Russell Brand has the perfect last name.
“Get Him To The Greek” is a perfect movie star vehicle in terms of conception and timing and opportunity, and there’s a good chance it’s going to do exactly what it’s been designed to do and kick Russell into a different level of movie stardom.
There is a major difference between a movie star and an actor. Sometimes, movie stars are great actors. Sometimes they are not. Doesn’t really matter. Movie stars are personalities that audiences will go see on the flimsiest possible excuse just to spend time with the personality. Good movie star movies are built to give a movie star an excuse to do something, preferably with another movie star, that is fun to watch for a while and that fulfills whatever promise its premise makes. “Get Him To The Greek” is the story of Aldous Snow (the same rock star character that Brand played in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) and the American junior record executive Aaron Green (Jonah Hill not playing the same character he played in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”) who is assigned to bring Snow to America for a heavily-promoted concert appearance at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles.
The joke is simple: Aldous Snow is decadence incarnate, Pete Doherty-by-way-of-“Arthur. And this isn’t a guy who likes a few too many cocktails, either. In “Marshall,” the character was portrayed as sober, reformed, all of his energy chanelled into chasing girls instead of drugs and alcohol. It’s part of the public face he wears. In “Greek,” Snow is off the wagon, back on the prowl, abusing himself with abandon. And that’s what makes Aaron’s just so difficult, and it’s also what looks to be a major source of humor in this gleefully R-rated comedy, one of several that Universal is making right now.
This writer was invited to visit the set as part of a group visit, but had to reschedule. The result was a long Friday spent alone in Culver City on the Sony lot, where “Get Him To The Greek” occupied a full-sized penthouse suite from a Vegas luxury hotel where they staged a massive party designed to lay waste to the luxury they built. In addition to Hill and Brand, the scene required the presence of veteran character actor Colm Meaney, playing Snow’s reprobate father, and Sean Combs, who plays the key role of Sergio Roma, the record company executive who employs (and terrifies) Aaron Green.
When speaking to writers who were part of the group visit, a warning was issued that they had waited for several hours to talk to Sean Combs, only to leave the set empty-handed at the end of the night. That’s no comment on Combs in particular. One of the truths of interviewing talent on-set for a film is that you’re interrupting their work day, and it doesn’t always work for the film for the interviews to happen. Still, getting that interview with Sean Combs became a priority during the set visit, and later this week, the full story of interviewing the man known first and foremost as Diddy will be a featured part of our complete “Get Him To The Greek” coverage.
Upon arriving onset, the first visible part of the soundstage has been transformed into an extras holding pen. And with Russell Brand prowling the set beween takes, it was like a fully stocked pond just waiting for him to unleash his own private Aldous Snow. Located next to the craft service tables, the extras “lounge” was a bunch of folding chairs thrown up in a semi-circle between several other departments.
Video village, the section of the soundstage that was set aside for the director and the producers and whoever else needs to sit and watch what’s being done, was off to the side of the penthouse set, at the bottom of some stairs. The set was surprisingly large, a full 360-degree build. The reason for all the extras sitting outside the set was evident when walking inside, as the entire set needed to be occupied to create the impression of a debauched party in full swing.
Russell Brand stalks the set like he owns it, like it really is a party thrown in his honor, and when the unit publicist grabs his as he walks past between takes, he lights up, leaping right into playful interview mode. When asked about working with Jonah Hill again and how their chemistry is the second time around, he replied, “We began a very passionate, very sexual affair on the first day of rehearsal, which has now erupted into jealousy, incrimination.” Jonah walked past and glanced over as Russell blew him kisses.
Asked the same thing about Sean Combs, who was sitting on the set, waiting for the next take, Russell explained that what was essentially a small role to send Aaron on his mission evolved completely during the first table read when writer/director Nick Stoller and producer Rodney Rothman got a look at him in action. Referring to a phrase that Combs was using daily at the time on his Twitter feed, Russell laughed. “He’s locked in. God is great.”
As Russell was called to set for a different scene, Jonah wandered over, eager to share his opinion about how great Sean Combs is in the film. He also wanted to explain the recently-announced remake of “21 Jump Street” that had just been announced. “Mine is nothing like the show,” he promised. “It has nothing to do with the original show except cops undercover in high school.” He seemed particularly interested in the fate of the just-released “Land Of The Lost,” which he agreed was a good attempt at making something personal out of something pre-sold. “I just loved the idea of going back to high school with an agenda. It felt like the greatest idea like a ‘Back To The Future’ to me, that aspect where you get to relive your life again, but knowing so much more. But without any sort of time travel conceit. You could go back and do what you didn’t do the first time. I loved it the moment it came up. Michael Bacall is writing it. It’s really interesting so far, but I promise… if it’s not interesting when the script is done, I just won’t make it. I promise you, you know?”With that, Jonah was called back to set, and the filmmakers settled in to review the last few set-ups and to explain exactly what it was they were up to.
Tomorrow, writer/director Nicholas Stoller and producer Rodney Rothman lay out their vision for the film, and we look inside their particular professional process and why it may pay off on an uncommonly rowdy film when “Get Him To The Greek” is released on June 4. Thursday, Colm Meaney is an inspired choice to play Brand’s father in the film, and we’ll discuss how he got here and what he’s got planned for Brand. Then Friday, Sean Combs may or may not give HitFix an exclusive interview about playing Sergio and his induction into the Judd Apatow school of improvisation.
And make sure to check out the gallery of new images from the film that we’ve just posted.
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