In this fresh new look at a classic story, Russell Brand reinvents the role of loveable billionaire Arthur Bach, an irresponsible charmer who has always relied on two things to get by: his limitless fortune and the good sense of his lifelong nanny and best friend Hobson (Helen Mirren) to keep him out of trouble.
Kind-hearted, fun-loving, and utterly without purpose, Arthur spends every day in the heedless pursuit of amusement. But when his unpredictable public image threatens the staid reputation of his family, he is given an ultimatum: marry the beautiful but decidedly unlovable Susan Johnson (Jennifer Garner), who can keep him in line, or say goodbye to his billion-dollar inheritance. Instead, Arthur falls in love with Naomi (Greta Gerwig), a New York City tour guide who shares his idealism and spontaneity, and discovers a reason to take charge of his own life.
MoviesOnline sat down at a press conference with Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, director Jason Winer and screenwriter Peter Baynham who were in Los Angeles to promote their new film. They told us what inspired them to remake the original “Arthur,” how the role of Hobson was transformed from a butler into a nanny, and why Russell felt inspired when he donned George Clooney’s recycled Batman costume. Helen also shared with us how honored she was to have her hands and feet imprinted in the courtyard of the world famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Q: Helen, what was it like playing the Nanny to such an irresponsible character?
HELLEN MIRREN: Well it was an education for me as much as for him. An education I was trying to give to the character but mostly I was the one who was learning stuff. I learned so many things. I’ve never done a huge film that is called a comedy before. So it was one of the reasons I really wanted to do the film and I was very lucky that I was working with such brilliantly experienced people in the world of comedy – Jason, Russell, Peter and Greta. So it was my education.
Q: Russell, I understand this morning on CBS News you talked about how your past history with addiction helped inform you to play Arthur. Can you talk about that?
RUSSELL BRAND Yes. I’m such a thorough actor that I did two decades of research into alcoholism just to make sure it was 100 per cent right. The difference, of course, is that Arthur is a fictional alcoholic and has much more latitude for clowning and fun and often his adventures don’t lead to broken glass and howling women, although he’s arrested at the beginning of the film. It was very important that we established a context where the alcoholism was humorous and good fun but was not irresponsibly portrayed. This is 2011 and it’s important to see a resolution to the problem of Arthur’s alcoholism. That’s one of the aspects, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I was particularly happy with how that was rendered.
Q: In the original screenplay with Dudley Moore, Arthur was a little more of a bumbling, drooling alcoholic. Did you think about that when you were writing this and that you had to be more responsible?
RUSSELL BRAND Peter’s not supposed to be allowed to talk to people. You’re all excited. If I were you, direct your questions at Peter. You’ll get stuff! He doesn’t know how to monitor himself properly. Ask about 9/11.
PB: They made me take out the broken glass and the howling women. Oh, I forgot the question.
RUSSELL BRAND You wanted to control how drunk he seemed and stuff. You saw in the original Arthur was more drunk and drooling. So what the f*ck have you been thinking?!
PB: I think the reality is a bit like this. This isn’t a searing look at the life of an alcoholic or an exploration into the dark soul. I mean, that’s obviously what I wanted it to be. It’s a man who happens to be an alcoholic and I think in this day and age it’s something that’s discussed and treated much more openly than it was in 1981. You could do something which was much more about a drunk who’s a fun guy who at the end of the movie is drunk and a fun guy but he’s faced up to some of his problems. But this time around you just have to address that a little bit although I hope we did it with a light touch without getting too dark.
JW: We always wanted to be conscious of the humor. I mean, there is a scene or two that takes place in the AA, but those scenes are also undercut by irreverent jokes that hopefully walk the line between funny and inappropriate. Also, you have the fact that at the end of the original movie Dudley Moore’s character is pretty much as drunk as he was at the beginning and Liza Minnelli’s character is put in the position of being his caretaker. And that’s something that we thought would be rejected by modern audiences and certainly not embraced by women.
RUSSELL BRAND And possibly Social Services wouldn’t allow Liza Minnelli to become a nurse. If you went to visit a home for a sick relative and were greeted by Liza Minnelli, you might request a refund. I know life’s a cabaret but f*ckin’ hell!
