"If you don’t have a life, get someone else’s," is the tagline on "Arthur Newman," a black comedy about identity from first-time feature director Dante Ariola.
It stars a couple of people with lots of history inhabiting other people’s lives: Oscar-winner Colin Firth as the title character, a middle-aged man who fakes his own death so that he can give himself a different name and a different life, and "Looper" star Emily Blunt as a fragile young woman with her own secrets.
The film premiered at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival, and opened limitedly in the U.S. on April 26 by Cinedigm.
TheWrap spoke to Firth and Blunt in Toronto, only minutes after a seriously exhausted Firth arrived at his hotel straight from a trans-Atlantic flight.
What was the appeal for you in this project?
EMILY BLUNT: Definitely not Colin Firth. [Laughs] I think it’s quite hard to find a script that seems to be carving out new space for itself, and it just felt reminiscent of ‘70s films I’ve seen, and it felt European and not formulaic of anything. It was so sort of subversive and intimate and strange.
COLIN FIRTH: If I were compos mentis, I would have said that.
BLUNT: You concur?
FIRTH: I do. I think a lot of films pose under a kind of indie banner, which can mean all sorts of different things. It can genuinely mean it’s independent of the studio system, which is what it used to mean and what it was supposed to mean before it became a brand.
But I think this is not just financially independent, but it also doesn’t conform. We both see quite a lot of material, but it’s very hard to find something that doesn’t conform. And this didn’t, quite. I use the word subversive — it seemed to subvert itself a lot of the time. You think this is about how they’re going to find out all about each other, and it’s going to get confessional, and it doesn’t. I think it takes little right angles all the time.
BLUNT: It has a really clear point of view, though.
FIRTH: A clear point of view, but never banal. When you’ve been doing it as long as I have, even the good material has got something of a formula. And although this brushes with genres we’ve seen, I think it evades most of them. You’ve seen road movies, but I don’t think you’ve quite seen this thing at work.
BLUNT: It’s the most unconventional love story ever, really.
FIRTH: We weren’t even sure how much of a love story it was.
BLUNT: We kind of found out after. People said, "Oh, it’s very much a love story," but we didn’t really know that. Because it’s so unsentimental and cruel, it never really felt that way. So maybe I’m using the word unconventional because I’m relating it to everything else you read, which seems to be derivative of everything else you’ve seen.
FIRTH: It’s so much about dislocation. I find that it’s a film about identity, which sounds like the kind of banality that the whole film’s trying to avoid. But it is dealing with that in ways that I think are not particularly resolved or finite or easy to pin down.
BLUNT: I think everyone at some point in their life has wanted to escape, or be someone else. Everyone’s felt that in a very real way, and I think that in that way I guess you could say it’s about identity. But it’s about the yearning for something else, as well.
Were there scenes in the film that particularly stand out for you?
BLUNT: The scenes in the script that we thought were good scenes, every time we played them out, something surprising would happen. You thought you knew what the scenes were, and then you do them and they would be something altogether different. That first scene where we first get together and we’re playing Hilda and Eugene, we thought was very comedic. And when we started to play it out...
FIRTH: We just weren’t funny.
BLUNT: But it became something really moving and lonely and just so poignant. and I remember thinking that the air shifted in the room during that scene. I thought it was going to be funny, but Colin’s just not very funny.Next Page >
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