Pictured above: Arthur Newman – Wallace Avery (Colin Firth) and Michaela ‘Mike’ Fitzgerald (Emily Blunt) © 2011 Vertebra Newman
British actors Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) and Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) star together in the quirky comedy, Arthur Newman … playing Americans.
When Wallace Avery (Firth) tires of his mundane existence, he decides to make a clean start by buying a new identity and walking away from his life and his estranged family. Bound for Terre Haute, Indiana, as Arthur Newman, he hopes to become a golf pro at a county club there.
But his plans are totally derailed when he encounters Michaela ‘Mike’ Fitzgerald (Blunt), a kleptomaniac fleeing from domestic turmoil of her own. On the road together the couple infiltrate the lives of random strangers they meet as a way of escaping from their own pain, as they must answer the question, is it possible to really start over again?
I spoke with Colin and Emily about their unusual romantic dramady.
What was it about the script or these characters that made you want to do this movie?
Colin: It had a lot of unknowns for me. I read it and I felt there were a lot of questions. I’m always fascinated by the notion of people who you could dismiss as ordinary or boring, people whose lives seem to be a series of disappointments.
Even if you’re talking about The King’s Speech, that’s a character that had written himself off as the ordinary [person with an] extraordinary background. The potential for drama in what seems to be an unremarkable or quiet life, I think is something that endlessly fascinates me.
Emily: The script in general terms was completely refreshing in how original it was. It didn’t want to conform to being any genre, or anything I can sum up in a one-liner pitch.
I liked the idea of the more we mask ourselves maybe the freer we are able to be within ourselves. I think that everyone at some point has wanted to run away or take on a different identity. I think we’ve all felt that. I don’t particularly feel these characters are necessarily crazy.
I think that they just are acting on that impulse that I think a lot of people have.
But as actors you play different people. Does that mean that because you do it for a living you have less need to escape?
Emily: We do have less need to escape, because we do it all the time. We go away for a few months a year and we get to be someone else and live this strange, insular Neverland-like experience.
Colin: I think our challenge is how to get back to Kansas!
Emily: (she laughs) ‘Dorothy, how do we get home?’
Do either of you know people who are even close to these characters?
Emily: I grew up with someone like Mike. It was a friend.
Colin: I realized that I based my character entirely on somebody. I don’t think I realized it until the end that that was what was happening. That person doesn’t know this.
Emily: They’ll never know, because no one ever knows themselves, I’m convinced of that.
Where do you think Arthur was going at the end of the movie?
Colin: It’s interesting, one of the things that I like about the story is that that question does come up. We had this discussion endlessly. I’ve done a lot of films where that isn’t necessarily something that is a conversation piece.
If you’re doing a historical character everyone knows what happens. If the character dies, that’s it.
This is one that actually does promote those questions. Will they meet up again? Could something flourish? Will his son accept him? Will her sister accept her?
All the issues that they’ve been discussing through the film have a lot of questions still in place.
Emily: But I like that, because I think sometimes a tidy resolution can be really unsatisfying. It’s more exciting to not quite know sometimes.
What has life been like since winning the Oscar for The King’s Speech?
Colin: I took quite a lot of time off, and nobody noticed. Quite interesting actually. I remember saying once rather casually, ‘It might be nice to just take six months of not doing this,’ and then there was a whole thing about [my taking] a ‘temporary retirement.’
People do it all the time. So I took almost a year out after filming King’s Speech.
How was that year? What did you get to do that you haven’t been able to do?
Colin: Gosh, family for a start, because I think what we do is all consuming, partly due to the fact that you’re on location, or because of the hours or because you’re immersed in what you do.
Also promoting a film, particularly during award season, you are just constantly moving and you’re never really at home. It was time to reconnect to the more permanent aspects of my life.
Both Colin and Emily were asked about doing American accents for this movie. Click here to listen to their answer.
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Arthur Newman opens on Friday April 26th, 2013