Q: Russell, when you get caught between the moon and New York City, what is the best that you can do?
RUSSELL BRAND The best thing you can do is fall in love. This is why this film resonated so strongly with me and why I’m so happy with it. My life has been changed by falling in love so I know that whilst that is a romantic idea, and in this case fictional, it’s something that’s happened to me. That’s why I’m so enamored of this story. I loved the original movie. Dudley Moore is a great hero of mine and to be able to recreate that film with such a talented ensemble of people was an incredible gift – to work with this Oscar-winning wonderful actress in Helen Mirren, a brilliant director like Jason Winer who I think this is but the first of what will become a great career of excellent movies – someone who accommodated my improvisation but told the story so wonderfully well visually. It’s almost a trite cliché to hear that “Oh we used the city as another character in the movie,” but I think if you watched this film, you see wry peaks of a bridge from a hospital window. The city is truly present. It makes Manhattan seem like a magical fairy story. I think that Greta wonderfully brought to life a different aspect of the character’s trajectory with her experience in independent films – a more naturalistic and gentle performance that spoke to the child in Arthur. And then it was written by Peter Baynham. That was in retrospect a mistake. But Peter Baynham, for an Englishman, is a much comedic hero to me as is Dudley Moore. He’s one of the great comedy writers of the last thirty years. Alan Partridge, Bruno, Borat. It’s a great honor to work on this film.
Q: Helen, could you talk a little bit about what it felt like to punch Russell? And secondly, what is your secret to looking so amazing?
HELLEN MIRREN: Yes, many virgins have died in my pursuit of youth.
RUSSELL BRAND And mine!
HELLEN MIRREN: Punching Russell was great, but the best thing was being taught how to punch by Evander Holyfield who was my personal trainer on the set as well. I went up to him. You know, he’s such a gentleman. But he is the champ and he’s a big guy and quite scary and he was very quiet. He was on the set in the corner with his – I don’t know who he was with – his person, his guy…
RUSSELL BRAND His boyfriend, I think.
HELLEN MIRREN: But I went up to him and said “Evander, I’ve got to punch Russell. Would you show me how to do it, please?” and he said “Sure” and he gave me a little training. So that was one of the highlights of the shoot for me, being taught how to punch by Evander Holyfield.
JW: And one of the highlights for me was trying to tell Evander to move his upper body more. He was boxing with Russell and he was sort of being overly timid, I think, because he didn’t want to hurt Russell and I was like, “C’mon, Evander! Get into it! Move your upper body!” says the small Jewish boy in the corner.
Q: What about those beauty secrets?
HELLEN MIRREN: I told you…
RUSSELL BRAND You realize that question can never be successfully answered. No one will ever know. There’s a fountain somewhere.
Q: Russell, what were the greatest challenges of playing a character who was so iconic and still so familiar in the minds of moviegoers of a certain age? And for Peter and Jason, what is the impetus to remake the original Arthur?
RUSSELL BRAND I think Peter and Baynham, I mean Peter and Jason and Baynham, because Peter’s at least two people, I think they should answer first because I naturally talk about them.
JW: Well, for me, I was skeptical about the idea of remaking Arthur. It was one of my favorite movies as a kid. It was in heavy rotation on HBO when my family first got cable. And it was sort of this awesome, naughty glimpse into adulthood that I relished and when they came to me with the idea of remaking it, I was like “Why? There’s nothing wrong with the original movie. I loved it!” But then I heard that it was going to be Russell and I thought, if there’s one actor that reinvents the character for a generation of people that haven’t even heard of the original film, it’s him. And then, it was Peter’s brilliant idea to transform the role of Hobson into a nanny instead of a butler and the idea of a 35-year-old man, let alone Russell Brand, with a nanny was a delicious comedic idea that was unique to this film and felt original. And lastly I’ll say this, Arthur is a bit of a throwback to a kind of movie that doesn’t get made very often anymore. It’s a combination of irreverent comedy, romance and drama. Studios might be afraid to mix those things if it weren’t for the comfort of the familiar title. And so, I know this sounds odd, but the fact that it’s a remake allowed us to do something that we might not otherwise get to do.
