Russell Brand, Rose Byrne, Elizabeth Moss, and P Diddy were once costars

July 2010 By Philip Berk

Where else but at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles has Universal assembled the cast and director for the Get Me to the Greek junket. 

Russell Brand is up first.

When I interviewed him for Sarah Marshall a year ago I was blown away by his outrageous persona and his verbosity, but obviously that’s quality that wears thin.

Was it as much fun making this movie as the previous one?

“The appearance of fun and the actuality of making a film are two strikingly diverse ideas. It may seem easy to achieve, but (getting) the look of pleasure on screen is arduous, so we worked incredibly hard.”

He is engaged to one of pop music’s biggest names Katy Perry. She’s gorgeous. talented, and you have to wonder, What does she sees in him! 

Does he have to pinch yourself every day? I ask him.

”I’m very happy to be getting married to Katy. She’s a beautiful person and she’s a riot.”

His next movie is a remake of Arthur with no less than Helen Mirren  playing the John Gielgud role.

That’s impressive.

“I love Helen Mirren. I’ve worked with her before on the film “The Tempest”. She’s obviously one of the great actors of our age.”

The crude messages he left on Andrew Sachs’ answer machine. Was he surprised by the public condemnation?.

“To me it was a peculiar affair. I would never deliberately be offensive to anyone; I prioritize humor so highly. But I love making people laugh, so occasionally in the past I have prioritized humor over morality, common decency, logic, rationale. These things have been left in the wake of my phenomenal urge to create giggles.”

Talk a little bit more about Katy.

“She’s a very exciting person. She’s very enchanting. I feel a strong connection to her; she makes me feel very much at peace.” 

Do they intend to start a family?

“I do not find children attractive. Of course, but one day, it would be nice to have children. I’m planning to kidnap some.”

When did he first discover he was funny?

“I discovered I was funny when I was trying to be serious. I went to a drama school, a place called Drama Centre, which trained a great many fine British actors, and while I was there, I wanted to be an actor like James Dean. I wanted to be serious, method, painful, and raw, but people laughed. And they kept laughing. I discovered there that when I was improvising, just talking and expressing myself, my tensions, and fears, and stuff, people would crack up. So I was able to transpose the humor that we can all achieve when we’re mucking with our friends.”

Jason Segel’s only involvement with  the film are the songs he wrote for Aldous. What can you say about them.

“I think Jason Segel is infatuated with innuendo. I think what blood is to Lorca, innuendo is to Jason Segel. That man seeks out innuendo anywhere, and I think Bangers, Beans, and Mash (the song he sings in the fIlm) is a reference to perhaps the male phallus, sperm, mash… I don’t know what that could be. I thought about it a lot but as an Englishman. I know that you do not eat bangers and mash with beans. You have preferably an onion or mushroom, mushroom gravy with peas. If you have beans, the sauce gets all in the mash. I didn’t explain it to Jason, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He’s such an Anglophile,  deeply affectionate towards English culture. And since this in a way is a spin-off of Jason’s movie and he’s not in it, I’m really glad that his presence is there in some of these innuendo laden songs he contributed”.

Is right now the happiest he’s ever been?

“I’m enjoying a lot of pleasure, but pleasure is different from happiness. Because I came from a background that was not privileged, and now I enjoy a lot of privilege, it’s very common for people that have made that transgression (he means progression) to feel a sense of guilt, at least have a memory of the things they’ve seen. I was brought up by a single mother, and now I have all this excess; so it sort of feels not right, and it isn’t, is it? Let’s be honest, it’s not right. Economic equality always lead to friction, crime, tension, pain, and so now I’ve come from the other side of that argument as someone who’s suffered as a result of these inequalities, to someone who benefits as a result of these inequalities, and because I listen to my mum and because I have good people around me and because I care, it makes me like my job. I like making people laugh, it makes me happy, but it doesn’t feel like the work of a man’s life.”

Which comedians make him laugh?

“My favorite comedians are Peter Cook, Richard Pryor; I love Dave Chappell. I think he’s one of the best comedians there’s ever been.”

And growing up, which inspired him?

