Only once a decade does a film come along that is as original and off the hinges as director Nicholas Stoller's upcoming road trip to Hell comedy Get Him to the Greek. It's a rare find in 2010's world of remakes, reboots, adaptations, and sequels. Yet, at the same time, the film does have the added benefit of coming with a well-known, previously established character that audiences already loved to death in Stoller's 2008 romantic comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall. British comedian Russell Brand made his Stateside debut in that Judd Apatow produced film starring as flamboyant rock god Aldous Snow, frontman of the fictitious Euro-ballad pop group Infant Sorrow. This whispy, scarf-laden imp of a man stole away every moment he appeared on screen, shooting sperm off his finer-tips and gloriously schooling a young Mormon newlywed on how to properly bed his virgin wife.
His hilarious scenes opposite Kristen Bell and Jason Segelmade the film an instant classic. But it was the tender moments he shared with Superbad's Jonah Hill that really stood out. Though they were only on screen together for a few precious minutes, theirs are perhaps the most remembered scenes in the film (aside from Segel's exposed penis), and they perfectly exposed the thrilling chemistry these two evil comedic masterminds held between themselves. This bond proved indelible, and crucial to Forgetting Sarah Marshall's box office success. Nick Stoller knew he had to bring these two supporting players back together for their own film. And that film is Get Him to the Greek.
Aldous Snow was originally supposed to be a villain. He was set up as Jason Segel's romantic foil; the dirty Brit who was having a torrid affair with Bell's beloved television icon. Underneath Brand's dripping gypsy façade beats the heart of a loveable gremlin. He is a hard force of whimsy to bestow hate upon, and by the end of that first film, we loved him more than our hero Peter Bretter. Now, Snow returns for his own adventure. And yet, still, he is not our hero. How could he be? He is Dionysus incarnate. The embodiment of every rock star cliché ever known to man. Half Lizard King, Half Weird Al in Greek biker drag, one hundred percent Russell Brand. Aldous Snow is bigger than life. He is a stone idol, worshipped by millions, loved by billions, and envied by all. After falling out of the spotlight for a spell, this home-wrecking, coke-sniffing ball of electrified juice is ready to make his highly anticipated comeback. And it lands squarely on the shoulder's of Hill's Aaron Green to get him to the show on time.
Green is our main man, a record company intern tasked with handling the drugged up, alcohol drenched Tsunami that is Aldous Snow. Aaron's mission is simple: Get Him to the Greek at any cost! Which proves to be a hard road to hoe. There are many obstacles in their way. Namely themselves. But this Homer-like Odyssey is not traveled in vein. As the hundreds of fans that showed up to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, California, last spring will attest. Snow does in fact make it to his intended destination mostly intact. With Green still at his side, no less. In a rush of applause, the broke and beaten musician took the stage to sing his hit single 'Bangers, Beans, and Mash', a catchy little ditty that was penned by Jason Segel, the man who first brought Snow's Id to life when he sat down and wrote the screenplay for Forgetting Sarah Marshall some years ago.
On this blustery night, Snow sings three different operatic rock numbers to the gracious crowd in attendance. It's a big show full of fireworks and awe-inspiring displays of light. He arrives under a shower of sparks that send him into a mad spiral. Aldous is at home on stage, as is Russell Brand. A popular comedian in his homeland with both a highly rated radio program and a best selling book which details his tailspin into heroin and sexual addiction, Brand has never been shy about expressing himself. And this character is cathartic in a sense. Russell gets to relive his own personal demons, putting a fun spin on a once-deadly existence for the sole purpose of laughter. If nothing else, Get Him to the Greek will surely be a hoot, and it will be remembered as one of the funniest comedies of 2010.
