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Russell Brand talks stardom, sex scenes in new memoir

Russell Brand has landed his best role yet playing himself, in his new memoir “Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal,” a sequel to his memoir “Booky Wooky.”
/ Source: TODAY books

Actor Russell Brand is known for his hilarious roles in the movies “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek.” Now, the British bad boy has landed his best role yet playing himself, for the second time around in his new memoir “Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal,” a sequel to his best-selling memoir “Booky Wooky.”

Chapter 12
My first day of filming was enormous. A massive, expensive scene with hundreds of extras, it was set at a celebratory barbecue or a “Luau” I believe they’d call it. There are four Hawaiian words you have to learn if you are to survive the constant goodwill, and the other three are “Mahalo”, “Olu’olu” and “Aloha”.

They all sound pretty much the same to me — like a deaf person asking for a Polo — but I am assured they have different meanings. In the scene my character had to serenade Sarah Marshall and enact what the script referred to as simply “sexy dancing”.

This is a situation where I would have definitely got drunk in the old days. I was petrified of singing in front of all those extras, cast and crew. It was a hot day, tropical. The pretty, natural coastal glade had a bizarre set superimposed on it — wooden chairs and tables, a stage with grass-skirted Hawaiian women and a fella with a little Hawaiian guitar. Actually that’s not bizarre, they could’ve been there anyway. But also there were cables and cameras and craft services, big trucks and lights. And me, scared stiff. “I’m famous in England,” I thought. “Why don’t I go home and be famous there and pretend there is no America?” But you cannot pretend there isn’t an America, they won’t let us, they’re everywhere with their golden arches and swooshes on trainers and Coke cans and latterly, yes, their step in the right direction with Barack Obama, but a true revolutionary would argue that it’s still a step in a Nike jackboot.

In a way it was a blessing, because I was flung in at the deep end. I got up on the pretend wooden stage in front of all those pretend people and sang “Inside of You”, an innuendo-laden song which is explicitly about being “inside of you” emotionally, but the treble entendre of the piece is, “inside of you” vaginally, and indeed, possibly anally. Jason wrote it — and we can never truly be sure of his intentions. Given however that he has subsequently, whilst on a college tour supporting Maroon 5, performed a hilarious song called “Would it be wrong of me to use my celebrity status to have sex with a college girl tonight?” I think we can reasonably assume his intentions were cheeky. I sang Segel’s filthy lyrics and “sexy danced” like it was nineteen ninety-nine. It went well. Judd was on set that day and I’ve since seen footage shot for the DVD of everyone laughing and enjoying my antics, which goes some way to making up for the descent into madness and reminds me why I pursue this path, to make people laugh.

From then on in I tried to focus on the fact that I was on the island to work, it wasn’t about my neurosis. I struggle in these situations not to let my madness govern me, and to let the positive aspects of my character define my life.

It became clear that there was to be no on-set romance with Kristen when Jason revealed that she had a boyfriend right when I was in the middle of doing some world-class flirting, which I’m sure was about to send her knickers pinging off into the sea. There I was, joking and winking and possibly jigging by the catering lorry, when Segel sidled over like a handsome oak tree and said, “How’s your boyfriend, Kristen?” I packed up my sideshow sharpish, like a snake oil salesman when the townspeople realise their teeth have gone yellow, and pitched up by Mila Kunis. I was running some pretty good gear — stuff that would have thighs being flung open from Truro to Aberdeen — when Mila casually revealed she too had a boyfriend. Then in a needlessly vindictive twist of the knife she added that her sweetheart was the little boy out of Home Alone. Initially I was disgusted, thinking her some kind of sexy, female nonce, then I remembered that fifteen years had passed since then and he would probably be an adult by now. He turned up at some point and was very cool and nice as it happens. At least he didn’t stroll into my shack, because after the twin co-star rejection I’d restarted the Russell Brand football league. Well, I had to do something or I’d’ve gone blind.

If my farcical romantic narrative had ended badly, it was as nothing compared to the slapstick extracurricular lessons I had to undertake to prepare me for the series of technically demanding stunts I had to do, like horse-riding. I thought, horse-riding, that’ll be a laugh. Well it wasn’t. It’s really hard, mostly because it rapidly becomes apparent that the horse doesn’t want you riding it. I don’t think my horse was even that happy being a horse. I don’t think he’d accepted it; he looked a bit embarrassed. Like he’d gone to bed as a French stockbroker with a future and woken up with a big, long head stinking of horse s---. He was a big, muscly coward. But in fairness to him, it looks like it’d be inconvenient to be a horse, walking around on those spindly chopstick legs. He’d look at me from the side of his narrow face, all bashful. “Oh, I’m sorry, I seem to have been reborn a horse,” he whinnied through his gritted bridle.