“Monty Python, when I was really little, I loved Monty Python because they were able to attack serious studies like religion and class, and make them ridiculous. Fawlty Towers I loved so much. Black Adder I loved, and then as I got older Bill Hicks. I love Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly, Lenny Henry. As I got more sophisticated I started looking into Lenny Bruce.”

Was Aldous Snow modeled after Oasis?

“I am very, very close with Noel (Gallagher). Noel’s one of my best friends. But  there’s a great distinction between those two boys. Liam I am friendly with and know him a little, but Noel I love him, and he’s not a self-destructive person (like his brother). He’s very sensitive and brilliant and smart and tough and has stayed in touch with the values of the place he’s from. He’s funny, he’s really funny. The thing I took from him when playing Aldous — one of the things that’s different from me is that a lot of musicians I know don’t fear consequence in the same way that other artists do. I asked Noel Gallagher about this once, and he said it’s because as long as you can play a guitar, people will always turn up and pay ten quid to see him. So he can say things that if I said them, it would blow up like a national scandal. I took that fearlessness and that confidence and that sort of shoulder shrugging indifference to peoples’ reaction, those things from Noel Gallagher and he likes it. I work with him a lot. He’s my mate.”

Talk about his tattoos.

“I had this tattoo done because me and my girlfriend got it done because we are twits.”

What does it say?

“It says in Sanskrit, “Go with the flow, go with the energy of life, let the energy of life be expressed through you.”

Next up is Aussie’s own Rose Byrne, as beautiful as she is talented and uncommonly friendly.

What was working with Russell like, chaotic, scary, impossible?

“Not at all, Russell was a fantastic scene partner. There was a lot of improv that those guys do. Russell was very patient with me. He’s incredibly erudite and very hilarious; we just had a lot of fun. And he’s such a gentleman. He’s not like his persona at all, he’s actually quiet and personal and we had a good dynamic together. I absolutely think he has a gentleness to him, and a real kind of inner calm which he’s clearly fought for over many years. He’s very open about his life. I don’t know Russell well, but the person I worked with professionally was very contained and quiet, always funny and very clever and quick to make a joke.” 

Had she done much comedy before?

“I did a small role in “Marie Antoinette” years ago, Sofia Coppola’s film. It was kind of a comedic part playing the Duchess de Polignac, but it was cut out of the film. In Australia I’ve done some comedy, but nothing that’s had a release here. For me, it was a huge stepping point. I’ve been wanting to do comedy and I finally got the opportunity.”

Jackie is quite a switch from the character she plays in Damages

“Jackie was larger than life. She’s kind of like  the  female version of Aldous Snow and his match; so it was a real challenge for me.”

Which is harder? 

“Now that I’ve done both I would say comedy is much harder. The stakes are really high and I am not a comedian, I’m an actress.  But it was a really fun process, especially the way they work, and probably the most challenging creative experience I’d had for a long time.”

Her East London accent was so authentic. Where did she find the essence of that character?

“When I auditioned, I had an instant take on her, and I sort of knew her. I know this girl. I’ve seen her and I sort of went with that in my audition, and then when I got cast the collaboration began. I had watched a lot of YouTube. I watched a lot of videos of pop stars to sort of get the essence of all these women, the inner confidence that they have, and attitude, that is kind of intimidating which I don’t naturally have; so I tapped into that. I discovered who she was. She was just such fun to play because anything goes, all bets are off. It was very liberating in a way.”

Is she by nature a funny person?

“I’m the youngest of four; they always say the youngest child in a big family tries to make everyone laugh to get attention, I don’t know if there’s some truth in that, but I’m Australian. I’m generally lighthearted, going for the joke, but it’s one thing to be funny and another to do comedy.”

Was she nervous the first day on the set?

“Absolutely. It was a departure working with someone like Russell, but luckily Nick’s a fabulous director, and he trusted me.”

Would she like to do more comedy?

Funny I should ask!

“I’m starting production on a film called Bridesmaids that Kristen Wiig has written and is starring in, which Judd Apatow is producing again. I’m really thrilled about that. Kristen’s a fabulous actress from Saturday Night Live, who’s hilarious.”

She’s had the longest relationship with somebody who lives in Australia. How does that work out? Are they ever going to make the decision to join the other on one continent?

Somewhat flustered by my question she answers,“Goodness me! One of those things will work out one day, I’m sure.”

