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Russell Brand: Bad boy comes good

29 September 2010 by Tim Evans

Russell-Brand-voices-Nefario"I want people to remember me before I'm dead...and then more afterwards."

Naughy-boy Russell Brand's latest job is providing the voice for mad scientist Dr Nefario in the children's cartoon feast Despicable Me.

Chief henchmant for Steve Carell's evil Gru, he'd be even more dangerous if his hearing wasn't fading. What's that?


Russell Brand's serious acting career got off to a pretty inauspicious start when he was fired from the set of the Steve Coogan comedy Cruise of the Gods for "drug-related incidents".

The aspiring thespian - withdrawing from heroin but high on booze and dope - had attempted to seduce an 18-year-old German tourist, drunkenly visited an Istanbul brothel and tried to tempt the rest of the cast to an Athens lap-dancing club while filming on location on a cruise ship in the Aegean.

It's not what you'd expect Laurence Olivier to get up to.

Still, fellow actor Rob Brydon was impressed enough to tell Brand that he was destined to be a star.

And a star is what he's become.
St Trinians 20Flash at St Trinians
Raised by his mother after his parents divorced, Brand was sexually abused by a tutor when he was seven and had to come to terms with his mother's cancer while still a youngster.

At 14 he was bulimic and, after leaving school and home (he didn't get on with his mother's live-in partner) at 16 he began experimenting with cannabis, amphetamines, LSD, ecstasy, cocaine, crack and heroine.

At the time he sporadically saw his real father, who - rather than a kickabout in the local park - took him to visit prostitutes during a visit to the Far East.

At 15 Brand - who would describe his childhood as "lonely and difficult" - performed in a comprehensiveschool production of Bugsy Malone and loved it. "It was amazing. A blissful epiphany."

He got into the Italia Conti stage school and the Camden Drama Centre, but both times was asked to leave - 'for smashing things up, crying and cutting myself, breaking down in tears all the time'.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall 06Forgetting Sarah Marshall He turned to stand-up and was nominated in 2000 for the Hackney Empire new actor the year award. Increasing success on the stage, brought overtures from TV and radio station anxious to sign him up.

However, the sex-obsessed vegetarian was back on the crack and MTV eventually fired him for coming to work dressed as Osama Bin Laden while he lost his Xfm job for reading out pornographic Sunday Sport letters on air.

Despite appearances on The Bill, the TV adaptation of Zadie Smith's White Teeth and an unsuccessful audition for the role of Super Hans on Peep Show, he also lost his agent and was 'let go' from Coogan's Cruise of the Gods.

Fortunately, his new agent John Noel  intervened, sending him for treatment at a rehab centre and he was able to return to stand-up, refining his act and winning a legion of admirers...as well as awards.

Get Him To The Greek 08Get Him To The Greek He also made his big screen debut in a small but impressive role as Sam the jazz club owner in the children's drama Penelope which he followed with the role of Flash - replacing George Cole's Flash Harry - in the Noughties reboot St Trinians.

In 2008, his film career really took off with the role of fey English rock star Aldous Snow (Brand's audition persuaded the film-makers change Snow from an author) in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a performance that stole the movie from under the nose of main star Jason Segel.

At the same time his stand-up routine was taking off in America. However, controversy was never far away - while hosting the MTV Video Music Awards referred to then–U.S. President George W Bush as "a retarded cowboy fella", who, in England, "wouldn't be trusted with scissors".

The Tempest (1)The Tempest He also resigned from his BBC radio show after he and Jonathan Ross were disciplined for making salacious phone calls to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs about his daughter.

Back on screen, Adam Sander invited him to star in the lame children's fantasy Bedtime Stories and he reprised the role of Aldous Snow - this time as the lead alongside Jonah Hill - in the comedy Get Him To The Greek.

Recent work includes the voice of Dr Nefario in the children's animation Despicable Me.

Brand will appear in Julie Taymor's version of William Shakespeare's The Tempest as Trinculo and will also play the title character in a remake of Arthur - originally starring Dudley Moore - written by Peter Baynham.