What happens when two misfits go on the lam, ditching their humdrum lives for a road-trip strewn with dirty little secrets, larceny, and sex in strange places? Arthur Newman explores that question, pitting two of England’s finest actors toe-to-toe in a quirky exploration of how sometimes we need to hide out (or maybe fake our own deaths…?) in order to find ourselves.
Oscar winner Colin Firth teams up with Emily Blunt in indie filmmaker Dante Ariola’s big-screen debut, the Toronto Film Festival hit that is finally making its way to theaters. Here, Firth and Blunt (who plays a girl named Mike) talk about sex, golf, and wearing your trousers up around your nipples — which, apparently, is a thing that Blunt was pretty concerned about.
It’s such an unusual movie. What attracted you to these characters?
Firth: I’m always fascinated by the notion of ordinariness, or apparent ordinariness. People you could dismiss as ordinary or boring, people whose lives seem to be a series of disappointments. Even in The King’s Speech, that character had written himself off as an ordinary man against an extraordinary background. And the potential for drama in what seems to be an unremarkable or quiet life is something that does come off as endlessly fascinating.
Blunt: The script, in general terms, was just completely refreshing in how original it was — and it was pretty uncompromising, actually. I liked the idea of the more we mask ourselves maybe the freer we are able to be within ourselves. I think everyone at some point has wanted to escape or run away, or take on a different identity. I don’t really particularly feel these characters are necessarily crazy. I think they are just acting on that impulse I think a lot of people have.
Being actors and constantly putting on and taking off masks, did you relate to Arthur and Mike?
Blunt: We have less need to escape because we do it all the time. We go away for a few months a year and you get to be someone else and live this strange, insular Netherlands-like experience for a while.
Firth: I think our challenge is how to get back to Kansas.
Were you ever able to get to the root of what was inhibiting them?
Blunt: Intimacy was terrifying to both of them. I think they just had to pretend to be other people in order to allow one another to touch each other, to laugh together, to do anything that resembled any kind of connection.
Firth: They both had issues of their own kind. Mike does not want to be touched. But if she’s not Mike, maybe that’s another way.
Blunt: I think Mike desperately wants to be touched. She just doesn’t know how to have sex.
Firth: And Arthur, who doesn’t want to play this game, he’s got all his Boy Scoutish sense of protocol about things — ‘we shouldn’t be here’ and all the rest. He doesn’t think he should be doing this, he feels uncomfortable with it but actually he just so badly needs… he badly needs sex for a start, but he just also needs to be close to somebody and if this is how it has to be, then he’ll do it.
Colin, you play a former golf pro in the movie. How are you at golf in real life?
Firth: I had never watched a single golf swing in my life, so it was a foreign language to me, completely.
Blunt: I like playing golf, but I’m terrible. I’m really, really bad but I like whizzing around on golf carts with some beers in the back, that’s fun. That’s probably about as good as my golf gets.
And you, Emily, are into cooking, no?
Blunt: Colin likes to cook out of tins, that’s how he makes dinner! No, I really love cooking, love it. I’m quite good at Thai food, actually. And we just went to Thailand and I picked up some more tips. I like cooking Italian food and Thai food, mainly.
Colin, can you talk about your wardrobe?
Firth: Collective sigh of relief on the entire part of the crew when I showed up in something that was not salmon or pink.
Blunt: And you didn’t have trousers hiked up to your nipples.
Firth: The trousers came down below the belly button.
Blunt: Oh, they were so lame! I remember that first costume fitting you had when you were like, ‘Really, is it embarrassing?’ I was like, ‘It’s amazing.’
Firth: A costume can go a long way toward forming a character.
We haven’t seen you much since The King’s Speech. What have you been doing with yourself?
Firth: I took quite a lot of time off and nobody noticed. It’s very all-consuming what we do, partly because maybe you’re on location or because of the hours or because you’re just immersed in what you do and also promoting a film. During awards season, I mean you’re just constantly moving. You’re never really at home or in the same time zone for very long. There’ve been a couple years running, being a part of that, and I just think it was time to reconnect with the more permanent aspects of my life.