Russell Brand plays cute, fluffy and ruthless in his new comedy, “Hop,” from the creators of “Despicable Me.” In a story of candy, chicks and rock ‘n roll, Brand voices E.B., the teenage son of the Easter Bunny who leaves Easter in the lurch when takes off for Hollywood to pursue his dreams.
In search of a place to stay, he tries unsuccessfully to bunk with the bunnies at the Playboy Mansion who send him hopping. Then he encounters Fred (James Marsden), a 30-something slacker who accidentally runs him down with his car. The two become unwilling roommates while E.B. recovers and together they struggle with the transition from adolescence into adulthood until Fred realizes it’s up to him to save Easter.
MoviesOnline sat down with the brilliant improvisational comedian Russell Brand at a press conference in Los Angeles to talk about his new movie. Always funny and charming, Russell told us what inspired him to play such an iconic character, who his favorite cartoon characters were growing up, and why rabbits are charming tricksters until they start messing with your crops. He also discussed the possibility of a Bookie Wook 3. Here’s what he had to tell us:
RB: If I’m late, I’m sorry that I’m late.
Q: You are not late.
Q: But you are under oath.
RB: Oh no!
Q: This is probably the most kid friendly movie you’ve ever made. What made you want to do it?
RB: I really enjoyed it. For me, the opportunity to play the Easter Bunny gave me a lot of license to be playful and mischievous. People could see the peculiar gestures I was using to motivate that voice – a lot of them it was like I was trying to land a plane on a matchbox – peculiar, semaphore. What I liked about it is in the world of children, there are very, very different rules and a kind of naivete and innocence and sweetness that’s been beautifully captured, I think, by this film as you can even see [gesturing toward the film’s poster on display nearby] from this gorgeous artwork. Imagine if you were in there [referring to the film’s candy factory], I mean, perhaps it’d be difficult to sleep. And all those chicks, why don’t they grow up into chickens? That’s what I was sometimes thinking when I was watching it. I have not had the opportunity to ask the filmmakers yet.
Q: EB has musical aspirations. Did you have any growing up?
RB: There was a brief period where – like a lot of adolescents – I succumbed to the fantasy of becoming a roll ‘n roll star. Me and a cousin or two holed ourselves up in a bedroom but unfortunately we emerged with nothing more than headaches and a mild addiction to marijuana which has since been beaten. I’m not good at music. I’ve not got the proper rhythm or I find it very hard to … It’s like that, tap your head [tapping head while simultaneously drawing circles on his stomach]. See, I can’t do it. You fools! You mad fools! I can do that! But there’s no market for that in the current roll ‘n roll industry. If Axl Rose just stood doing that for hours, I don’t know, it could be useful.
Q: Did you feel any pressure at all playing such an iconic character?
RB: He’s the Easter Bunny! Well, in case I would undermine what people’s preconceptions of the Easter Bunny were. I didn’t feel any pressure at all. It’s like as if that pressure didn’t exist. What I thought was, this is a blank canvas. It’s the Easter Bunny. Where have there been rabbits in films? Roger Rabbit, brilliant. Bugs Bunny, Harvey, that Jimmy Stewart movie ages ago. They’re always playful and fun, aren’t they? So I thought this is a bright, bloody good opportunity for me to have a proper all knees up, a right rollicking laugh. Also, furthermore to boot, rabbits represents… Like say if we were looking at, I don’t know, like Native American mythology, the old rabbit, he often represents the trickster. I like that because they’re sort of playful little devils, aren’t they? Except when they start messing with your crops. Ah, my crops, if I catch another rabbit in my crops, there’s no telling what I’m gonna do.
RB: [shouting] What is it now?!!! What’s all these questions? What is this, a press conference?!
Q: It is a press conference!
RB: Fair enough.
Q: In the U.K., Easter is celebrated a little differently.
RB: We don’t care about it, do we?
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the differences?
RB: In England, we just have some chocolate. That’s it. Occasionally a nan or somebody goes “Oy, this has something to do with Jesus.” You go “Mmm. Okay, thanks.” But there’s none of that Easter Egg Hunt or like the bunnies and Easter bonnets and tie a yellow ribbon around the old oak tree and all this. The Americans have gone hog wild for it so I think let’s encourage it. It might distract them.
Q: Is there a Booky Wook 3 in your future and will it include a chapter about your adventures as EB?
RB: If there was a Booky Wook 3, it would a bit. But I mean, that chapter would just be ‘Was in booth, talking, Monday. Got up, went back to booth.’ In a way, it’s good because a rabbit’s life is mostly spent in the subterranean context of a network of burrows. We only see them when they’re in the outdoor world, like when you see a teacher from school in the supermarket in their normal clothes with their normal first name. It’s very unsettling. So I don’t know if the chapter would not be incredibly informative or picaresque, but the movie which derived from those sessions is very colorful, exciting and interesting.