Q: Russell, I was just wondering…
RUSSELL BRAND Oh! We didn’t hear Peter say anything.
PB: My answers are too long.
RUSSELL BRAND You answered the last question really well. Well that a brilliant answer from Jason. They’re obviously enthralled. But like the more Peter speaks, the more likely you are to get some weird bit of information.
PB: I will tell you that when I first started doing this that I would speak to my wife’s sister who’s 23 and she said “What are you doing?”
RUSSELL BRAND Already weird, why does he say “wife’s sister”? That’s a weird thing to say.
PB: It’s good to be heckled by Russell.
RUSSELL BRAND Sorry!
PB: When my wife’s sister said “What are you doing?” I said “Arthur and I’m a bit daunted.” And she said “I really like Arthur.” I said “I’m wrestling with this notion that he’s an alcoholic” and she was obviously talking about the kids’ Aardvark cartoon… which I’m doing next.
RUSSELL BRAND See?!! He’s talking about an aardvark.
JW: His point is that it’s been 30 years and while all of us in this room remember the movie, there’s a whole lot of people that don’t know the story.
PB: It’s like Jason said. It’s that kind of story that doesn’t necessarily get told that often. It’s sort of a slightly more complex group of characters in this lovely family of characters that I’m trying to tell a story about. It’s not a straightforward romantic comedy. There’s something more else. There’s something more *else* going on.
RUSSELL BRAND See, he’s a writer! “More else”?? That’s not words. It’s more else, sir…
Q: Greta, you haven’t said a word.
GRETA GERWIGNo, I know.
Q: Is this a bit daunting for you?
GRETA GERWIGNo, no. This is sort of how it was on set. It was just Russell making me laugh all the time to the point where I feel like every scene began and ended with me just laughing like an idiot. So this is representative of that.
Q: Russell, you want to say something about…?
RUSSELL BRAND Is this about sex?
Q: Well that comes later.
RB You’re very presumptuous. I like it! [giving out his hotel room number] 1-2-0-6, which is also my favorite position for those of you who know the Kama Sutra.
Q: You’re an executive producer on this film. Can you tell us what you do?
RUSSELL BRAND Nothing! Executive producers don’t have to do anything. Nor do any kind of producers. They just sit around on deck chairs watching stuff, and if it gets cold, they leave. So why were they there when it was not cold? It’s no kind of contribution. Now actually I suppose as a producer you’ve got to be involved in helping out with solving problems. They brought me this idea at Warner Bros. very early on. They said “Would you be interested in remaking Arthur?” And I said, “Yeah” because I really, really loved Dudley Moore, but I kind of thought you know that people talk all the time and you think are these things ever really going to happen? And I didn’t really imagine they would. And they asked “Who would you like to write it?” “Peter Baynham because he’s a great hero of mine” as I’ve expressed. Then we talked about directors and I was already a fan of Modern Family, Jason’s show. And I thought, my God, because of his visual style and his understanding of comedy he would be able to make this relevant and pertinent whilst maintaining its traditional aspect and storyline. So the idea of working with Jason was exciting. Then, as Jason said, changing it, when Peter had the idea of making Hobson female and we immediately, of course, thought of Helen Mirren. Then, for me, that was the idea that made the film feasible. That was the idea that meant this will actually happen now. And I’m so grateful that it did because I had a wonderful opportunity to work with such incredible people.
JW: And then we had to figure out who you were going to fall in love with.
RUSSELL BRAND That happened very naturally, didn’t it?
JW: Yes. I mean, I hope that somebody sees the original audition tape between the two of you at some point.
