Born in 1975, comedian Russell Brand discovered acting in school. He attended the Italia Conti Academy in London in 1991, but he was kicked out for his destructive behavior. Brand later turned to stand-up comedy and landed a job at MTV in Britain in 2000. His next major breakthroughs came with his 2007 memoir My Booky Wook and his 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Brand has several film projects in the works.
Known for his clever, edgy and sometimes lewd humor, Russell Brand has enjoyed a successful career as a stand-up comedian, actor and writer. Many of his jokes stem from his own difficult experiences, including his battles with drug and sex addiction.
Born in 1975, Brand grew up in the small working-class community of Grays, England. His parents split up when he was just a baby, and he was raised by his mother. Brand's childhood was marked by many personal challenges. Around the age of seven, Brand lived with relatives for a time while his mother received treatment for her first battle with cancer. (She would go through two more bouts with the disease by the time Brand was 16.) While always close to his mother, Brand clashed with her boyfriend, which made the times he lived with her more difficult. He suffered from depression and had an eating disorder around the age of 11, Brand told The Observer. "It was really unusual in boys, quite embarrassing. But I found it euphoric," he explained. At another point he was sexually assaulted by a tutor.
At school, Brand sought attention through painful and gross stunts, including eating ants. One teacher described his behavior as "acting the fool" and called him a "waste of space." He got kicked out of a boarding school for having girls in his room. The young troublemaker found some salvation in drama club. Playing a gangster in a school production led to an interest in acting. At the age of 16, Brand went to London to study at the Italia Conti stage school. There he impressed his teachers with his talent and started experimenting with drugs. But he was kicked out of that school and the Camden Drama Centre "for smashing things up, crying and cutting myself, breaking down in tears all the time."
While he landed a few television parts in the mid-1990s, Brand's career really started to take off with his stand-up comedy. He competed for New Act of the Year at London's Hackney Empire theater in 2000. While he didn't win, Brand soon landed a gig on MTV as a presenter. He was fired the following year, however, after showing up to work dressed as Osama bin Laden on the day after the September 11 terrorist attacks. ''Put bluntly, it was a very stupid thing to do and I put it under what I call the 'drug-brella'—stuff I did while on drugs,'' Brand later told Entertainment Weekly.
In 2002, Brand appeared in the short-lived series Re:Brand, which featured the comedian taking on several disturbing challenges. He got into a boxing ring with his father, bathed with a homeless man and performed other odd acts. In an interview with GQ, Brand later called the show "psychological self-harm." He went to rehab around this time to face his drug addiction and found enough humor in his struggle to incorporate it into his 2004 stand-up act, Better Now.
In 2005, Brand tackled another personal demon. He spent time in a Philadelphia treatment center for his sex addiction. At one point, Brand estimated that he had slept with roughly 2,000 women. He turned his life into a British best-seller in 2007 with My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up (which was published in the United States in 2009). With his addictions in check, Brand continued to stir up controversy with his often outlandish humor. He made a series of prank calls to actor Andrew Sachs with Jonathan Ross in 2008 on his British radio show. The pair made lewd comments about the actor's granddaughter, which created a firestorm of outrage after the segment aired. In addition to issuing an apology, Brand resigned from the show.
While he had trouble in Britain, Brand had a career breakthrough in America in 2008. He appeared in the comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall with Kristen Bell and Jason Segel. In the movie, Brand played a rock lothario, which was not unlike his stand-up stage persona. He also introduced the nation to his distinctive type of humor as the host of the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards. Once again, Brand made waves, joking about the Jonas Brothers' purity rings and comparing singer Britney Spears to Jesus Christ. He also had a role in Adam Sandler's comedy Bedtime Stories that same year.
With his acting, stand-up comedy and writing, Brand has maintained a hectic schedule in recent years. He reprised his role of wanton rocker Aldous Snow for 2010's Get Him to the Greek with Jonah Hill. That same year, Brand lent his voice to the animated hit Despicable Me and appeared in Julie Taymor's film adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest . He also published his second memoir, Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal (2010).
In Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal, Brand wrote about his relationship with pop singer Katy Perry. The couple met in 2009 at the MTV Video Music Awards. Despite having previously sworn off marriage, Brand wed Perry in India in 2010. They seemed to be an odd couple that somehow worked—the sober, vegetarian comic and the much younger pop princess.
Brand plunged into several film projects after his marriage. He played a rich, bumbling young man in the remake of the Dudley Moore classic comedy Arthur (2011) and gave voice to the Easter Bunny in the animated smash Hop (2011). Unfortunately, Brand's union with Perry didn't last. Brand filed for divorce in December 2011, claiming irreconcilable differences. "Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage," he said in a statement. "I'll always adore her and I know we'll remain friends." The couple officially ended their marriage the following year.
While his personal relationship may have crumbled, Brand's career seems to be going strong. He has a role in the 2012 musical Rock of Ages with Tom Cruise. He is also working on screenwriter Diablo Cody's untitled directorial debut and is set to appear in a new Michael Bay film. On the small screen, Brand is scheduled to host his own show on the FX network in 2012.
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