With Colin Firth and Emily Blunt in the lead roles, Dante Ariola, director of “Arthur Newman,” must have felt like the luckiest guy around during shooting. “They definitely made my life easier,” Ariola said when reached by phone for an interview.
Here, the Oscar-winning Firth plays Wallace, a husband and father who exchanges $3000 for a new identity. Now known as Arthur Newman, he treats himself a fresh start.
“It’s kind of a road movie, but it’s not. It can kind of be anywhere or nowhere-it’s doesn’t really matter. It’s a journey of self-discovery, but missing any trope of films about self-discovery. It’s got humor without gags,” the director explained.
Arthur/Wallace is an interesting study in contrast. He’s a bit of a bounder but he still has a decent core, coming to the aid of a troubled young woman named Mike (Blunt) as well as a stranger who is dying. “That’s the surprising thing to him-he’s there for that guy who’s dying and he tries. He can be there for this messed-up girl in a way he couldn’t be there for his own family. That’s the irony of the thing,” Ariola said.
As the movie goes on, information about the characters is-in the director’s words–like bread crumbs: “[Arthur and Mike] are revealing more to each other and also the same piece of information to the audience. The audience never knows much more than the characters know, which I think kind of allows them to go on the journey with them.”
Though the script was originally written 20 years ago for Nick Nolte, Ariola had his mind set on Colin Firth for the title role.
“The thing with Arthur, he does things where he’s almost an unlikeable personality at times. He’s abandoned his kid, and that’s not very admirable. The reason [Colin’s] name came up early on for me was in trying to find an actor who had an inherent empathy or likeability about him,” he said.
He next had to find an actress who could work well with Firth. “I am a fan of [Emily’s] acting chops and she has such a chameleon-like quality to her. She has a lot of range. She’s like an old soul trapped in a beautiful woman’s body,” Ariola explained.
Though the setting is anywhere and nowhere, shooting took place in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. Most sets-including lodging referred to by local police as the “murder motel”-were real locations.
“There’s something nice when you’re not contriving to create a location. They were real places, and the limitations from space and working in tight quarters makes you crazy. But it’s nice because you are never asking yourself ‘Does this feel real?'” Ariola said.
“Arthur Newman,” rated R, is now playing in theaters.