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Brand's back; (and he's not fooling around): His latest movie might find him playing a knockabout, ramshackle rock star, but the real Russell Brand couldn't be more different, as Rob Driscoll discovers.

THERE'S a certain irony in Russell Brand playing a womanising, drink and drug-addled rock god in his latest Hollywood movie, Get Him to the Greek.

The flamboyant British comedian could no doubt find plenty of inspiration from his own less-than-salubrious past for the more debauched scenes in this outlandish comedy.

But in a rather serious sounding twist, the famously recovering alcoholic and former heroin and sex addict was actually given his own sobriety mentor on the film set.

"I enjoy revisiting the hedonism without the terrible consequences," explains 35-year-old Brand, in his inimitably deadpan manner. "It's very easy territory for me to occupy comedically, because I'm allowed to use a lot of my personal history, and it's kind of a battle, hedonistic and decadent - and sort of fun."

Brand's film character, English musician and certifiable rock legend Aldous Snow, has in fact been seen before, in mega-hit 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which grossed more than $100m at the worldwide box office and proved that Brand could certainly cut the mustard on the big screen.

In that affable, feelgood romcom, Snow was a supporting character, albeit such a mightily successful one that he has now earned his own movie.

Get Him to the Greek, while not exactly a sequel, focuses entirely on Brand's alter-ego bad boy.

While in Forgetting Sarah Marshall he was sober, in the new film Snow has fallen disastrously off the wagon, going on a 48-hour bender between London and Los Angeles.

It's an exact reversal, happily, of Brand's own real-life fortunes, yet playing drunk and dysfunctional may well prove to be the secret of his on-going celluloid success, as it's been revealed that he will play the title role of Arthur in the remake of the iconic 1981 Dudley Moore movie - one of several Tinseltown projects lined up for the spindly-thin, wild-haired mega-star.

Along with his much-publicised engagement to American pop star Katy Perry and an autumn release for his follow-up book to his warts-andall 2007 best-seller biography My Booky Wook (imaginatively titled My Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal), one can assume that 2010 is the year everything went very right for Brand.

It's hard to believe that just two years ago he was mired in the fallout from the Sachsgate affair, which saw him and fellow prankster Jonathan Ross publicly vilified for their illjudged phone-hoax treatment of veteran comic actor Andrew Sachs on BBC Radio 2. Right now, it's Get Him to the Greek that's the biggest deal of all for the one-time wannabe wild boy from Essex and understandably so, given that he's the name-above-thetitle star and the main image for all posters and publicity for a big, commercial mainstream Hollywood summer movie.

The movie reunites Brand with American comic actor Jonah Hill from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, though Hill now plays a new role, a record company executive Aaron Green who is given a career-making assignment: to fly to London to escort wayward rock legend Aldous Snow to Los Angeles and the world-famous Greek Theatre for a comeback gig.

Green's record boss, played by Sean 'P.Diddy' Combs in what's almost a scene-stealing performance, gives him one warning: "The artist is the worst person on Earth. Turn your back on him at your own peril."

It's a mission riddled with trouble. Snow, due to a bad break-up with his Amy Whitehouse-style British singer girlfriend (Rose Byrne) and nosediving career, has fallen off the wagon and is now a walking disaster.

Weary of yes men, and scared he's entered the greatest hits twilight of his career, he is tetchy, argumentative and uncooperative and determined to show the uptight Green some of the fun of the darker side.

"It's very flattering that Aldous Snow has been given life beyond the initial joy of playing him in Forgetting Sarah Marshall," admits Brand.

"I think the reasons that the character resonated is that in this celebrity-obsessed age, Aldous was an unusual take on celebrity.

"He's not simply a straightforward obnoxious twerp; although he is an obnoxious twerp, there's a kind of sweetness and vulnerability to his self-destruction and self-entitlement."

This is, unsurprisingly, a film that shies away from subtlety and calm introspection; it's packed with gross-out comedy moments and outrageous pratfall stunts. Brand recounts a few of the many indignities he suffered for his art.

"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."

He'd clearly have it no other way. His life may have changed, but one gets the sense it's important to Brand that he splits his time between Hollywood, where Perry lives, and London, where he lives close to his mother, and his beloved West Ham Utd.

It's probably, as such, his resolute fidelity to his British roots that have helped Americans warm to Brand so readily. We'll surely never hear him adopt an American accent any time soon; like Ricky Gervais, Michael Caine and Sean Connery, his voice will always be, uniquely, his.

The California crowd also seem bewitched by his astonishing motor-mouthed dexterity, his very Victorian British style of verbal reference that displays an enviable literary and cultural knowledge. To them, he's slightly undecipherable and yet strangely loveable, his wild-eyed demeanour and ever-exposed, jewellery-laden hairy chest demonstrating a veritable rock-god throwback.

The secret of his success, however, may well be a selfdeprecating inner softness that transcends the harsh and seemingly confident, shock-horror exterior, but ultimately he's the next best Brit-thing to hit the US conscience since Ricky Gervais, Hugh Grant and Monty Python.

As such, he's just about perfect casting for the re-make of Arthur, in which he'll play the dissolute playboy with, somewhat bizarrely, Helen Mirren in the John Gielgud butler role - making it, once again, a doubly-British cast resulting in a very Hollywood product.

He also provides voicing duties for two major animations, which will bring him a wider, more family-orientated audience - joining Steve Carell and Julie Andrews in 3D fantasy Despicable Me, released next month across America, while he's signed up to play the Easter Bunny in a live action/ CGI-animated comedy, Hop, opposite James Marsden.

Then there's his role in Julie Taymor's version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, as Trinculo, while future plans include a remake of the Rik Mayall comedy Drop Dead Fred.

Even superstar director Oliver Stone is so enamoured of him that he's planning a documentary about him.

Brand takes the busy, in-demand workload in his stride, for such fame and fortune were meant for this kind of largerthan-life, gift-of-the-gab headline seeker.

"I got famous dead quick," is his summary of his rags-toriches trajectory.

"The bloke off Big Brother's Big Mouth has got his face on giant billboards on Sunset Boulevard? "That's what they're all saying back home. But it's not ramshackle. I've worked really, really hard. I've been performing since I was 15.

"I've had a long apprenticeship, and for half of my stand-up career, I wasn't really paid. Playing gigs with more people on stage than in the audience. I've done my 10,000 hours of practice."

Get Him to the Greek opens on Wednesday

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Russell Brand reprises Aldous Snow as a womanising, drink and drug-addled rock god in Get Him to the Greek
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 18, 2010
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