The equine woman in charge, who had one of those delightful bottoms horse-women have, tried telling me that riding a horse is just like driving a car. Well, obviously, I can’t drive a f---ing car. All those buttons and switches and levers. A lever would make things easier — I don’t like trying to control a wild and savage beast with merely a bit of rope around its neck — it’s all limp and useless. I’d prefer an iron rod screwed into the base of its skull — that would give you some authority over its direction. And, for your information, big bum, it isn’t like driving a car. A car won’t, of its own volition, suddenly without forethought canter off into a garage and fill itself up with petrol. Sometimes, a horse just gets hungry and goes and gets dinner at the side of the road — grass they like.

Neither did I relish being aggressive to the horse — the lady told me to kick him in the ribs with my heel and “show it you’re the boss”. How am I the boss? He goes horse-riding every day — I’ve only been once. Worse was to come when I had to actually film a scene while perched on the hairy maniac’s back. By this time we hated each other. I told him it wasn’t my idea to kick him and that I wasn’t crazy about sitting on him, but relations had broken down. On the morning of the shoot we were like divorced parents making brittle small talk on sports day. In the scene we — me and the horse — had to gallop from our mark about 100 metres, at the end of which there were literal wranglers, actual wranglers, to prevent the horse running beyond the parameters required. And I think they were wearing Wranglers, so that was good. Nick called “Action” and we galloped along for a bit while they filmed. I sat on the horse pretending that everything was OK, and for a few seconds it was. “Perhaps we’ve finally bonded!” I thought. This is a film within a film, where a boy and his horse, despite their differences, become friends. Yes, I’ve overcome this beast, I thought — “I’m a horse whisperer!” I shouted. Then I whispered it, as I thought that would be more appropriate. Finally after seven seconds or so the hundred yards had been covered and we reached the wranglers. “STOP! STOP!” they bawled, but they could’ve bawled anything because the horse doesn’t have language — he certainly didn’t understand my whispering. Them wranglers may as well have recited a quick verse of Rimbaud. At least I’d have enjoyed that. The horse kept on galloping along past the wranglers, I noticed in passing they were wearing Levi’s — the hypocrites — and through the glade. I was under no illusion about who was in control then. I couldn’t negotiate with the horse. Do not negotiate with terrorists or horses. They don’t like it. They don’t listen anyway. He’d noticed the dynamic had been reversed and he was really happy about it. He kept up his merciless galloping till we got back to his stable. I thought, “Surely he’s not taking me in there,” but he was and he did. He proudly trotted in with me, his raggy-doll hostage emasculated on his back, like a Jar Jar Binks rucksack. It was so quiet in there. I was embarrassed. My horse was acting like everything was normal but the others stopped what they were doing and stared at me. “What are you doing in here?” they haughtily intoned. “We do our s---s in here.” I clambered down off my high horse, descended my ivory tower and tried not to puke up all the humble pie I’d been force fed. If you’ve seen Sarah Marshall you may now be thinking, “Hmmm, I don’t remember the horse-riding scene.” That is because my horse-riding was so unrealistic it was deemed “unusable”. Even as a DVD extra.

I was also taught surfing, which was difficult. I’m not against it as a notion, but it’s one of those words that elicit an image which is incongruous with the actuality, like happy-slapping. Surfing should be called “foam-choking” or “sea stabbing”. If you’re a bit of a clever clogs perhaps you’ll think of a theory and later learn that Heidegger or Nietzsche came up with it first, but you’ll still feel quite proud of your intellectual ability. I do that sometimes, but I never would’ve come up with the idea of surfing. I have never looked at the ocean in all its timeless might and thought, “I shall stand on that. Put a plank on its back, then stand on the plank.” We humans are denser than water. Surfing is waging war with physics. That is a battle we can never win. Walking on water is difficult. Even Jesus only did it the once. He didn’t make it a hobby and do it every weekend. “Hey, dude! Let’s cross the Sea of Galilee.”

The deep is too mysterious a place for frivolity. Creatures lurk there that have deep blue voodoo. The ocean around those islands is home to whales and dolphins. Sometimes I’d see them and be comforted. The first time I saw dolphins I was away writing with Nik. Until I saw them I’d always questioned those who had dolphin tattoos or listened to dolphin albums. One day we took a fruitless boat trip that had been no fun so we headed home, glumly silent but for the raging outboard racket, when a dolphin was sighted.

At first it is exciting, like when you see a cheeky monkey. “Look, a dolphin!” someone’ll say. Then ensues an age of uncertainty where every breach in the surface is pointlessly leapt upon — “There’s one!” It is not one. It is a crisp packet. “What about that?” It is some polystyrene.

Then, as you begin to question whether or not the initial sighting was just attention seeking from Nik, out from the deep, a lithe and glistening exclamation mark of pure mammalian life punctuates the void with the resolute music that silently scores all wonder. “That was a f---ing dolphin!” “Yeah, I saw that one!” We give chase and draw near, and soon the distant dance becomes an omnipresent carnival. We slice in our vessel through the ocean’s emissaries, they lead us and flank us, they follow and mirror. All about us these shimmering angels of the sea communicate through motion. The excitement is replaced by awe. We can hear them ripple and breathe, scorching grey, liquid flames they are, born and reborn with each emergence. I’d always questioned whether or not dolphins were actually any good or just one of those things that everyone assumes are great without really questioning it – like the Dalai Lama or blowjobs — but they are; burgeoning marble ghosts that embody grace. Among them we all became silent and transfixed, somewhere between a funeral and a firework display. These are the moments where one feels proximity to truth, where the supernatural becomes tangible. The ocean is not for humans.

