Trying to peg down Russell Brand seems like a hard thing to do, so I can only imagine trying to capture such a thing on film for seven years. Director Ondi Timoner managed to do just that –after a few aborted attempts by Brand himself — to create the documentary Brand: A Second Coming. The project just premiered at the SXSW festival to a standing ovation, but one key person was notably absent: Russell Brand himself.
It turns out that having your life peeled back for seven years isn’t always an easy thing to have on the big screen. Brand opted out of the screening and his scheduled keynote speech, releasing a statement on his web site about his absence:
Over the sprawling time period in which we’d been in production I’d transitioned from an attention-seeking missile, exploding into exhibitionism at every turn, into a man who, whilst still a show-off, was becoming disillusioned and disconnected from fame, celebrity and all it’s sticky ephemera…
I let go of my mad ambition to direct and star in what had become a shambles and handed the reigns over to Ondi, who wanted creative control and to make a documentary about me and my transition from a relatively conventional celebrity to whatever the hell it is I am now.
Ondi is a very beautiful person and a director of peerless integrity, I suppose what I didn’t consider was that in letting go of the film, I was agreeing to be the subject of a biography. Posthumously this is a great honor but while you’re alive, oddly intrusive and melancholy.
You’d think a narcissist would like nothing more than talking about themselves and their “rags to riches”, “hard luck” story but actually, it felt like, to me, my life was hard enough the first time round and going through it again was painful and sad.
Timoner did not find out about Brand’s decision until earlier in the day and shed a little light on the situation during a Q&A that followed the film’s premiere at the festival. From Variety:
She said that in January, Brand became so uncomfortable with the idea of the film opening SXSW, he tried to block its release at the festival.
Timoner said she turned for help to Janet Pierson, the head of SXSW film, who told her that the festival was founded on the idea of freedom of speech, and reassured her they would show the film.
“Working with Russell Brand was difficult,” Timoner said. “He tried to control every situation … I really wanted to work with Russell and make him happy, but I also needed to protect the film.”
She added: “He doesn’t like to be filmed for a documentary.”
Variety adds that Timoner had the audience stand for an ovation at the end, snapping a photo to send to Brand.
I can’t blame him for not wanting to watch the movie. I certainly wouldn’t want to drag up the uncomfortable bits about my past and relive them with a theater audience. No one is going to make a movie about me, though. Stag films don’t count.
Brand’s an interesting guy, at least in my opinion. I can’t imagine wanting to be around him for more than five minutes, but I also like that there are people like him out there in the world. He’s like a pendulum that swings from being annoying and grating at some moments, while being charming and funny at others.