Russell Brand had quite the trip to New York this week. On Monday, he got detained by immigration. Then he visited Howard Stern and The View, where he charmed the ladies with thoughts on his upcoming marriage to Katy Perry. He did a book signing of his new memoir, My Booky Wook 2, at Barnes & Noble Union Square. And Tuesday, we saw him do a TimesTalk with Dave Itzkoff in which he discussed Stanislavski, Hitler, Stalin, the world water crisis, pedophilia, Sachsgate, and his recent vacation to the Taj Majal.
There’s no way to properly organize the sheer tonnage of words that spilled forth from Brand that night, both onstage and in the three minutes we spent talking to him backstage. (One of his onstage sentences was so long he actually had to give a verbal footnote: "Sybill, who lives in the tree stump, if you’ll remember him from earlier in the sentence" ... ) So all we can do is highlight some key moments (also, you can see a clip from the TimesTalk here).
From Our Interview:
• He’s in two movies with Helen Mirren, The Tempest and the remake of Arthur, and, sadly, they did not make out even once! “It’s just this suppressed desire that runs throughout our working relationship, never to be realized.”
• Next up he wants to direct a family comedy called Bad Fiver, about a con man posing as a priest in small-town America. And he’s nearly finished a documentary on consumerism and fame which will have bits of stand-up, "like Pryor," intercut with footage of “me in the Angola prison in Louisiana and me training with Marines and me setting up a pop-up shop with Shepard Fairey in the Beverly Center where you can leave something and you can take something and it’s sort of unmonitored."
• He's good friends with David Lynch, whom he met through the president of the Transcendental Meditation Foundation. Once he complained to Lynch that his love of masturbating while watching pornography was overtaking his desire to meditate and achieve enlightenment. Lynch's reply: “'If you meditate, you’ll enjoy your pornography more! It will be even better! It will be more vivid!' Now, that’s the way to get people into meditation!" Brand also says that Lynch’s strong anti-tea stance (he has his own coffee line) has not as of yet put a rift in their friendship. "When you encounter genius, you take what comes with it. I’m friends with Morrissey and that’s the shit I put up with from him. Jesus."
• His ideal day in New York: “Just being in Manhattan and going on a bicycle ride. Bicycling in this city is fucking amazing! Going across the Williamsburg Bridge on a bicycle and go to that main street there and have coffee, go down to Battery Park. I like being on a bicycle during the day and then at night watching a movie."
• Why he and Katy Perry will be one of the celebrity couples we can believe in. “I love her. I don’t know what will happen. I will just continue to love her."
From the TimesTalk:
• Why he doesn't live in Los Angeles: "A car is like a shoe in L.A. You have to put it on to leave the house."
• He actually went to drama school — “serious take-your-clothes-off-and-cry drama school.”
• He considers embarrassment to be a gift, the root source of all his humor: “Whenever I think, ‘Oh my God, that’s so embarrassing, that’s so awful, no one must know that ever, ever, ever! I’m so alone and unlovable!’ Then I think, That’s probably funny.”
• His first memoir was about overcoming addictions to heroin, crack, and sex, so how did he have enough material to write a second memoir? “Because I carried on living. That’s the thing, you see. That book ended and then there was more life.”
• He has a sixth sense: “Somebody’s ovulating near here,” he said, out of nowhere. Later, “It’s you who is ovulating. I’ve worked it out.”
• When he met the Queen of England, he was somehow with James Blunt, “whose voice is indiscernible in my mind from a clown’s horn” and who was once also a member of the Royal Guard. “That’s not fair! They’ve got all sorts of things to talk about. Like, ‘Oh, do you remember when you used to guard me? Thanks.’ What am I going to say? ‘Oh, I’m Shagger of the Year.’ She’s smiling rather generously, but part of me knows that that is just the remaining smile from James Blunt and it’s about to crumble into a deep frown.” He does, however, still keep in touch with the Queen: “We are lovers.”
• His character in Forgetting Sarah Marshall was supposed to have been bookish. "They were obviously trying to get Hugh Grant, who was obviously unavailable for certain reasons that we shouldn’t probably go into ... He was looking for whores.” Brand couldn’t deliver bookish, he says, “because it required acting. What I did was I went in there as myself and hoped that the script would amend itself around it.”