RUSSELL BRAND I remember. I don’t know if I told you this because it’s one of those things that might make you embarrassed but as I love doing that, I’ll do it now. After Greta left, we’d auditioned, we saw loads and loads of different actresses, which was alright, but of course, I was already on the way to getting married then so I couldn’t enjoy it like in the good old days when auditions had a more primal quality. We did do the audition with Greta and afterwards I was just sitting quietly. I think it must’ve been the last casting of the day and I was all quiet and Jason said “What’s the matter?” I said “I feel sad now that she’s gone. It’s because I’d enjoyed playing with her so much. She has such a brilliant imagination, she’s a great improviser, has a wonderful understanding of comedy, a wide range of ideas, peculiar choices, and a very, very beautiful person. But good peculiar. Not peculiar like you come home to find, I don’t know, a babysitter covered in sick or you’re talking to your wife’s 23-year-old sister about aardvarks. Not macabre. Peculiar in a magical way. A strange mutation like only nature can produce.
JW: Tell them, what was that audition like for you?
GRETA GERWIGWell I do feel embarrassed right now, but I would say I was a huge fan of Russell like most Americans. I discovered him in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and I had nerdily watched all of the DVD extras and his deleted scenes which I loved. And then, I went on YouTube and I watched every single piece of stand-up that I could see him in and this was before I even knew about the audition. So, I was worried. I just had such a crush on you, a kind of school girl crush.
RUSSELL BRAND I can’t do nothing about it now. Just useless, just a wonderful, useless thing, like a yacht in the middle of Idaho.
GRETA GERWIGBut when I came in for the audition, it was just so fun to play. It didn’t feel like I was on trial and Jason was so nice and everyone was. It just felt kind of magical and it was one of those things that I left and I thought I don’t know if that really happened. But I made you laugh one beautiful time and it was so gratifying.
JW: You knocked him back on his heels with something.
RUSSELL BRAND Yes. It was an extraterrestrial thing.
JW: It might have been an inappropriate joke.
RUSSELL BRAND It was, it was about extraterrestrial alien probing in this film, Arthur, a romantic comedy set in Manhattan. But it made sense at the time.
JW: We were doing the scene that currently exists in the movie. You would know it as the Spaghetti-O scene. We were doing that scene with them at the table but a very playful and loose version of the scene. I was asking all the actresses that auditioned to expand on the ideas that were in the book that the character was writing and she came up with this absolutely absurd and wonderful image about aliens probing in Central Park.
RUSSELL BRAND Central Park. Central Park being a landing pad for extraterrestrials. That’s why it’s there. And then, the mugging craze, which is how I call it, of the 70s was in fact the extraterrestrials doing probing. It came very effortlessly to Greta that idea interestingly.
JW: And she made Russell break and that was the first time I had seen that happen and that was sort of magic. The other thing that I saw in that was this sweetness that she brought out in Russell that I wanted to bring out in the character and the two of them together had that sweetness. It’s funny too those aliens you mentioned in Central Park are now in the end credit sequence. That imagery is incorporated.
RUSSELL BRAND Survived it has. Also, it was important that it was someone that existed outside of the paradigm of Arthur’s normal world, a world of privilege and luxury, and someone for whom it was conceivable that you would give up a billion dollars for. And Greta had this naivete, this innocence, this sense of fun and wonder that made that notion feasible.
JW: You love Arthur for loving her.
Q: What did you do on set to promote a green environment? Did you recycle anything?
RUSSELL BRAND I recycled George Clooney’s Batman suit. That was George Clooney’s Batman suit.
JW: It was. So that was recycled. You’ll notice it’s distinctive because it has the nipples.
RUSSELL BRAND George’s nipples!
Q: How did your life change when you fell in love?
RUSSELL BRAND Like in Arthur, I think love has an incredibly transformative quality. I think that the first thing that you do when you fall in love is that you recognize that you’re not the most important person in the world and your focus becomes another person. And the reason that the film resonated with me in the way it does is because I think Arthur is a person without direction. I mean, the fictional character. I, as the actor, had wonderful direction from Jason Winer who would sometimes direct me while pretending to be drunk.
JW: It was an instinct. I couldn’t help it. He would often remain in his drunken affect between takes and I would naturally start directing him in that style. It would just come out naturally like that.
RUSSELL BRAND But then we would start crying about how much we loved each other and making declarations of being best friends.
