Russell Brand: “I Did Two Decades of Research into Alcoholism”

If Russell Brand gets caught between the moon and New York City, he agrees with songwriter Christopher Cross: the best that he can do is fall in love.

“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,” Brand, the wild-haired comic who stars as the besotted billionaire in the update of the 1981 comedy “Arthur," tells PopcornBiz. “That’s why I’m so enamored of this story.”

Still, Brand was dubious that an “Arthur” remake would ever actually make it to the screen, finding it daunting to try and match the combination of Moore’s bumbling Arthur and the acerbic wit of Sir John Gielgud's valet Hobson. “They brought me this idea at Warner Bros. very early on, and I said yeah because I really, really loved Dudley Moore,” he says, “but I kind of thought people talk all the time and you think ‘Are these things ever really going to happen?’ And I didn’t really imagine they would. Then changing it, when [screenwriter] Peter [Baynham] had the idea of making Hobson female and we immediately, of course, thought of Helen Mirren – for me, that was the idea that made the film feasible. That was the idea that meant this will actually happen now.”

With his early reputation for hard-core partying, substance abuse and brushes with the law, Brand brought a distinct perspective to the modernized role of the piss-drunk playboy. “I’m such a thorough actor that I did two decades of research into alcoholism just to make sure it was 100% right,” he proclaims (Brand’s been off alcohol and drugs for nearly a decade). “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. 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. As a recovering alcoholic myself, I was particularly happy with how that was rendered.”

“Like in ‘Arthur,’ I think love has an incredibly transformative quality,” says Brand, who famously married pop star Katy Perry last October and found that self-indulgence led to selflessness when he found love. “The first thing that you do when you fall in love is that you recognize that you’re not the most important person in the world, and your focus becomes another person. And the reason that the film resonated with me in the way it does is because I think Arthur is a person without direction.”

“Arthur has all the money in the world and yet he is lonely, yet he is unhappy,” explains Brand. “I’ve experienced this – I grew up poor, I didn’t have no money and now I have some money. The important thing, the greatest poverty one can have is to be poor in one’s heart. All of us know, don’t we, that money is transient, that its pleasures are illusory? But the happiest moments in our life aren’t ‘Oh I got a new hat or a wonderful silvery object, some glistening bauble.’ It’s when you connect with another human being.”

And acting out Arthur’s self-indulgent hedonism – including taking the Batmobile for a spin on Wall Street – wasn’t always as fun as it looked. “The actual car inside is not as interesting on the interior,” he reveals. “It’s like a reverse metaphor for the nature of the human soul. The inside was boring: it’s a bit scruffy in there.” But he found the Dark Knight’s Batsuit – which he says was the nipple-sporting  model originally worn by George Clooney in “Batman & Robin” – much more inspiring.

“I enjoyed wearing the suit because it had a Clooney musk in it,” he explains.”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.”

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