Interview: Russell Brand, actor and presenter
But like a cat with nine lives, Brand has landed on his feet once again, winning his first TV show, Brand X, on UK television since the Sachsgate scandal, as well as his own topical show in America.
The temper’s not completely under control, though. Just days ago, at the London premiere of his new film Rock Of Ages, the 37-year-old snapped back at crowd revellers after they shouted that he looked like ‘Jesus’ and ‘a homeless person’.
Luckily today, Brand - a self-confessed lover of cats - is in a good mood, letting out a piercing scream as he enters the room.
“I’m spectacular,” he declares, as he plays with the chains hanging around his neck.
He looks ever the rock star: his rakish figure shown off in a white V-neck T-shirt emblazoned with screen legends, signature skin-tight jeans tucked into boots and his beard and mop of wavy black hair are impeccably styled to look dishevelled.
His mood constantly switches, from jokey to serious, flirtatious to intense.
The Essex-born actor is promoting his role as hard-partying club worker Lonny in Adam Shankman’s big-screen adaptation of the West End musical, which also stars Tom Cruise as rock star Stacee Jaxx and Alec Baldwin as club owner Dennis Dupree.
“Lonny represents the spirit of rock as the spirit of freedom and change. He and Dennis are true rock’n’roll veterans, and Lonny’s devoted to the music and to the club,” says Brand.
The former substance addict admits the role in the musical reminded him of his past, saying, “When I was lying on the toilet floor I thought, ‘Hello, here we are again... on my own’.”
But he wasn’t a big fan of Eighties rock, such as Bon Jovi, Foreigner and Journey, who all feature on the film’s soundtrack.
“I wasn’t into them when I was a kid. I thought it was stupid. I was into the Smiths, the Cure and stuff like that, but once I did this film, I decided I liked it because it’s very happy and jolly.”
Brand describes his co-star Cruise as “kind and generous”.
“He’s like a powerful force,” he says, making a megaphone gesture. “Being around someone like that is very encouraging and interesting.”
He didn’t lose his cool around the A-lister either. “I wanted to say, ‘I saw you in Mission Impossible 4 and it was brilliant’. But I knew I would sound like a tit, so I didn’t bother. I just went, ‘All right, mate?’ and acted normal.”
But he keeps the highest praise for his co-star Baldwin, as the pair share a kiss in one scene. Despite his previous close encounters with Dame Helen Mirren and Jonah Hill, the actor rates this as one of his favourites.
“Alec Baldwin has been one of the great kisses of my life. He’s just beautiful to be around. I’d do anything with him,” he says cheekily.
“In the first few takes I deliberately made it go wrong, just so I could kiss him more often. So they did take after take, kiss after kiss, and I thought if I keep kissing that man, eventually I can make him love me.
“Any scene that I’m in with him - a fight, cuddle scene or full nude erotica - I’m completely overjoyed to be in the man’s company. And Alec was very happy to accommodate however I was improvising in the scene, and really encouraged me.
“He’s charismatic, authoritative and playful; I liken him to a great British theatrical knight. Plus he’s got endless anecdotes and spellbinding, twinkling eyes.”
This naughty humour is typical Brand, who may have lived the rock star life but is actually quite a spiritual person at heart, practising transcendental meditation. His rise to fame has not been straightforward but he’s philosophical about criticism. “People are gonna get criticised anyway. This is why we need spirituality to be at the forefront of our lives. Young people should not be looking at other individuals, they should be looking at their own relationship with a higher power.”
Rock Of Ages is in cinemas now