GRETA GERWIGThey pretend kissed each other so many times. Jason would say I really want you to kiss him passionately and then they would have this moment. It was pretty incredible.
RUSSELL BRAND I liked it because remember, I’m in a monogamous marriage now so if I get to kiss those gorgeous lips of Jason Winer’s, like two pink slugs on top of each other, wow, I’m on it like a bonnet.
JW: That’s nothing compared to how he’s described Jennifer Garner’s lips. So I’m fine with that description.
RUSSELL BRAND A boxing glove!
Q: Who was the better kisser?
RUSSELL BRAND Jason! Certainly more erotic.
Q: Russell and Greta, I loved the scene in the Grand Central Station Terminal. What was that like for you having that whole place to yourself? Did you get to do anything wild while you were in there?
RUSSELL BRAND Yes, we did. They took us on a special tour and showed us places where you’re not meant to go. There’s like secret tunnels and stuff like that, Underground Central.
GRETA GERWIGThere’s a secret staircase.
RUSSELL BRAND We went on the secret staircase that’s underneath the clock. The man did make Greta remove her top as part of the entry procedure. But you were very generous. Thank you for that. Greta doesn’t mind nudity if it will unveil new tourism for people, for example.
Q: Were you cool with running around in your underwear?
RUSSELL BRAND I felt very shy and embarrassed about it as a matter of fact. But they were such lovely underpants that I was grateful.
RUSSELL BRAND Custom made. Yes.
Q: For everybody, once you got a nice Hollywood paycheck, what’s the most indulgent, extravagant Arthur-like purchase you’ve made?
PB: A yacht in the middle of Idaho.
RUSSELL BRAND That’s why that image came so quickly to me. Peter has one. My own private Idaho yacht.
PB: So I won’t be penniless on the streets.
JW: I bought a series of skinny ties. It doesn’t really equate on Arthur’s level. I think the truth is that, for me, I’m a worrier and I’m the opposite of extravagant which is why it was so fun for me to live vicariously through Arthur’s world and to make a feature because you get to spend some money doing that.
HELLEN MIRREN: Oh, a castle in Puglia.
RUSSELL BRAND People are starving!
JW: You did buy a castle recently.
HELLEN MIRREN: We did, my husband and I bought a castle in Puglia. It’s like turning on one’s taps full and money just pours out into the desert until it’s gone. So yes, absolutely, a castle in Puglia.
JW: What’s it like?
HELLEN MIRREN: It’s not finished. It will be beautiful but it’s not finished.
Q: Where is Puglia?
HELLEN MIRREN: Puglia is in the heel, the bottom of the heel of the boot of Italy.
RUSSELL BRAND Good description.
JW: I think it’s absolutely appropriate that Helen Mirren should have a castle.
HELLEN MIRREN: It’s not really a castle. It’s actually a farmhouse but it is different.
JW: Don’t back off from it now.
HELLEN MIRREN: No, it is a farmhouse but it’s got a little bit where you can pour boiling oil out of.
RUSSELL BRAND Why would they need to do that at a farm? Like Animal Farm, the pigs may turn against them and pour boiling oil.
HELLEN MIRREN: No, because Puglia was being invaded all the time. They had endless invasions so even the farmhouses are fortified. It’s a fortified farmhouse.
RUSSELL BRAND Fortified farmhouse, that’s a castle.
Q: Greta and Russell, can either of you top that?
RUSSELL BRAND Greta, what do you spend your billions on? Self-indulgent hedonist!
GRETA GERWIGI still live with roommates so I think my biggest indulgence is flying home more to Sacramento.
RUSSELL BRAND At this time of economic suffering… Disgusting! Bloody fat cats!
GRETA GERWIGBut actually I had a birthday party in my apartment while we were making Arthur and everyone from the film came.
PB: Most hedonistic people I’ve ever met!
JW: Brett Ratner was there.
GRETA GERWIGAnd Brett Ratner came in addition to all of my musician/indie type friends. Yes, I enjoy the clash of worlds.
Q: Do you have one, Russell?
RUSSELL BRAND No, I’m a simple man.
