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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Russell Brand is politically irrelevant – Hollywood is where he belongs

He is a luminous actor, though he tries to make us forget it. Comedians often are. They excel at tragedy because they never fear silence. There is Ed Rowe, for instance, better known as Kernow King. He does charming stand-up on stage, and then, in Bait, a Bafta-winning film about the Cornish fishing industry, delivers a performance of extraordinary depth and pathos: because he doesn’t fear silence. If you force a comic – and Brand is a typical comic – to be still, profound things emerge. I wish all actors did stand-up; or all stand-ups acted. It is mesmerising. 

His break-out year was 2008. As of now, he has starred in three major films: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) in which he plays a rock star Aldous Snow; Get Him to the Greek (2011) in which he plays Aldous Snow again; and Arthur (2010), a remake of Dudley Moore’s 1981 film of the same name, the success of which broke the far more talented Peter Cook’s heart. He was superb in all three, but he lost interest, married and divorced Katy Perry, and appeared in documentaries. He did return to play God in Army of One (2016), with Nicholas Cage. The casting is typical; but the film failed.  

Drama is Brand’s real gift: why does he resent it? He has the potential to be an exceptional actor, and I wonder why he does not exploit this (though he does have a minor role – Dr Linus Windlesham in Kenneth Branagh’s forthcoming Death on the Nile). Perhaps he fears the authoritarianism of Hollywood. Perhaps he fears its lifestyle will corrupt him. Perhaps he is too self-hating to do something he could so glibly excel at. 

Perhaps he cannot bear it when other people speak – I saw him have a panic attack when a woman spoke over him at his political salon – and he includes screenwriters in that. Perhaps, in the end, he does not have the humility, or the courage, to let the wind blow through his heart. All is this fair enough, but his political content is at best worthless, and at worst dangerous. Above all, it is very boring. Acting is his gift. If he really wants a life of public service, he should consider that. 

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