The famous Greek Theater almost isn't big enough to house the burgeoning egos of both the film's star and the character he embodies. He arrives on stage in an arm sling; a small price to pay considering the paces he's been put through on this country and state-bounding journey. How did he break his arm? "I fall off a building. It happens in Holland, but I don't want to ruin the bit." As with most Judd Apatow produced comedies, there is always a bit of secrecy surrounding the actual contents of the script. Though it is widely known that the film will be chock full of inspired improvisation. And as we are seeing here on this night, the film will end with Aldous getting to the Greek on time. It's a climax that's hard to conceal, says Russell Brand. "Giving that away is going to be difficult to avoid. I saw big signs coming here today. Real Los Angeles city signs that said, 'This way to the Greek.' Then there were yellow production signs stuck up underneath them that said, 'This way to the Greek.' I thought, in a way, that is unnecessary. It's like writing the word 'apple' on an apple. I am all for semiotics. But this image of an apple stands alone without semantic representation. That is how Umberto Echo would have approached the subject."
The actor is the true embodiment of a rock star himself, so did he have to look far for inspiration? "I looked at lots of people. Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Noel Gallagher, Morrissey. I am friendly with some musicians, so I am familiar with how they do it. They are different than comedians. They are rude. They are so self-assured. Me? I am not like that. They seem very grounded. I didn't ransack the biography of my musical chums. I felt that would be like grave robbing. I did nick some traits from the blokes I know well. Like Liam Gallagher and Morrissey. I stole their surliness. The way they can be. The way they can sit with themselves. Sometimes, you show off at home, pretending you are a rock star. You do that in a room on your own. I thought about that, and took it up on the stage. That is what I am letting out. I know enough about what David Bowie was like, and what Jim Morrison was like. I know what Iggy Pop is like. I am able to draw on that without it, hopefully, becoming erotic mocking. I want it to be authentic."
Brand will be the first to tell you that he is happy to see Aldous Snow and Infant Sorrow returning to the big screen, "It is really good. It is more fun to play him on drugs. It allows me to play the better aspects of my own drug hell. Without some of the terrible consequences. This was written with my personal history in mind. So I was able to bring that perspective to the script." Russell has never been one to shy away from his sordid past, and there's even a movie in the works based on the intimate details of his Booky Wook. "You have to think, I went through all of those years of crack and heroin addiction. I should make some money out of it. It cost me enough. It was very expensive. I would get beaten up going to crack houses. It seemed so downbeat, going to these crack houses. Now, it's the incredible bammer!"
The drugs failed to wreck and ravish Brand's mind. He is sharper than a pig house hatchet, and this production has certainly kept him on his toes. While waiting through the various stage set-ups between takes, he engages the audience in some much-needed banter. The night is growing long, and he doesn't want his minions to grow restless. Director Nicholas Stoller is someone that has come to fruition in the Judd Apatow era of comedy. Which means that the script sometimes comes secondary in terms of dialogue. Every single moment is run through numerous times. In many different ways. "It is an arbitrary process defined only by the fact that people think the requirements are met." How many times must Russell run through a scene before cut is called? "This decision might come from Nicholas Stoller, our director, or Judd Apatow. When one of them is happy, we end the scene. There is no ceiling." So shooting in front of a live audience is a dangerous proposition, as it's a process that could go on all night, "That is a possibility I bear that in mind at the beginning of each day. This process could go on all day long. Sometimes, I curse my fertile imagination!"
Does Russell ever find himself growing self-conscious while on stage, "I am very, very self-conscious. It is part of who this character is. As a stand-up comedian, I have preformed to crowds that were substantially larger. I have this reference to fall back on." While Brand loves being on stage, he doesn't view it in the same sense as his role as a comedian. While there are breaks in-between songs that allow him to pop off a joke or two, he is coming at Aldous Snow from a whole different angle, "It differs almost entirely, because as a musical performer, you stand on stage saying, 'Look at me! Fuck me! I am so sexy!' Whereas, when you are a comedian, you stand on the stage saying, 'Oh, I am so sorry! An awful thing happened. I banged my leg. Don't look at me! Ahhhhhhhh!' It is about embarrassment and self-effacement. A musical performance is about self-aggrandizing. They are geometrically opposed." The comic never thought he'd be singing in front of a studio audience. In fact, when Forgetting Sarah Marshall was done filming, he never thought he'd be pulling on Snow's pants ever again, "That would have been madly presumptuous. Though, I am enjoying it. I am grateful to have the opportunity to do this again."