A scene for which you’d assume I’d had sufficient practice over a lifetime, but in fact I could’ve done with some more, was the sex scene I had to do with Kristen Bell. Nick Stoller asked me if I minded if he filmed my arse, which I did, so they gave me these flesh-coloured briefs to wear. Is there a less erotic conglomeration of language than “flesh-coloured briefs”? They’re the colour of a prosthetic limb. Underneath the briefs they gave me a little sack-sock thing to put my much-honoured genitals in. There was a drawstring on the top of it — like that bag put on Saddam Hussein’s head when he was executed.

I felt that was out of order to ol’ Saddam Hussein, because I’d come round to the opinion that we should let him off. This opinion was mainly influenced by knowledge acquired when they dug him up out of that hole in the ground. He came out a bit dirty with a long beard, looking like a Father Christmas who’d been sacked from a department store grotto for being drunk at work. Well, they provided an inventory of what he had down his guilty foxhole with him and one of the items was a fun-sized Mars bar. It made me want to cry that he was down there with that. Not even a normal-sized Mars bar. Like the day he went down he thought, “I really like Mars bars but it’s such a tiny hole.” Where’s the fun in that?

It was unerotic enough doing a sex scene with that Saddam sack on my genitals, but then there was the piercing glare of the bright lighting and burly trucker-type men stood around with tool belts, and Kristen Bell in her own version of nudey clothes. She seemed vulnerable in her pink plastic knickers, they looked like flat liquorice panties. Her boobs were covered with those silicone jelly things. In her jelly bra and liquorice knickers she looked like a prostitute for Willy Wonka.

The scene was hard because of unearned proximity, unearned intimacy — you’re that close to someone but you haven’t been through the typical rituals. Normally before you kiss someone or have it off you’ve gone through rituals, admittedly in my case at that time rather truncated ones.

“Ooh, are you Russell Brand?”

“Yes I am.”

“Can I have my photo done with you?”

“Yes you can. Are you eighteen or above?”

“Yes I am.”

“Let’s go to this toilet.”

But it is a ritual nonetheless.

A further sex-scene challenge concerned the practical realities of film-making in that each take began with Nick the director calling “Action!” Now if that word was followed by a breezy scene between me and Jonah, where we riffed out some sarcastic put-downs and did daft voices, that’s all well and good. But in a sex scene the word “Action!” becomes a starting pistol fired at the beginning of a sex race. It loads it with significance and pressure. BEGIN SEX NOW! Plus I’m representing Great Britain against America, I don’t want them thinking we’re a nation of crusty old fuddy-duddies, so I have to deliver, or as they’d say “represent motha-f---a”. I think I probably overcompensated. When that camera started rolling I threw poor Kristen around the set like ballet in Guantanamo Bay — on the bed, against the wall, in the lavvy — using all my moves, the lizard whip, the flesh dagger and the now banned wet-poltergeist.

“CUT! CUT!” came the panicked cry! “He’s gone over! Code red! Code red! This is not a drill. This is not a drill.” The first assistant Gary took aim with his stun gun, the tranquilliser dart pierced my neck, I roared, Kristen ran to the shower as I slumped, a flaccid grizzly in flesh-coloured pants. The crew sighed. “And scene.”

I’d learned a lot and made some lovely friends, but by the end I was chalking off days.

As the end of production drew near I yearned for Albion and watched the skies for signs. Meredith, my acupuncturist and secular witch, told me that Edgar Allan Poe would write about the shapes in the clouds; we all see shapes in clouds, but Edgar Allan Poe couldn’t see the cloud in the shapes, it was all just a signifier in the sky to him. God’s Facebook.

When you see life as a poem, then people become signs, and messengers. I needed to be again among women, to be adored. My mate Karl once said that I behaved often like a devoted lover betrothed to a woman with a thousand faces — every night we sleep together, and in the morning I wake hungry for her kiss. Today she is called Lucy, yesterday she was Emily, who knows what her name will be tomorrow. I just hope she’s there. Could there ever be a one? A unifying romance that would quell the undimming blaze? I thought not. I yearned for her in Hawaii, because one was not enough.

I got through the shoot without releasing into the convivial set my haunted lunatic shadow self. I kept him in the shack playing one-man football interrupted only by Woody Harrelson and masturbation — thank God those events didn’t clash. Nick and Jason were happy with what we’d shot, there was talk from Judd and Nick about me and Jonah possibly doing a film together. That was of course exciting, but the real triumph was that I’d served my sentence and no one had known about my private madness; well, except Woody, and he can’t talk.

Excerpted from “Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal” by Russell Brand. Copyright © 2010 by Russell Brand. Excerpted by permission of It Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.