As our chat with the Rock of Ages star continues, we enter a slightly more high-minded stage of conversation and discover Russell's thoughts on fame, consumerism and the nature of the human soul. Not your typical interview...
Click to read part 1 of our interview with Russell Brand
How did you like working with Tom Cruise? You must have had an idea of what he would be like.
Russell Brand: I suppose we have ideas of people that are globally famous, yes, I suppose that's what fame is, we have a preconception, unavoidably. He's just a really nice man. He's lovely to be around, he gives you great attention and focus. Say you said "Aw, I was at the shops yesterday and my shopping bag broke...", and then you saw him the next day, he'd go "Hey! How's that shopping bag?" He'd remember it. He's very kind and when it was my birthday, he got my presents where he'd obviously asked "What does Russell like?" and he got me all yoga stuff and that. He's a good bloke. That's the problem with being famous, you realise it when you are - you can't control what people say about you. It's just like some independent island of nonsense floating around that's nothing to do with you. And then people go "Oh, are you alright?" and you go "Oh, something must be happening on the island!" (laughs)
Do you encounter that a lot?
Russell Brand: Luckily, I don't read the press, but what might be good is if I decided to just read things about Cristiano Ronaldo and then live his life - because it's just a virtual reality anyway!
You said that the hardest part of making Get Him to the Greek was when you had to yell at Jonah Hill, because you remembered doing a similar thing in real life - is there a similar issue when you play a character like Lonnie in Rock of Ages, who's not sober like you?
Russell Brand: I'll level with you, mate - this film's a bit of a laugh, innit? Adam Shankman's done a great job, he knows how to collate images, and create a sense of fun and sexiness - not menacing sexual energy like Marlon Brando snarling at Vivien Leigh. Look at how people kiss each other in the film, it's light. So, for me, it wasn't like [puts on posh accent] "Right, so I'm drunk in this scene, I remember being washed up on the shores of Camden Town, a broken man in Robinson Crusoe trousers - GODS, GIVE ME ONCE AGAIN THIS FEELING!" It was just a bit of fun!
When you make a film like this, are you constantly aware that it's silly?
Russell Brand: You've got to be aware of tone - that's why Paul Giamatti's brilliant in the film. He understands the idea of Mephistopheles and Faust, but he also understands the film's a laugh, so he's not like 'Roar!' So my character represents the Puckish spirit of rock 'n' roll - he loves it, he's not into it for drugs, money or women, he loves the music and he's faithful to it. So I take it seriously in my way of understanding my function as a cog in this huge machine, I'm not frivolous about it. But for me as an actor it's not like playing, like Rasputin, and it's being directed by Stanley Kubrick, somehow. (laughs)
What's happened to the spirit of rock 'n' roll?
Russell Brand: What happened, mate, is the 80s. People became seduced by the idea of self-satisfaction, individualism, consuming and capitalism, and we forgot we're part of a community that includes every single human being on the planet. We've created a culture where people in power look after their own interests and have a series of social machines that keep the population docile and spellbound. And the music industry is obviously run according to those principles, because of the word "industry". The 80s was a terrible time - it was the dissolution of socialism, there was a civil war that was called a miners' strike, it was a mad time.
Is it a lot different now?
Russell Brand: It's worse. And we have to do something. But people will because we're just human beings on a little planet and I think we're waking up now.
What's the solution?
Russell Brand: [Deep breath] Well, as you know, I'm Russell Brand the comedian, so... (laughs) I think as individuals we must focus on what's truly important and that's the inner light within us and our natural tendency to be loving to one another. Of course, people are selfish and flawed. I spend ages every day meditating and trying to be a good person - I still love [women], I can still be selfish, still say something rude to someone that I love. But I recognise it. [We need to] work on ourselves as individuals and recognise that within us all there is something constant. Money, wealth, fame - all those things just pass. But some things that are hard to define, like love, are constant. Our planet is full of vibrations and frequencies - if we tune into the correct ones, we can change the world.
Does fame abstract you from community?
Russell Brand: Anything can abstract you from that. Remember, Byron was famous, Krishna was famous, great beings are famous as well. It's not that fame is in itself negative, it's that it's become ensnared in a society that's about consuming plasticity. Reality TV, all those things I've participated in and made money from - they're probably not great.
In the movie, Paul Giamatti's character tells Diego Boneta's Drew that to be famous, you need to be lonely and heartbroken. Is that true?
Russell Brand: I think it's a metaphor for the choice between love and superficial attributes, that's why I referenced Faust, the idea of selling your soul. This isn't something about fame, it's about humanity. Fame is the crumbs of our culture, who cares? What's important is the nature of the human soul and what you prioritise. It's about the choice between love or disdain - how do you deal with people when you're on the way into the hotel, for instance, with love or disdain? And I'm trying to make a choice to deal with people beautifully and how they deal with me is up to them.