Saturday 23 September 2017

Is loudmouth Russell Brand losing the plot?

The former funnyman has seen a reverse in fortunes, while his ex-wife Katy Perry has become the world's biggest pop star, writes Ed Power

Ed Power

Ed Power

Eeek, he's done it again. Usurping the British GQ Awards last week with a cheeky tirade against sponsor Hugo Boss and its supposed historical links to Nazi Germany, drug addict-turned-comedian-turned-actor Russell Brand demonstrated that, when it comes to conjuring controversy from thin air, truly he's the dandiest of them all.

As reports of 'Boss-gate' whooshed around the world, however, it was telling that nobody paused to consider the effect on Brand's Hollywood career. Probably because, last time we checked, he doesn't really have one.

The contrast with ex-wife Katy Perry – the couple divorced in 2011 – is striking.

In the week Brand (38) was left looking like a desperate seeker of attention, Perry unveiled the stunning video for her single 'Roar' – an event of such significance it merited a think-piece in Rolling Stone.

The song is already a huge hit, while anticipation for new album Prism has the music industry in a tizzy.

Comparing Brand and Perry (28), it's blindingly obvious who is the mega-star and who is the minor celebrity lashing out in the face of an ongoing decline. Even by the usually underwhelming standards of British comedians in Hollywood – hello flop-meisters Ricky Gervais and Sacha Baron Cohen – the slump in Brand's fortunes is spectacular.

Coming off his buzzy Hollywood debut in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (playing a louche caricature of himself) his 2011 Arthur remake earned some of the worst reviews of the decade, with critics singling out what they deemed his glib, self-satisfied turn and twisting the knife with real joy.

"Russell Brand gives a career-killing performance," groaned New York Magazine. "Make no mistake, people are going to hate Brand in this," said the Houston Chronicle. These, it's worth noting, were among the kinder write-ups.

From there, his fortunes have been on a bumpy downward trajectory.

Currently he occupies the sorriest niche in Hollywood: those tipped for stardom who never quite made it.

If he's not careful, he will be remembered not for his acting or his comedy but for the 2008 'Sachs-gate' incident, in which he and Jonathan Ross left rude messages on the voicemail of elderly Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs, relating to Brand's relationship with Sachs's granddaughter.

Perry, in comparison, is on the up. Dismissed early on as a helium-voiced bimboid, she has since demonstrated uncommon savvy, straddling film and music and looking completely at home in both.

This, of course, is not how it was supposed to be. Received wisdom had it that, of the two, Perry was the manufactured wannabe, Brand the irrepressible talent.

When they got together, he was the arriving force in Hollywood, an English rake who had caused rabidly anglophile Los Angeles to go weak at the knees. She was the ditz who'd cracked the top 10 with her pandering, faux-lesbian anthem 'I Kissed A Girl'. As soon as the next Britney clone waggled her pigtails, the expectation was that she would shuffle into obscurity.

Actually, it hasn't worked out that way at all. Post Arthur Brand's Hollywood profile has plunged. He had a voice part in Despicable Me 2 but the producers were not exactly making an enormous to-do about his contribution.

Meanwhile, his next live-action undertaking is from another arguably waning talent, Juno writer Diablo Cody. After that, his projects have a distinctively low-rent quality.

He is rumoured to be appearing in a remade of the forgotten UK comedy Drop Dead Fred (playing a teenage girl's creepy imaginary friend) and in a big-screen version of Rentaghost, a UK kid's show from the '80s. The equivalent would be Michael Fassbender linked to a Bosco movie

Perry, conversely, has seemed to take their divorce, after a 14-month whirlwind marriage, in her stride – no matter that the split was, by her telling, initiated by Brand. She had a big movie hit this summer, voicing Smurfette in the second Smurfs film. Now, with Prism, she looks set to eclipse Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus in this autumn's looming battle of the pop divas.

"It's fitting that Perry's latest smash is titled "Roar." gushed the Daily Beast, which predicted her new LP would trump both Gaga and Miley.

"She's been quiet – and very – successful this past decade, but now she's roaring. She's music's biggest pop star."

Irish Independent

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