• He says Arthur is going to be a sweet film. “A lot of my go-to places of Hitler, pedophilia references, those avenues are all closed down. He’s a savant-ish, man-child nitwit, and alcohol is a facilitator of physical comedy. He’s rich, so why not get pissed all day? It’s that approach.”
• On the set of The Tempest, he had a scene where he gets chased around by a bunch of Rottweilers. “Say you’re filming something where you’re being pursued by dogs. You know how they achieve that technique? They’re using dogs to chase you! They just film it happening. And there’s always a lady in charge of the dogs with too much dog hair on her jumper where you question the relationship ... "
• He doesn’t quite get the need for Cerberus in Greek mythology. “Why you’d need a guard dog at the gates of hell is a fucking mystery. No one’s trying to get in! Senseless deployment of a beast.”
• Per an audience member’s question, he doesn’t have plans to collaborate with Tim Burton, but he’d like to. “We’d get on. We could talk about hair and Gothic fairy tales, England, whimsy, and tortured adolescence.”
• He accidentally very much embarrassed a 14-year-old audience member who came up to ask a question about voice acting. “You’re cute, aren’t you? Let’s tie him up now! I mean, he could be like the new Justin Bieber and we own him. That’s not an insult. He’s very popular and you’ve got a lovely head of hair.” Later ... “This sort of thing, where people ask me serious questions, this is like some sort of intellectual fellatio for me, although, literally, I wouldn’t be able to accept it from you.” We couldn’t see the kid’s face, but Brand felt moved to jump out of his chair and give him a hug. “Have a little cuddle.”
• Will he ever collaborate with Katy Perry? “I don’t think so. I think people might find that sickening. It takes up enough of my time being in love with her.” He does comedy and she does music, so the only thing they could possibly do is a film, he said, “but negotiating a film is hard enough. Imagine trying to direct someone you love. I think it would be a fucking nightmare. And she’s an opinionated person. It would be difficult. Thank you, though.” He paused. “We’ll do a sex tape!”
• Being with Katy Perry has taught him to compromise and consider someone else's feelings, and "do all the things they tell you in school, like don’t watch too much telly, don’t wank outdoors, recreational drugs lead to hard drugs.” Despite all the rumors about their wedding plans, he said he's trying to keep it as secret as possible. "I’m trying to preserve and make it a beautiful thing ... Really, love between two people is the most spectacular and ordinary thing in the world ... I want to make our wedding just about me and her loving each other and we’re getting married in front of our friends and family and keeping it normal, so it ain’t selling the pictures, ain’t doing no prenup. It’s like a normal thing. It’s hard to make it normal because there’s this inflation of this toxic gas of celebrity billowing into it.”
• And finally, he had these things to say about his Get Him to the Greek co-star Sean "Diddy" Combs:
— "Aside from the obvious dilemma of what to call him, there are myriad problems with working with that magnetic sabre of charisma and will. He’s a very commanding presence, Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs. He creates a party atmosphere perhaps where a party atmosphere is not what’s required. E.g., Once in an elevator there was an old lady and her dog. He created a party atmosphere in there! And you see the old lady and the dog, they was just trying to get to the fifth floor, but they had to go along with it."
— Brand eventually decided to call him "Puffy."
— Puffy once showed up three hours late to a dinner with Judd Apatow, and managed to make everyone forgive him through his "hip-hop Great Gatsby charisma ... Quentin Crisp said, memorably, and brilliantly, I think, 'Charisma is the ability to influence without logic.' I like that. And then someone goes to him, 'Do you think Hitler had charisma?' And he says, [doing Quentin Crisp interpretation] 'Yes, well, I suppose he must have done, otherwise you wouldn’t have people wandering around Dusseldorf of a certain age saying, 'Well, I really don’t know WHAT came over me.'”
— They went to Vegas together for a fight between Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton and somehow ended up sitting up front next to Jay-Z, "meaning there was a moment in my life — my actual life! — where I got to be with, there’s Puff Daddy, and there’s Jay-Z. And I’m still me! What’s happened?" And after that, Brand still had to spend the entire weekend with Puffy in Vegas, which, he said, "I can only describe as a 'soft kidnap.'"