They did not get me to the Greek. Despite LA’s Greek Theater being just a mile from my house (and the site of one set visit for Get Him to the Greek), I ended up seeing Jonah Hill and Russell Brand in action on a set at the Sony lot (yeah, it’s a Universal film. They visit each other’s lots sometimes). And I’m glad I did, because it was a delightfully small affair – just myself and two other journalists – as well as a chance to get to see Puff Daddy himself doing some improvising.
I don’t know that P Diddy could freestyle rhymes so much, but he can hold his own when up against a Judd Apatow veteran like Jonah Hill. In the scene we saw Diddy, playing record mogul Sergio Roma, was having a party in his Las Vegas penthouse. At the party was the very visibly upset Aaron Green (Hill), rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), Snow’s dad (Colm Meaney) and a number of beautiful young ladies. The action we saw involved Sergio ordering one of those young ladies to take Aaron inside and help him relax; Combs (Sean as everyone respectfully calls him on set) does the scene with a number of variations on his lines. Some are subtle, while others are very different. Some are filthy, while others are clean enough for a TV airing. Some suggestions come from co-star Hill, while others come from director Nick Stoller. And some come from the mind of Puffy himself; after all, who is better equipped to understand the inner workings of a record mogul throwing a Vegas party than a record mogul who has thrown Vegas parties?
If the combo of Stoller, Brand and Hill seems familiar it’s because the trio previously worked on Forgetting Sarah Marshall together. And if the character of Aldous Snow sounds familiar, it’s because that’s who Brand played in that Jason Segal-starrer. But if the character of Aaron Green sounds familiar, you’re way off base – while Brand is playing the same character, Hill is playing someone new. Stoller explains: “Star Trek decided to reinvent their universe, so I thought we could too. There you go. It’s an official reboot, but we don’t have like forty years of fans to like explain ourselves to, so I felt like we could do it.”
The reality isn’t quite that elaborate – it was simply decided that Hill’s character, a resort employee creepily obsessed with Aldous Snow, couldn’t sustain a whole movie. “That character was funny for Sarah Marshall because it was such a cameo, peripheral character,” said Hill. “He couldn’t carry a movie unless you found some emotional depth to him, which I didn’t really have. You have to create a person you can connect with, where I feel that it’s a three-dimensional human being.”
The basic plot of Get Him to the Greek is this: Pinnacle Records is having a tough year. Junior exec Aaron Green comes up with the idea of having Aldous Snow, a drug addict wild man, return to the site of his greatest triumph, LA’s Greek Theater where he recorded a live album a decade previously. Green gets the assignment to fly to London and drag the smackheaded rocker back to LA in three day’s time. Hilarity ensues, as does some serious darkness.
“We have a lot of options where we could take it pretty dark and if audiences are not into that we can pull back on it,” says Stoller when asked about the tone of a movie where one of the leads isn’t just a funny drunk but an actual heroin addict on a serious downward spiral. “I mean, there is a dark undertone to it, certainly, because it is about this guy going on this crazy bender after being sober for a while. But I found with Sarah Marshall that we went to some dark areas romantically and we covered ourselves and shot stuff that wasn’t as dark and audiences loved it. They actually liked the dark stuff because it feels real and you know, true to life.”
And if things get too dark? “We also always have the pouring drugs out of Jonah’s ass sequence, so there.” A scene which Stoller thinks could make cinematic history. “We’re going to attempt to shoot the first asshole POV.” Russell Brand agrees on the importance of this shot. “I think that yeah, that could be the greatest breakthrough in cinema since Citizen Kane. I think it’s going to be a defining shot like the camera going through the kitchen in Goodfellas, only through the butt hole. Yeah, I think it could definite this movie if the technology can keep up with Jonah Hill’s imagination.”
The true to life aspects come directly from Brand himself. “Russell’s bringing a lot from his life to this movie,” said Hill. “There’s a reason why we wanted to make this movie, because it’s interesting.”
Aldous Snow is not so slightly based on Brand’s infamously checkered past; a TV and radio personality in the UK, Brand courted plenty of controversy and did even more drugs, as well as lived a life that redefined debauchery. He released a tell-all book that served as inspiration for the movie. “Nick’s sort of stolen all the best bits,” said Brand. “If they were to make a movie of my life now, it would be a drab, Warholian, sort of single-shot of me, sobbing in the basin.” What are some of the best bits that were stolen, besides Brand’s own history as a heroin addict? “I once in a threesome accidentally ejaculated onto a friend’s leg, and uh, that’s being used in this. So yeah, there are direct references to my own life in this film. Flatteringly.”
Everybody gets a little input. As Brand alluded to above, the asshole POV shot was Hill’s idea. And as I saw, even Puff Daddy got in on the ad libbing. “What I do is I interview him when I’m off camera. I think he trusts me a lot,” said Hill. “I’ll go ‘What is your theory on any historical figures who were black but were portrayed as white?’ and he’ll just start talking about it and it’s the funniest fucking thing you’ve ever seen in your life.” How funny? “The table read comes along and he’s like the McLovin of this movie. He literally comes and steals this movie. Every time he opens his mouth something is hilarious.”
Over the next couple of days I’ll be bringing you the complete interviews with Russell Brand, Nick Stoller and Jonah Hill – and get your reading glasses ready for Jonah, because we talked to him for forty minutes, and Jonah Hill can say a lot in forty minutes. Sadly we never got to interview Sean Combs, although I did get to briefly meet him as a rode a golf cart from his trailer to the set. He had a good handshake.
In the meantime, enjoy this red band trailer.