While Snow enjoyed singing one original song in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a whole soundtrack has been written for the British balladeer this time out. Brand's favorite number is the one we see him run through time and again on stage. It's a cheeky little ditty that sticks in your brain from the instant you hear it's poppy attributes. "Bangers, Beans, and Mash is a very lovely song that Jason wrote for me. However. Bangers, Beans, and Mash are neither a sexual euphemism nor an English dish. Both of which Jason is unaware of. Otherwise, why would he have written this song? You don't eat Bangers and Beans with Mash. You go to the market, and you get some gravy. And you put that on the mash. Also, a euphemism for breasts is bangers. These things cloud my mind, but they also allow me to enjoy the song. It is not a sexual metaphor because it has no reality other than its very specific notion. It only has its comparative value. It is just not a metaphor. It is itself. It can't mean anything else." For the various different songs, Russell also shot some music videos, "There is one where I am marching about the desert pretending to be Christ. I bring peace to Africa. This wasn't my idea. I am too close to being a messiah figure to suggest things that mock that." About Christ's own image of self, Brand mused, "I am the truth that lies in the way. That is an arrogant thing to say. There is no way to heaven but through me. I think Christ was self-realized. I think it went beyond self-conscience. I can't imagine Christ would raise Lazarus and then go, "I dunno how I dunnat!" I think he was at one with God. He was part of the Father and the Holy Ghost. He was of an oneness, so I think he was not only self-conscious, but conscious of all living beings."
On this long night of shooting, the comedian often finds his mind wandering into the starry sky, to contemplate things beyond time and space, "Eventually, you do lose context. It's so late right now, I can't remember what late is. And I am so tired, I don't know what tired is. When you are a bit tired, you think, "I know what a bit tired is." But right now, it is like insanity. Insanity is when your internal context overrides standard reasoning and regulation. I am so deep into tiredness, I know no other state." Part of Brand's exhaustion comes from the fact that he has shot all over Europe and the United States, "I would like to do films only at my house that are shot between three and five o'clock in the afternoon. Where I play a little boy called Russell, who wears pajamas. He plays with his cats, for brief periods, in broad daylight. While being filleted. Not by the cat. Hold on...It is the cat." Once again, his mind has started to wonder away from the stage at the Greek and into another realm of reality.
The sight of Sean Combs on set comes as a sobering reminder of why everyone is here. Combs plays Sergio Roma, the record executive who desperately wants to see Snow back on stage, if only for monetary reasons. Brand snaps back into consciousness upon seeing this iconic entrepreneur in person, "I love him. Imagine, It is insane. He is Puff Daddy. When someone is so famous, it sort of makes you giggle. Because you think of all these things you shouldn't say. Sometimes I am in the middle of a scene, and I think, 'Oh, my God! That is Puffy Daddy.' But I have to muffle it. You repress those things. He is a great joy. He is funny, and thoughtful, and sweet. And he has been very compassionate. We went away for a Romantic weekend in Vegas. We went to see a boxing match. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. It was like a dream, really. When he popped the question? I'll just say that he is a very lovely, hospitable gentleman."
Russell floats back out on his existential wave of thought, "I think all of us are living in denial of our spiritual nature as we continue to participate in the material world. Even though we know we are destroying the world we live in, we are possessed by consumerism. We know it doesn't make us happy. It doesn't matter how many pairs of shoes you have, or how many cars you drive. It is all utterly meaningless, yet we continue to pursue this. Why? Because they can stimulate our primal desires with products, and until we recognize this, failing to have a spiritual revolution, we will be forever enslaved."
It is time for Brand to break into song yet again on the Greek stage. Before parting ways with his microphone in hand, someone asks the wannabe rock star, who is well known for his sexual appetite, if there are any audience extras he'd like to take home with him after the shoot. With a sly grin and a wink, Russell muses, "I think it would be unfair to the extras to pick just one. I would like to do them all!"