This Friday sees the release of Julie Taymor’s version of The Tempest, starring David Strathairn, Helen Mirren and, of course, Russell Brand.
This might be a slight re-imagining of the classic Shakespearian tale, but some are still surprised to hear of Brand’s involvement with the film. After all, the comedian and presenter has never been shy in speaking about his humble background, or his life as a heroin and sex addict, as well as an alcoholic.
Brand’s rise to fame has taken him from the underground comedy scene, through the world of TV and radio presenting, to international super-stardom – not to mention marrying pop sensation Katy Perry along the way.
As Brand makes the final transition from controversial funny man to one of Hollywood’s most-wanted, we take a look at his extraordinary journey – in the words of the man himself.
“Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] – ‘I shall have heroin, but I shan’t have a hamburger.’ What a sexy little paradox.”
Brand began acting at a young age and attended the Italia Conti Academy as well as the Drama Centre London. However, he was expelled from both on account of his various addictions. However, he has long been a vegetarian, and was named one of PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrities after he rose to fame.
“I’m gonna be doing acting.”
Brand predicted his future acting success back in a 2006 interview with The Entertainment Network. At this point, his career as a stand-up comedian was gaining media attention, and after a couple of high profile gigs, he released a well-received DVD. However, it seems he knew he was not quite ready for the bright lights of Tinsel Town, saying, “I think if I went to Hollywood now I’d just be working in a restaurant; it would be a bit embarrassing…I’ll stay here and tell jokes and that.”
“It’s like Kilroy only talking about Big Brother and there’s no racism allowed.”
During an interview on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, Brand spoke of his upcoming role as the presenter of Big Brother’s Big Mouth – a sister show of the reality TV programme, Big Brother. He also thanked all the producers for “taking the risk of employing an ex-junkie twerp” to present the show which put him well and truly in the public eye.
“It’s going to be, actually, bloody exciting”
In 2008 Brand was chosen to host the MTV Video Music Awards – a surprising choice, as he was relatively unknown to the American public at that time. Brand made several controversial remarks about George Bush, Britney Spears and the Jonas Brothers, but claimed he was asked to present again the following year after ratings rose by 20%. It was after the 2009 VMAs that Brand began dating future-wife Katy Perry, after stating, “Katy Perry didn’t win an award and she’s staying at the same hotel as me, so she’s gonna need a shoulder to cry on. So in a way, I’m the real winner tonight.”
“In a minute we’re going to be talking to Andrew Sachs, Manuel actor…The elephant in the room is, what Andrew doesn’t know is, I’ve slept with his granddaughter.”
Upon returning to the UK, Brand continues with his BBC Radio 2, which regularly drew about 400,000 listeners. In an episode which he co-hosted with Jonathan Ross, the pair phoned actor Andrew Sachs and left messages discussing Sachs’ granddaughter, Georgina Baillie. Both presenters were suspended by the BBC after a nationwide media backlash, and Brand resigned from his show.
“I thought I was promiscuous, but it turns out I was just thorough – to get the right one. I’m ever so happy.”
Brand said this of girlfriend Katy Perry during an interview on GMTV shortly before he proposed in 2009. The pair tied the knot on 23rd October 2010 in a traditional Hindu ceremony in India – the same location where he had proposed.
“Now that I’m monogamous I want to live vicariously through wax Russell, I insist that he’s placed next to wax Helen Mirren and I hope they melt into one sexy blob.”
After a supporting film role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Brand was asked to reprise his character for the lead part in Get Him to the Greek, and recorded 16 songs for the soundtrack. Shortly after, he was given his own waxwork figure at Madame Tussauds. At this time he was also scheduled to work with critically acclaimed actress, Helen Mirren, in both The Tempest, and a remake of the film Arthur.
“I want to change the world, and do something valuable and beautiful. I want people to remember me before I’m dead, and then more afterwards.”
Brand released a second successful instalment of his Booky Wook on the 30th September last year. Having somewhat toned down his hedonism and tamed his hair, he remains a charismatic example of British eccentricity, and looks set continue in his quest to conquer the world of fame and fortune.
The Tempest is realised in UK cinemas on 4th March 2011.