In the new movie Arthur Newman, Colin Firth and Emily Blunt play two unlikely souls who fall in love while on their cross-country journey of self-discovery renewal. The award-winning actors take on characters unlike they ever have in this story of identity and its role in shaping our lives and our relationships. Press Pass LA had the opportunity to sit down with these talented actors to chat about the film opening Friday, April 26th.
Firth and Blunt portray individuals who assume other identities in order to connect, while at the same time try to learn how to live a life that is authentic to themselves and their families. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with the talented Brits on the journey they took as actors while filming Arthur Newman and why they think the people they play in the film are searching for renewal.
PPLA: These two individuals you play, Arthur Newman and Michaela Fitzgerald, both take on various identities throughout the whole movie. How was it playing two people who are in a sense running away from their lives to be someone else? The film starts with Arthur Newman whom we see seems dissatisfied with everything in his life, and so he buys this new identity to reinvent himself. Why do you think that is?
CF: A lot of people whose lives seem remarkable to others, are often unremarkable. Speaking for myself in terms of Arthur-his role up to that point in his life is ludicrous. It’s kind of Boy-Scoutish, kind of proper. I don’t think it was much to do with him at all. And I think people kind of get stuck in it. They try to do what they think is the appropriate thing at every stage. It doesn’t necessarily deliver what everybody else needs. His marriage didn’t work. His relationship with his son is catastrophic, and so is his relationship with his girlfriend. He’s not getting anywhere with either the job or the golf or anything; so all this kind of doing the right thing in a rather sort of precious, pretty sort of way hasn’t worked out. So that was probably the role in some ways; rather than escaping his true self and trying to reinvent himself, I think he was probably shedding something that was rather bogus from the start.
PPLA: These characters are very different from anyone whom you both have played in the past. They seemed to both be complex individuals. I felt there was multiple layers to them. Even though they were so different, they still fell in love. Emily, with your character, at first we see her to be really lost, but I felt there was also a bit of kindness underneath the tough persona she first portrays.
EB: I’m glad! (Laughs) I think Arthur’s much kinder to Mike than she is to him. I think she finds it kind of baffling at first because she really tries desperately to keep everyone at arm’s length by adopting this kind of crazy persona.
CF: Well, they both find a connection. What could seem kind of a plausible expectancy that two people could change their identity with each other on the road? There isn’t really a chance. There’s a chance that they meet-but she would have gone her own way right at the beginning had she not found out who he was. That was actually the very reason she decided to be curious about him and stay with it for a while. She’s driven by that. There’s some sense of commonality there. They are two people who somehow have managed to deny themselves any real intimacy for years and years. Whether they’re looking for that in each other, they somehow find it through the paradox of pretending to be other people. It’s only quite literally when they dress up as others and talk like others that they allow themselves to express something a little deeper and allow themselves to get intimate and get closer.
PPLA: Emily, since your character’s sister has schizophrenia, did you do any kind of research on the mental illness or read about someone who had a relative who had it?
EB: I read a couple of books on schizophrenia, yes. Michaela is just terrified she will become schizophrenic like her sister. I got an idea for what maybe her upbringing might have been like, what she might have witnessed, and what she might have been around with her family.
PPLA: These characters are getting to know each other throughout their journey-what were your thoughts while you were getting to know them as well? Anything you discovered that surprised you?
CF: I remember we talked about this at the time, we encountered a scene with a pre-conception about it: this is what it’s for, this is what it’s about, this is what it will feel like-and then often we were surprised by it. In some ways it always felt like that. The first reading of the script had a lot mystery to it for me. I wasn’t sure what it contained. I wasn’t sure who these people were going to turn out to be. It was a little bit elusive. And I think doing the scenes we uncovered a lot. There are some tender and sad scenes and moments which we didn’t anticipate at first while reading it. It was constantly quite exhilarating actually to see what things had to offer.
PPLA: Do you think it was because it was a road movie rather than being on a sound stage that you were able to have these discoveries?
CF: Yes, because you are going through the steps of the characters in some ways.
EB: Anytime you’re actually in the environment, it’s transporting.
PPLA: The surprising thing to me was then they took the dead man’s wallet at the very start. Why do you think they chose to do that?
CF: I think the characters surprised themselves at every step. I think in some ways it’s going to be difficult for this film out there, because I think in some ways expectations define people and they come to think when is the romantic comedy going to start? I think if this film was in Swedish or Polish with different actors you wouldn’t think that. But If you have familiar faces dealing with being conspicuous and lost, I think with people it takes a while to adjust to what it is. But that is precisely what drew me to it.
PPLA: What were your thoughts when you saw the final product?
CF:We have not seen the final product yet. We saw an early cut. The version is slightly different in terms of music and pace. I’m not quite sure, because I’m not quite sure what I expected the film to be. I’m not quite sure when I read it. I’m not quite sure what I expected the finished product to be after we finished shooting it. I don’t think I ever felt that I was in a kind of unknown zone. I felt complete belief in the world that we were in. And felt very warm towards these characters and felt I was rooting for them and was very curious as to what would happen to them after this film ends.
Chatting with Colin Firth and Emily Blunt sure peaked our interest! Arthur Newman opens in New York and Los Angeles April 26. Watch the trailer here.