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“a giddy trip ...

... through the brilliant mind of one of Britain's most valuable exports.”

British comedian Russell Brand – famous in the U.S. for his rocker role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall – has come out with a memoir detailing his life of heroin and humor.

I heard an interview with Russell on NPR last week and was surprised by how intellectual he came across. He wasn’t the air-headed Brit I had imagined him to be. He’s obviously been through a lot and has come through scathed, but incredibly reflective and self-actualized.

Here’s a borrowed excerpt from the book (lifted from Brand’s website):

“Cruise of the Gods was filmed on a ship sailing the Aegean Sea for three weeks, visiting Greek islands and the Turkish port of Istanbul. I was in no f***ing state to be going anywhere on my own, but it was a great job and an amazing opportunity.

The story concerned a TV science-fiction convention, held on a cruise ship, where obsessive fans of a Star Trek–type show would get to meet the heroes of the program they had watched in its heyday, ten to fifteen years before. The central theme was the interaction between these aged and jaded stars. I can’t remember the exact intricacies of the plot; I didn’t read the script.

But it should not be assumed that I embarked on this cruise ship with a bad attitude: quite the reverse. I put myself through a mild heroin withdrawal before going on board (falling back on whiskey and grass), as I thought it would be stupid to take hard drugs on the boat. I said to Martino, who demonstrated his limitless compassion by remaining my friend after the carnage of RE:Brand, “I don’t want to get in any trouble on this job. I want to be known as the bookish actor who just kept himself to himself.” Martino encouraged this. “That is a good ambition to have, Russell. If you can achieve it, you will have done well.” So off I went with that goal in mind. Within a week, I had been fired and sent home in disgrace.


I got back home, and almost as soon as I arrived, Conor called me up from ICM. “Russell,” he asked, in an ominously somber tone, “what did you do on that boat?” “Oh, nothing,” I muttered, “just the usual . . . I can’t really remember.” “Well,” he said, “they’ve sacked you. I’ve never had a client sacked before, and the people down there, the producer and the casting director, say they’ve never in all their careers experienced anything like it: they just think you’re an animal.”
Before I could blurt out, “But I just tried my hardest to fit in – I thought I was this bookish sort of feller,” Conor said, “I’m going to have to talk to you face to face.”
I realized this was bad, so I went out and bought a load of heroin. I knew I’d really ballsed things up. It should have been a f***ing amazing job, that Cruise of the Gods. There we were, stopping off at all these gorgeous islands – going to Athens and Istanbul – and look how I, as usual, converted these beautiful experiences into a grimly picaresque ordeal.

I’ve always been drawn to the seamier side of life. Those are the kind of characters I’m attracted to, there’s an energy I get from them that drives a lot of the work I do. At this stage, though, my predilection for de cadence and abuse of drink and drugs was threatening to bring my career to an end before it had even properly started.

I finally met Conor in a café in Soho Square. It was raining. He said, “I’m sorry Russell, but I’ve got to let you go.”

I was all too familiar with the feeling that overtook me at this juncture (“I’ve had a lot of sobering thoughts in my life” – as Lennard Pearce said to Del Boy – “it was them that started me drinking”). I’d felt it when I couldn’t go back for a second year at Italia Conti, when I was thrown out of Drama Centre, when I was sacked from MTV and XFM and on numerous other occasions when I’d been sacked from jobs.

Up until those particular instants of helplessness and despair, I felt myself to be an invincible blur, impervious to any kind of judgment – “Your bullets can’t harm me, my wings are like shields of steel!” – but then suddenly, like Icarus, I’d clatter back to earth. The difference was, on this occasion, I had no idea how I was ever going to get back up in the sky again.”

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““a giddy trip ...”