He’s triumphed over adversity, courted controversy and beaten addiction to emerge as one of the hottest British comedy talents of the decade. Along the way he’s bagged a beautiful pop star fiancée – Katy Perry – while his dandy dress-sense and tabloid-friendly love life have generated enough column inches to paper the walls of his brand-new LA pad.
Russell Brand himself describes his early life in Grays, Essex, as “a trivial Greek tragedy”.
With a father who was often absent and a mother who battled repeated bouts of cancer, he suffered from bulimia aged 11, was treated for depression and threw himself into theatre work – securing a place at the prestigious Italia Conti school, funded by Essex council. “My personality was defined by solitude,” he’s said, admitting he never fitted in as a child.
He was expelled from the school for substance abuse and by the time he applied for a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he was a heroin addict with an alcohol problem.
Typically, Russell looks back at this period with wry humour and has detailed his lifestyle in bestselling autobiography My Booky Wook.
“My life is just a series of embarrassing incidents strung together by telling people about those embarrassing incidents,” says the comedian, who has been arrested 11 times and attended rehab for drink, drug and sex addiction.
Despite his life of debauchery, Russell was always ambitious and determined to be famous. He got work as a presenter on MTV, but was sacked when, on September 12, 2001, he turned up to work dressed as Osama Bin Laden. He also worked for E4, where his womanising and ability to attract controversy made him a tabloid favourite.
He landed a job on E4’s Big Brother
spin-off show Big Brother’s Big Mouth
, and his stand-up tours were sell-outs. He secured his own TV show, Ponderland
, as well as a Hollywood movie role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall
But, in 2008, when it looked as though he had put his troubles behind him and his career was going from strength to strength, disaster struck. He was forced to quit his job as a presenter on BBC Radio 2 after a national outcry over “lewd” and inappropriate messages he and friend Jonathan Ross left on Andrew Sach’s answerphone.
“I felt I didn’t have any choice but to resign,” he says of the incident. “I thought, ‘I don’t have to do that radio show, I’m only doing it for a laugh and it’s become not a laugh.’ And then it was a relief.”
He moved to America where he was already making a name for himself, having hosted the MTV Music Awards in his typical controversial manner – calling then-President George W Bush "a retarded cowboy fella", who, in England, "wouldn't be trusted with scissors".
A year later, while filming Get Him To The Greek
– a movie based around the character he played in hit film Forgetting Sarah Marshall
– he met songstress Katy Perry. By September 2009, the two were dating, and became engaged while on holiday in India over the Christmas period.
He proved his commitment to the singer when he made his vows in a beautiful, Indian wedding ceremony on October 23, 2010. "The very private and spiritual ceremony, attended by the couple's closest family and friends, was performed by a Christian minister and long time friend of the Hudson Family," said a spokesman for the couple, who later both wrote on Twitter: "WE DID!" as a confirmation for their fans.
So are his womanising days a thing of the past? Will he be faithful to his pop-star bride-to-be? “I will have to be,” he says. “That’s one of the things about this institution of marriage – you must be faithful. I’m really, really in love.”