Equally surprise casting in the film is Elisabeth Moss, best known for her promiscuous secretary Peggy in the TV phenomenon Mad Men. She plays Jonah’s girlfriend.

Nicholas Stoller revealed that he wrote the part with her in mind, but she reminds me she did have to audition with Jonah?

What was that like and how was it working with Jonah?

“In anticipation of the audition they told me there was going to be some improv, but that was the biggest understatement in the world. It was all improv for an hour! I was really nervous because I have never really done improv. I was shocked. But once you get there, Jonah is so funny and so good, you just kind of go with it. It was important for him to have somebody that can really go toe to toe with him, and I was flattered they thought I could do that.”

Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll. 

So what did she find fascinating about that world? 

“The movie’s is really about relationships, Aldous and Aaron, Jonah and Russell’s characters. They’re such opposites. I think that’s what’s magnetic about watching them. Seeing them play off of each other and how wrong it can go.”

Doing a comedy, was that a welcome change?

“It was really fun. Playing Peggy on Mad Men is my favorite role that I’ve ever played in my life. I’m so lucky to get to play that role, but I did want to try to do something different. You can’t really go wrong when you’re doing this kind of film. If they don’t like something, they just don’t use it. I hope I get to try my hand at a lot of different things.”

Then there’ the menage a trois in the film. Talk about that scene.

“We all discussed it, and when Nick and I spoke about it, we agreed that the scene has no point unless it’s funny. It was not supposed to be titillating and it’s not supposed to be something outrageous just for outrageous sake. It had to be funny literally. The funniest thing about it is how crazy it is. It’s like these three people, and nobody wants to see that. This should not be happening with these three people; that’s the joke. The more outlandish it was, the better. We did so much preparation, talked about it so much. People don’t realize unless you’re an actor how choreographed and how technical something like that is, and how professional it actually is. It’s not a laugh riot. It’s literally sitting there while they light the thing. The grip’s on his cell phone, totally bored; it’s a work day.  The ninth hour is not that fascinating anymore. Still, all of us were nervous about it, and I think that Russell and Jonah were maybe more nervous than I was. At the end of the day it was so much easier than we thought it was going to be. Yeah, just another workday. Hopefully it turned out funny because that was the point.”

Their relationship, hers and Jonah’s has a special poignance. You can believe they care for each other.

“I’m really glad to hear you say that. It was super important to me. Jonah and Nick and obviously our writers and producers, with all the craziness in the film, how bad their relationship goes, it’s established somewhere at the beginning that these two people should have been together. You have to believe their relationship, and we actually worked on that a lot with improv and rehearsal and talked about it. It was very important for us to establish that, because often in these films you don’t get that kind of real relationship, and we really wanted to show a real relationship and make it believable; so I’m glad that somehow it came across. It was very important to us.”

Sean Combs is last up. He bounces into the press conference supremely confident. Why shouldn’t he be? He’s probably the most successful artist, record mogul, performer around.

Were you worried the movie might tarnish your image?

“I didn’t want to make this, the character, just a cameo of me. I didn’t want to make it like P Diddy on film. It gave me a chance to actually create a character. So I created this character that was like a childhood prodigy of the record industry, who’s been in the recording industry since six years old. He’s been an assistant road manager to Pink Floyd, he was an assistant to James Brown, he used to help Rick James find the girl for backstage, and he did all of this up until the age of 12. Then he started his own record company, and he feels he has superpowers to mindfuck people. A better way of saying that is to just manipulate the situation for his own benefit. No matter how crazy he’s acting, how bad he wants the situation to work out, he’s just full of life. I was able to finally create a character using pieces of myself, experiences of other moguls that I have been around like Jimmy Iovine and Tommy Mottola and Lyor Cohen and Russell Simmons. Take all the crazy parts of them and mix them.”

His character is willing to do everything to get Aldous to the Greek, including giving him drugs. Is that commonplace in the music industry?

“It’s a grownup industry. It’s a lot of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But at the same time, it’s not the in-thing to let somebody ruin their life. That’s why most people get to rehab before they destroy their lives. There’s rules. You could help facilitate the partying and party with people to a certain degree, but once it starts to really have an effect in a negative way, I think we all have a rule: we put a stop to it.”