For Russell Brand, updating the drunken, childish millionaire made famous by Dudley Moore 30 years ago in “Arthur” came naturally — perhaps a little too naturally. “I’m such a thorough actor that I did two decades of research into alcoholism just to make sure it was 100 percent right,” jokes Brand, himself a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. “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.”
But in updating the story for today — the immature Arthur must choose between marrying a cold but wealthy woman (Jennifer Garner) or follow his heart and lose everything — Brand was insistent that his character’s bacchanalian style of living not be shown in a completely glamorous light. “It was very important that we established a context where the alcoholism was humorous and good fun but was not irresponsibly portrayed,” he says. “This is 2011, and it’s important to see a resolution to the problem of Arthur’s alcoholism, and that’s one of the aspects — as a recovering alcoholic myself, I was particularly happy with how that was rendered.”
Of course, it wasn’t just Arthur’s penchant for a party that Brand identified with. Another, more recent change in his life — his relationship with and marriage to Katy Perry — also helped him connect to the material, since Arthur is caught off guard when he meets a not-so-wealthy young woman played by Greta Gerwig. “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 has happened to me,” Brand says. “That’s why I’m so enamored of this story.”
Brand admits the audition process wasn’t what he was used to. “We saw loads and loads of different actresses, which was all right — but of course I was already on the way to getting married then, so I couldn’t enjoy it like the good old days, where auditions had a rather more primal quality,” he jokes.