Q: Did you enjoy the part where you were getting ready to appear on stage and you were on camera?
RB: Oh yeah, that was my best bit because I got to be in the film twice at one moment.
Q: How did you feel?
RB: It felt like I was getting a lot of attention because I was talking to me and I was me. And a lot of time when I’m talking I think “I’m enjoying saying this but wouldn’t this be better if I was saying this at me?” In that situation, that was literally the case by a mirror. So I think that was an interesting piece of work from Tim Hill, the director, and perhaps a comment on the fractured nature of the human psyche in the way that perhaps we have many selves. People say “How are you today?” Perhaps you are morose or melancholy or grandiose or filled with splendor and a sense of wonder and that all things are possible. The cells that make up our body constantly change. From one day to the next, we can be a different person. So who are we? What is the self? Thank you very much! Goodnight!
Q: James Marsden told us he sat around and listened to you recording? How did that actually work?
RB: He was a pain in the ass. It’s like looking after someone’s teenager. He was like “Oh what are we going to do now, Russell? Can we go out? Can we play football? Where’d you get that jacket?” “James! If you’re going to come here, please sit quietly.” He was touching all the things. He was playing with all this stuff and putting it down his trousers. He was out of control.
Q: Well he said you were brilliant.
RB: I like James. Basically he’s lovely, isn’t he?
Q: What happened in there? Was he just sitting there listening? Did you run lines off each other?
RB: No, we did some lines but them lines didn’t end up being in the film because you’d talk over each other and stuff. For the technical requirements of the film, the dialogue has to be isolated and incredibly clear. But it was an interesting exercise in developing a rapport between Jimmy and I as the essential relationship of the film. It’s contingent upon that chemistry. [Referring to the pink beret one of the reporters is wearing] Why you got a hat on like that with one of the rabbits?
Journalist: They gave it to me.
RB: Just to get into the vibe?
Journalist: It got your attention.
RB: Well it’s worked, hasn’t it? On top of being bloody French, are you French? What country did you come here from?
Journalist: I’m Mexican.
RB: You’re Mexican? Oh fair enough. Nice. I like the country. Listen, you sat there in a pink beret in an adult press conference which is admittedly for a family film. You can’t possibly be offended that someone’s mentioned it.
Q: What was it like working with Tim Hill?
RB: He’s lovely, you know, Tim Hill. He’s a really good director. He’s got a really clear vision of what the film is and he’s very good at explaining what you needed to be like playing this part. He’s clearly got a great understanding of what he wants as a director and he’s very gentle and muck around the ego and stuff. I liked him a lot. He sat there, plus I think he looks like a human rabbit.
Q: Because this is a family film, did you have to watch what you said when you were improvising dialogue? Is there going to be a more “R” rated version?
RB: I don’t think so. I think that would confuse people. And now the gloves are off. A film about the Easter Bunny with weird undertones. Macabre philosophy. No, no, no, they can never release that film. But, of course, I like having the parameters that are required to work within different genres. I like mucking about and being silly. I really, really love children and I think probably among children is when I feel mostly berated. It’s not like I feel like oh, there’s some children here. I have to tone it down. I go nuts with children especially when I ain’t got none. So when I’m round my mates’ children, I jest them kids up first. I swear at them, I get more worked up, I say crazy stuff to them, fill their heads with nonsense and then I leave them.
Q: Back to the family film genre again, you grew up watching cartoons, which animated characters did you like as a kid?
RB: I liked Bugs Bunny. He was pretty good. He’s annoying as a duck and he’s anti-proletarian. Daffy Duck I couldn’t see what was going on with him. He seemed like he was angry about something. My favorite one though is Pinocchio. I liked that kid. He was made of wood. I liked that for a start. I also liked how he’d tell a lie and his nose would grow. I liked the morality of that. I also liked that he had to go and live on that island with all those weird boys turning into donkeys [braying like a donkey]. It’s when children’s stories suddenly go freaky on you. “Be out in a minute.” “What? I’m a child.” “Hang about.” I like all the names of everyone in Pinocchio: Geppetto, just think about that sometimes. Geppetto, Geppetto. I was saying it for some reason the other day. Oh yeah, I was singing the song “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley. I was saying [singing like Elvis Presley] “He’s got a little wooden son and he sits with him when his work is done. He’s Geppetto. Geppetto. Pinnochio. And there’s one thing he doesn’t know, he’s got a little lying son. He’s Geppetto. Geppetto. People are not gonna understand.”
Q: You said you couldn’t do music but you’re right on key there.
RB: Oh well, that’s just singing a type of music. If you asked me to play a xylophone, I’d be up a gum tree.
“HOP” opens in theaters on April 1, 2011.