Q: What about the problems of the super rich? Convincing people to part with $18 to go see a movie when they can’t pay their mortgage?
RUSSELL BRAND I’m very glad you asked this question. It’s an important question but I’m going to ignore it. It’s a brilliant question. I’ll tell you why, because Arthur has everything. He has all the money in the world and yet he is lonely, yet he is unhappy. For all of us, and I’ve experienced this, I grew up poor. I didn’t have no money. Now I have some money. The important thing, the greatest poverty one can have is to be poor in one’s heart and for falling in love, he is truly happy. He discovers purpose. All of us know, don’t we, that money is transient, that its pleasures are illusory? But the happiest moments in our life aren’t “Oh I got a new hat or a wonderful silvery object, some glistening bauble.” But it’s when you connect with another human being. If you can find the $18 in your pocket, you are purchasing dreams with that money.
JW: The truth is that Arthur’s world is an escapist one. And in tough times, we wanted to present a world that was fun to get away to, to present a man with unlimited resources and incredible toys that people could have fun watching – whether it’s the Batmobile or a $1.5 million magnetic floating bed. Those aren’t indulgences that most people can afford these days but you can go to the movies for a relatively small amount of money and escape to a world where that exists.
RUSSELL BRAND Plus you could watch our one, then sneak in and watch another one and just stay in the corridor but pay for our one.
GRETA GERWIGI felt like my character got to be sort of the eyes of the audience on this world. I got to walk into this apartment and completely be in awe of it and I felt it as a person. I went to college in New York, I live in New York, but I didn’t grow up in New York. I certainly had that experience when I went over to friends’ houses and I thought “Oh my goodness, you live in a townhouse on the Upper East Side” and how amazing that can be. For me, I feel like I loved doing it and I hope that they connect through my character’s excitement and wonderment.
HELLEN MIRREN: I think also it’s a fantasy that we all have. What would we do if we had a billion dollars? That’s why when the lottery gets really big, it’s up to $40-$50 million, I go out and buy a ticket because maybe I’ll win. You don’t buy the ticket…
RUSSELL BRAND …and buy another castle! Well that castle’s ruined. I’ll need another castle! It’s a shithole!
HELLEN MIRREN: No, but you fantasize about what it would be like to have millions and millions and millions of dollars. I think we all do that and here we are, we can see what happens when you have millions and millions and millions of dollars. So I think it’s a fantasy that we all carry within us, anyone who’s ever bought a lottery ticket. Who’s never bought a lottery ticket in this room? Never? Only one person. That’s a really low percentage. We’re all dreamers.
Q: Helen, how do you feel about having imprints of your hands and feet put in cement in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd.?
HELLEN MIRREN: I feel really, really honored. When I first came to Hollywood many years ago, not as a tourist, I was working here, but you know, you don’t know the place. It’s the first place you want to go to because Los Angeles is Hollywood and Hollywood is Hollywood Blvd. and Grauman’s Chinese is Hollywood Blvd. So that’s the place you go to as a tourist. It’s the first thing you want to see. It’s the only thing really that you know about as far as Los Angeles is concerned. And so you go and you look at Joan Crawford’s hands and feet and the whole history of American filmmaking is encapsulated in that one little area on that one street. That street, to me, has always been the street of dreams. Personally, I’m thrilled that the Oscars are back on Hollywood Blvd. I think that’s where they should be. There’s just the whole history of filmmaking and seeing all those incredible stars. Anyway, to find myself now, so many years later, that my hands and feet are going to be there, I’m absolutely blown away by it. Becoming a Dame, you know, fantastic. Winning an Oscar, amazing. Hands and feet, incredible!
Q: Russell, what was it like donning the actual Batman suit and being in the actual car?
