In 2008 Russell Brand shot to fame in the US when he was seen as the rocker Aldous Snow in the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a role he repeated in Get Him to the Greek. He also lent his voice to the character of Dr Nefario in last year’s mega-hit, Despicable Me.
In his new animated comedy Hop, he voices the character of E.B., the son of the Easter Bunny (Hugh Laurie) who is on the brink of taking over the family business from his father. But E.B. dreams of being a drummer and runs away to Hollywood to pursue his musical career.
Fred (James Marsden), who has just been thrown out of his home by his parents who are disgusted that he is living an aimless life, runs into E.B. who feigns injury and manipulates Fred into providing him with a place to stay. When a mischievous chick named Carlos (voiced by Hank Azaria) decides to take over Easter, Fred and E.B. find themselves locked in a battle to save the beloved holiday.
Russell Brand spoke of his role as E.B. and the joys of doing animation at the press day for the movie.
How did you get this role?
I was in Despicable Me, in which I played the voice of an old person. When Dr Nefario said something, I’d step in and do it. I thought the film was really funny and loved Steve Carell in it.
The filmmakers asked me if I wanted to be in another film in which I was the Easter Rabbit. I thought that would be brilliant fun, and it’s been a thrilling experience.
Why did you like the role of E.B. so much?
I was attracted to the role of E.B. because I thought I would get to be a mischievous rabbit without having to move around. Turns out it was very difficult to provide the voice of an animated character; it takes ages.
Were you worried that you didn’t have anyone to act with?
No, acting is all about make-believe anyway. Sometimes, I imagined I was doing the whole scene in a racecar, just to add an element of thrill to keep it even more exciting.
What was your reaction when you heard that you may be E.B. the Easter Bunny?
I was excited. I didn’t feel like it was a peculiar choice, because to me the Easter bunny has always been a mischievous little trickster, sneaking around, leaving chocolate eggs and who knows for what motivation. Is he stealing? What’s he getting out of it? I now know he does it for honor.
Hopefully from now on [everyone] will think of me as the Easter Bunny, because I’ve claimed the Easter Bunny as my own piece of psychological territory.
So you could relate to it because everything you do is for honor?
I’m a man strongly motivated by honor and glory. And playing E.B. has been glorious.
Do you enjoy the process of animation?
Very much so, it gives you a real chance to create a character without the usual prohibitive nature of having to turn up and put on make up and a costume. I would go to work sometimes dressed as Tarzan, other times dressed as a warrior, I could wear whatever I want, just a dressing gown some days, and it didn’t matter because it was just my voice. I could do anything in there.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt more free than when trapped in an animated body.
Sometimes the animators take the actor’s characteristics and put them into the animation. Did you see some of yourself in E.B.?
Yeah, I consider it to be identity thief because they film me and they use my facial expressions to populate the listless, lifeless face of an inky rabbit.
What was your reaction when you saw the film and how they built the entire world?
I was excited by how brilliant it was. I thought they generated a magical, exciting world. I can’t wait to watch the movie with some kids. I’ve only seen it with adults, but I think kids are going to dig that world. It’s so colorful and exciting. Hugh Laurie is very funny, and Hank Azaria is really funny. James Marsden, I fear for him.
Well, he had to react to your voice. Do you feel like he did you justice?
Well, he was supposed to, but I think what he was actually reacting to was the voices in his mind. That’s the orchestration of James Marsden’s character.
Hank Azaria plays Carlos, a chick who threatens to take over Easter, were you threatened that he would steal the movie from you?
I did not feel threatened by that, but now that you’ve said that I do a bit, because when I watch it I was laughing at Hank Azaria’s bits, but now I’m approaching it from a new prospective. Maybe they can re-cut it.
E.B. and Fred have a fascinating journey together of growing up and combining that with the story of Easter.
Say it’s Easter, you’ve got children, go and see this film instead of staying at home. What are you going to do at home? ‘Oh, we’re going to build robots and make them fight each other.’ You’ve not got the technology to do that, so go see the movie!
What do you think the audience is going to react to the most?
I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the rabbit defecating jelly bean. I’m pretty confident that that’s the moment. That troubles me because the thing that’s funniest about that is E.B.’s facial expression and I can’t take any credit for that, some brilliant animator somewhere, most likely in France, did the facial expression of a rabbit pooping jelly beans.