UPDATED, 7:40 PM: At tonight’s SXSW premiere of her documentary Brand: The Second Coming, director Ondi Timoner acknowledged that she and her subject clashed during the filmmaking process. “Once he gave me creative control, it was a tug of war. You know I like characters like this. And I like challenges.” The filmmaker added that she omitted some portions by his request for ethical reasons. Russell Brand had recruited her to finish this film, which others including Al Maysles had started. During Sundance in January, Timoner expressed concern about the film being shown. Brand began expressing reservations about the film being shown at all, but Janet Pierson, head of the SXSW Film Festival, said the fest would stand by her vision. Pierson acknowledged Brand’s statement from earlier today and thought it was nice; Timoner encouraged everyone to read it. And she took a picture of the crowd giving a standing ovation to send to him.
PREVIOUSLY, 12:25 PM: The erstwhile U.S. talk show host and ex-Mr. Katy Perry had been set to deliver a speech on Night 1 of the Austin multi-fest, but no. Russell Brand issued a typically verbose statement today that’s as exhausting to read as it is to dissect — though also quite entertaining — but it all boils down to his being a no-show for tonight’s keynote and premiere of Brand: A Second Coming. The biodoc from director Ondi Timoner apparently was a little too raw for its subject. Timoner “wanted creative control and to make a documentary about me and my transition from a relatively conventional celebrity to whatever the hell it is I am now,” Brand said in a post on his website. “You’d think a narcissist would like nothing more than talking about themselves and their ‘rags to riches,’ ‘hard luck’ story, but actually, it felt like, to me, my life was hard enough the first time round and going through it again was painful and sad.”
Here’s what Brand wrote:
Some time ago when I was a newly recovering junkie sinking my teeth into succulent transatlantic fame we were contacted by a respected filmmaker who asked if I’d like to make a documentary about happiness and I leapt, ego first into a caper that would take 7 years and as many directors to complete.
Due primarily to my loopy truculence the process quickly got a bit muddled and we parted ways and I stumbled on with the project enlisting a series of different directors and producers, some of whom were dear friends, others were Oscar winners (all were good people) to do the real graft. It was chaos; we ended up in US Marine training camps, Louisiana penitentiaries, Occupy protests and backstage at MTV award shows with the world’s biggest stars.
Over the sprawling time period in which we’d been in production I’d transitioned from an attention-seeking missile, exploding into exhibitionism at every turn, into a man who, whilst still a show-off, was becoming disillusioned and disconnected from fame, celebrity and all it’s sticky ephemera.
When it was suggested that Ondi Timoner, the highly respected filmmaker who directed one of my favorite docs, “Dig!” take over the project I was relieved – as were the film’s, by now understandably anxious backers.
I let go of my mad ambition to direct and star in what had become a shambles and handed the reigns over to Ondi, who wanted creative control and to make a documentary about me and my transition from a relatively conventional celebrity to whatever the hell it is I am now.
Ondi is a very beautiful person and a director of peerless integrity, I suppose what I didn’t consider was that in letting go of the film, I was agreeing to be the subject of a biography. Posthumously this is a great honor but while you’re alive, oddly intrusive and melancholy.
You’d think a narcissist would like nothing more than talking about themselves and their “rags to riches”, “hard luck” story but actually, it felt like, to me, my life was hard enough the first time round and going through it again was painful and sad.
I know Ondi is an artist and I’m told the film is good but for me watching it was very uncomfortable.
I apologise sincerely to the organisers of sxsw for my non-attendance, especially Janet Pierson, Brian Solis and Rynda Laurel from the interactive festival who were responsible for the keynote talk that I was due to do.