Page last updated at 23:17 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 00:17 UK

Comedian Brand woos US audiences

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

American cinemagoers are getting their first taste of Russell Brand with the US release of the British comic's first Hollywood movie.

Russell Brand
Brand has been presenting his Radio 2 show from Los Angeles

In Forgetting Sarah Marshall Russell Brand plays a sex-obsessed rock star - a role some might feel suits the notoriously libidinous performer.

Until recently he was largely unknown in the US, but Brand is quickly assuming the status of a rapidly rising star.

He is doing stand-up comedy performances at Los Angeles clubs and appearing on chat shows.

He is also working on another movie, Bedtime Stories, alongside such established Hollywood stars as Adam Sandler and Courteney Cox.

Brand has been in California for a couple of months. "People come here because of the lifestyle," he says.

"Of course it's a bit transient and silly, but all life is. It's quite nice - there are nice mountains, nice weather, people seem to be very pretty."

'Joker'

Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a comedy about a musician trying to move on after being dumped, has been well received by US critics.

So has Brand's performance as the arrogant Aldous Snow. "He's fantastic," says Nicholas Stoller, the film's director.

Kristen Bell and Russell Brand in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Brand (r) plays a sex-obsessed rocker in Forgetting Sarah Marshall

"He walked into the audition and said, 'I've only had a cursory glance at the script, what is it you require of me?'

"I was like, 'Who is this joker? He hasn't even read the script.' So we said, 'If you want you can be loose with the pages.'

"Russell said, 'You mean improvisation?' And then he came in and blew everyone out of the water.

"I'm pretending to have discovered him, even though he's the most famous person in England."

Brand is keen to put his success in perspective. "I've had several reactions - for example, indifference.

"But there's also interest, encouragement, excitement. Professionally it's been remarkably good."

'Tremendous'

Indeed, Brand has made such a splash he is even attracting the interest of US comedians and performers.

"I've heard he's great," says actor Tom Arnold. "I'm anxious to see what he can do.

Russell Brand in St Trinian's
The comedian was previously seen as Flash Harry in St Trinian's

"Maybe he's the next Sacha Baron Cohen, the next Peter Sellers, the next Hugh Grant."

Brand, however, offers a typically dismissive response to the notion he has set his sights on "breaking" America.

"I don't want to break it, because who's going to put it back together?" he says with a grin.

Russell expects to be in Los Angeles until the end of June. But he is maintaining his links with the UK and is currently hosting his weekly Radio 2 show from a Los Angeles studio.

"It's been tremendous because we've got amazing guests," he says. "We've already had Morrissey, Noel Gallagher and [Knocked Up star] Seth Rogen.

"It's been exciting," he continues. "We've had good access to people."

Magnetic

Much of that access comes from Brand's seemingly magnetic attraction, a quality the hedonistic comedian is quick to exploit.

He is reluctant, though, to get too wrapped up in his newfound celebrity.

"I'm getting a bit carried away, but I realise that it's meaningless and will pass. You're still going to wake up the next day, breathe in and out and then die.

"As long as you maintain awareness of that, it's probably all quite good fun."

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is out in the UK on 25 April.


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