"Arthur is the kind of drunk I think people want to be — he's fun." His own kind of drunk was far different, Brand said. "I was like a lunatic, smashing stuff all the time and self-harming and kicking and screaming and getting arrested. This film is very sweet and light — it's not, like, got room for rage or hatred or self-immolation," he said of the movie that he executive produced. "But I really liked playing a drunk. Because, I suppose, I have a huge propensity towards drinking and taking drugs. So even minor recollection of that proved seductive and alluring to me."
Earlier, his party animal character in the Apatow films had proved challenging for the actor, said "Sarah Marshall" and "Greek" director Nicholas Stoller.
"There was a lot of fake partying in 'Greek,' and I think it was a little hard for him to be constantly fake drinking and smashing fake beer bottles. He definitely would go back to his trailer and center himself with the meditation and yoga," Stoller said.
As the restaurant's chef emerged to present Brand — a vegetarian — a platter elaborately decorated with seared tofu and a variety of legumes, the comedian's quiet demeanor shifted.
"These are English peas? Oh, her majesty," he quipped, instantly livening up. "And you seared the tofu? This is remarkable. It's not often you get the opportunity to use the word smorgasbord, but this is one, literally."
After the chef retreated, Brand confided about his overt effort to appear gracious, "If I thought they thought we didn't appreciate the food, it would trouble me. Like, if I am rude to someone now — I've developed a conscience. Imagine that? Like a literal Jiminy Cricket in my head going, 'Oh, you shouldn't have done that, that was mean.' It's not just, 'That's the bloke out of "Sarah Marshall" and he was rude.' It's more I have this crushing awareness of humanity now."
He attributes much of that shift to practicing meditation, but also largely to his wife, Perry.
"I've said that being in love is the most mundane thing in the world and that's how I feel about it — it's an incredible, wonderful, cosmic and geometrically jarring feeling. But ultimately, it's like, 'Oh, are you all right? What's going on? What'd you do today?' It's just companionship between us, and that's what I really like about it, is how normal it is," he said. "I think that's what my life is lacking."
"Arthur" too is a step toward something as yet missing in his life: his bid to be taken seriously as a comedic leading man.
Though his booze-soaked character is recognizably wild and antic — and sports Brand's trademark untamed hair, he does show moments of subtlety and depth.
"It's really important to me. I've worked really, really hard — the promotion, the filming, being diligent and present. It has huge potential for me as an individual," he said. "But I'm also really accepting of what happens in the world. Because I kind of believe in God. I don't like to sound zealous or fundamentalist or anything. But no matter how well 'Arthur' does, the grim reaper will not relent."