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Russell Brand makes his case for leading-man status

April 7, 2011 |  7:30 am

Russ2 Does Russell Brand have the acting chops to be taken seriously as a leading man? Moviegoers will help answer that question Friday when the comedian's remake of the 1981 classic "Arthur" hits theaters.

In the comedy-drama, Brand -- who in real life is a former alcoholic, as well as a drug and sex addict -- takes on the role of the booze-loving millionaire. The part garnered the late Dudley Moore an Oscar nomination 30 years ago, a fact that only motivated Brand.

"There wasn’t any hesitation because of that, and I hope that doesn’t sound in any way nonchalant or arrogant," the 35-year-old said in an interview at Las Vegas' CinemaCon last week, where he was named Comedy Star of the Year. "I really loved Dudley Moore and the original. Of course I felt cautious, but the part of it that Dudley Moore had done it -- that just made me excited."

The big question, of course, is what the role will mean for Brand's career. (We further explore that issue in a profile of the actor in Thursday's Calendar section.)

While his performance in the movie does contain moments of subtlety and depth, Brand's Arthur often exudes the same wild energy that characterized Aldous Snow, the rock star he played in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek."

But Nicholas Stoller, who directed Brand in those Judd Apatow-produced films, said he’s confident the actor has the ability to tackle a variety of roles.

“I feel like he’d be a really good villain in something,” the filmmaker said. “Right now, I think he’s doing what all movie stars do, which is make sure everyone knows what their persona is and do a bunch of movies with it, and then branch out to different fare.”

Like many actors, Brand also says he’d like to direct -- but won't leave his current profession to do it.

“I’d be in the film as the main person -- I’d definitely be in it,” he said, flashing his toothy grin. “I wouldn’t be all solemn in a sweater looking on, figuring out what might have been. I’d be out there, showing off.”

During production of "Arthur," Brand was able to strut his stuff for his wife, pop star Katy Perry, who often came to the set with her parents.

"Katy has germinated some aspects of her character to do what she does, and there’s nothing disingenuous about what I do as a performer. But you can’t be like that all the time," he added. "When we’re at home in Los Feliz we’re just normal -- and it is going down to Alcove or Arclight or the bloody coffee shop I can never remember the name of -- Intelligentsia. It’s very, very ordinary, thank God. Because I think that’s what my life is lacking.”

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Russell Brand in Hollywood. Credit: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times