? It’s no kind of contribution. Now actually I suppose as a producer you’ve got to be involved in helping out with solving problems. They brought me this idea at Warner Bros. very early on. They said “Would you be interested in remaking Arthur?” And I said, “Yeah” because I really, really loved Dudley Moore, but I kind of thought you know that people talk all the time and you think are these things ever really going to happen? And I didn’t really imagine they would. And they asked “Who would you like to write it?” “Peter Baynham because he’s a great hero of mine” as I’ve expressed.
Then we talked about directors and I was already a fan of “Modern Family,” Jason’s show. And I thought, my God, he would be able because of his visual style and his understanding of comedy be able to make this relevant and pertinent whilst maintaining its traditional aspect and storyline. So the idea of working with Jason was exciting. Then, as Jason said, changing it, when Peter had the idea of making Hobson female and we immediately, of course, thought of Helen Mirren. Then, for me, that was the idea that made the film feasible. That was the idea that meant this will actually happen now. And I’m so grateful that it did because I had a wonderful opportunity to work with such incredible people.
How did you land on Gretta Gerwig as your love interest?
RB: I remember. I don’t know if I told you this (speaking to Gretta) because it’s one of those things that might make you embarrassed but as I love doing that, I’ll do it now. After Greta left, we’d auditioned, we saw loads and loads of different actresses, which was alright, but of course, I was already on the way to getting married then so I couldn’t enjoy it like in the good old days when auditions had a more primal quality.
We did do the audition with Greta and afterwards I was just sitting quietly. I think it must’ve been the last casting of the day and I was all quiet and Jason said “What’s the matter?” I said “I feel sad now that she’s gone.” It’s because I’d enjoyed playing with her so much.
She has such a brilliant imagination, she’s a great improviser, has a wonderful understanding of comedy, a wide range of ideas, peculiar choices, and a very, very beautiful person. But good peculiar. Not peculiar like you come home to find, I don’t know, a babysitter covered in sick or you’re talking to your wife’s 23-year-old sister about aardvarks. Not macabre. Peculiar ina magical way. A strange mutation like only nature can produce.
And that’s about as serious as he ever got, things basically went downhill from there, which leads us to…
My Favorite, Silly Moments:
One of my favorite moments of the press conference between Helen Mirren and Russell Brand, because some of this is true and some of this isn’t, but you’ll have to decide which is which…
Russell and Helen, you had such great chemistry on the film. What was it like behind the scenes? Was it like in the movie? And Russell, were you able to quit everything for love?
RB: You go first and then I can brilliantly undercut you!
HM: Oh God! He was in his trailer all the time. He never came out of his trailer, honestly. When he came out, he was always surrounded by minders. He wouldn’t speak to anyone.
RB: People are writing that down! You vicious queen! I’m going to go down bloody Hollywood Blvd and fill your handprints in.
JW: I can attest to the fact that what Helen just said is completely untrue.
HM: It’s completely untrue. Well actually I don’t know because I was drunk all the time.
RB: I’ve been brilliantly schooled by publicists and minders of [what not to say]. Even if you look back on the transcriptions, I’ve not said anything that controversial except that
thing about a yacht and a couple of swear words. Helen says mad stuff that you’re not supposed to say in front of the press like that. It’s crazy. We had a wonderful relationship is the truth. I’m a bit in love with Helen. I was very excited about the possibility of working for her…uh with her…that’s a weird Freudian slip.
Then of course, sometimes things just get downright silly…
Russell, what was it like donning the actual Batman suit and being in the actual car?
RB: The actual car inside is not as interesting on the interior. It’s like a reverse metaphor for the nature of the human soul. The inside was boring. It’s a bit scruffy in there and I was in there with Luiz Guzman who is a brilliant actor but he says unusual stuff. Like I’ll be trapped in that Batmobile with him – not trapped, I really like him, he’s funny – but like he’ll say “Imagine if when the roof of the Batmobile opens that we’re not on the set anymore and we’ve gone back to caveman days.” And then we hear “Action!” It’s like an ideological fart in the car. Bizarre notions for me to contend with. I enjoyed wearing the suit because it had a Clooney musk in it, you know. It had the aroma, the pheromones of George Clooney and I like to think that I may have absorbed them. I’m certainly feeling a lot more altruistic. If anyone needs any help with anything, I’m prepared to help.
Check out Arthur in theaters April 8th!