RUSSELL BRAND The actual car inside is not as interesting on the interior. It’s like a reverse metaphor for the nature of the human soul. The inside was boring. It’s a bit scruffy in there and I was in there with Luiz Guzman who is a brilliant actor but he says unusual stuff. Like I’ll be trapped in that Batmobile with him – not trapped, I really like him, he’s funny – but like he’ll say “Imagine if when the roof of the Batmobile opens that we’re not on the set anymore and we’ve gone back to caveman days.” And then we hear “Action!” It’s like an ideological fart in the car. Bizarre notions for me to contend with. I enjoyed wearing the suit because it had a Clooney musk in it, you know. It had the aroma, the pheromones of George Clooney and I like to think that I may have absorbed them. I’m certainly feeling a lot more altruistic. If anyone needs any help with anything, I’m prepared to help.
Q: Russell and Helen, you had such great chemistry on the film. What was it like behind the scenes? Was it like in the movie? And Russell, were you able to quit everything for love?
RUSSELL BRAND You go first and then I can brilliantly undercut you!
HELLEN MIRREN: Oh God! He was in his trailer all the time. He never came out of his trailer, honestly. When he came out, he was always surrounded by minders. He wouldn’t speak to anyone.
RUSSELL BRAND People are writing that down! You vicious queen! I’m going to go down bloody Hollywood Blvd. and fill your handprints in.
JW: I can attest to the fact that what Helen just said is completely untrue.
HELLEN MIRREN: It’s completely untrue. Well actually I don’t know because I was drunk all the time.
RUSSELL BRAND I’ve been brilliantly schooled by publicists and minders of [what not to say]. Even if you look back on the transcriptions, I’ve not said anything that controversial except that thing about a yacht and a couple of swear words. Helen says mad stuff that you’re not supposed to say in front of the press like that. It’s crazy. We had a wonderful relationship is the truth. I’m a bit in love with Helen. I was very excited about the possibility of working for her…uh with her…that’s a weird Freudian slip.
HELLEN MIRREN: I like that one.
JW: Do you remember, Russell, on the second day of rehearsals when we were sitting there and you were being rather timid which is unusual for you.
RUSSELL BRAND Yes. Well it was the Queen, Jason. I’m an Englishman. There’s a different resonance. You got buggered up just because of a bit of tax.
JW: Helen smacked you on the arm and said “Stop respecting me!”
HELLEN MIRREN: Yes, and he never did again.
RUSSELL BRAND The next day she said “Start respecting me!” I left the trailer and put on my underpants in that order.
HELLEN MIRREN: I would say, as Greta said, this is what it was like on the set. It was a very loving environment and it was a very funny environment and thanks to our indefatigable young director, it was an exhausting environment because you drove us into the ground.
JW: Do you remember the very first thing when I came to meet you for the first time at your house? I parked in your driveway. I got out of the car and you were waiting for me in your doorway and you didn’t say hello. You just stared at me. The very first words you said were “My God, how old are you!?”
HELLEN MIRREN: I don’t remember that!
JW: That was the very first words.
HELLEN MIRREN: It was those shorts you were wearing and those little socks.
JW: That was a mischaracterization!
Q: Helen, why did you decide to choose this role? You mentioned it was your first comedy. And Russell, you were a bachelor, and now you’re married to one of the most beautiful women in the world. What advice would you give Prince William?
RUSSELL BRAND I don’t go around giving advice to the British royalty. They’ll chop your head off! What would you say, Helen? Why did you do our film? How did we trick you into doing our movie?
HELLEN MIRREN: I did it because I met Russell and I sat on a sofa with him or opposite him for a couple hours and he just blew me away. I’d worked with him kind of in The Tempest but we’d never really…we’d sort of warily said hi to each other, respectfully, and all the rest of that stuff. But we hadn’t really spent time together and there we kind of bumped into each other and Russell told me about this film. He just totally seduced me the way he does. I just defy any male or female or child or …
RUSSELL BRAND Steady!
HELLEN MIRREN: …or aged person to spend two hours with Russell and not be completely charmed and just say “Yeah, fine, I’ll do whatever you want.”
Q: Shall we let the screenwriter, since it’s his words, have the last word?
RUSSELL BRAND No!
Q: Russell, what did you quit in order to fall in love?
RUSSELL BRAND I fell in love in a moment. It’s the heart. It’s not the mind.
“Arthur” opens in theaters on April 8th.