Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New "Arthur" features its own Brand

Busy Russell Brand, already the voice of the lead bunny character in "HOP," the No. 1 movie in the land, steps in front of the camera Friday as the remake title player in "Arthur."

"Yes, I'm such a thorough actor that I did two decades of research just to make sure it was 100 percent right," the recovering Brand joked during a recent press conference before turning serious to discuss the addiction he shares with the character originally played by Dudley Moore

"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. Although, he is, of course, arrested at the beginning of the film.

"It was really important," Brand went on, "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. And that's one of the aspects, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I was particularly happy with how that was rendered."

Of course it didn't take long to get back to comic relief, especially when someone mentioned that a love interest played by Liza Minnelli in the 1981 original was left to take care of Moore's drooling drunk at the end of that film.

"Unfortunately," Brand said, "circumstances wouldn't allow Liza Minnelli to become a nurse. If you went to visit a home for sick relatives and were greeted by Liza Minnelli, you might request a refund. I know life is a cabaret, but frigging hell!"

The British comic obviously preferred to discuss the film's sunnier side.

"Really, the best thing you can do is fall in love," Brand concludes, borrowing a phrase from the Oscar-winning tune that can be heard in an updated version during the closing credits. "This is why this film resonated so strongly with me and why I'm so happy with it. My life has been changed by falling in love (with wife/singer Katy Perry), so I know that while that is a romantic idea, and in this case fictional, it's something that's happened to me.

"That's why I'm so enamored of this story. I love the original movie. Dudley Moore is a great hero of mine. And to be able to re-create that film with such a talented ensemble of people was an incredible gift.

"To work with this Oscar-winning, wonderful actress in Helen Mirren; a brilliant director like Jason Winer; (actress) Greta Gerwig, who wonderfully brought to life a different aspect of the character's trajectory that spoke to the child in Arthur, and screenwriter Peter Baynham, who as an Englishman, is as much a comedic hero to me as Dudley Moore. He's one of the great comedy writers of the last 30 years."

For more on this week's film openings, including interviews with Helen Mirren and Saiorse Ronan, check out my stories at Sun News and CriticsChoice. On Friday, you also can find my reviews of "Arthur" and "Hanna" at both sites.

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