If you don’t have a life, get someone else’s.
Emily as: Mike (Michaela) / Charlotte Fitzgerald
Written by: Becky Johnston
Directed by: Dante Ariola
Other Cast: Colin Firth, Anne Heche, Lucas Hedges, Kristin Lehman
Release Date: April 26, 2013 (Limited)
Production Budget: –
Total Worldwide Gross: $207.8k
Filming Locations: Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Wallace Avery hates his job. His ex-wife and son hate him, and he’s blown his one shot at living his dream. Not wanting to face all this, he stages his own death and buys himself a new identity as Arthur Newman. However, Arthur’s road trip towards a new life is interrupted by the arrival of the beautiful but fragile Mike, who is also trying to leave her past behind. Drawn to one another, these two damaged souls begin to connect as they break into empty homes and take on the identities of the absent owners – elderly newlyweds, a high-roller and his Russian lady, among others. Through this process, Arthur and Mike discover that what they love most about each other are the identities they left at home, and their real journey, that of healing, begins.
Mike: Call me Mike.
Arthur: Yes, Mike?
Mike: What’s your story?
Arthur: My story? You mean my life? What kind of a human being am I?
Mike: I mean, what’s your story.
Arthur: I’m a golf pro.
Mike: You mean… you’re no Tiger Woods.
Mike: Thank you, Wallace. I love alligators.
Arthur: My pleasure. What did you call me?
Mike: Wallace. Wallace Avery, right? [Shows Arthur his ID] I found it in the side pocket of your golf bag.
Arthur: The trunk was locked. I locked it.
Mike: I used to work at Lock & Key. I was really good.
Arthur: How do you know that?
Mike: Because I held his hand.
Arthur: I guess I’ve always been Arthur Newman. Wife just forced another individual on me.
Mike: Wallace Avery was such a nothing?
Arthur: Actually, Mike, Wallace Avery was manager of a large, multinational corporation.
Mike: What, like Blackwater or evil empire…
Arthur: No, Federal Express. Well, I ran a branch in Orlando. Well, I was floor manager.
Mike: Oh, Jesus! No wonder you want to be Arthur Newman.
Mike: I don’t know, can you?
Mike: No, not really.
Arthur: No dad?
Mike: Killed herself.
Arthur: I’m so sorry. You have siblings?
Mike: I have a twin sister in a loony bin, Arthur. I put her there for the fourth time right before I met you. So you see, I don’t really have that much family.
Arthur: Yes, we have golf communities all around the United States, Mike.
Mike: Let’s check it out. Come on, Arthur, these are your peeps.
Arthur: A lot, a lot, I guess.
Mike: How come such a hot shot had to end up working at a FedEx, then?
Mike: Mike is man. I am Ludmilla.
Mike: Your whore.
Arthur: Bend your knees a little. Bend your knees. Keep some spring in them.
Mike: Did you love her a lot, Arthur? Why no kids, huh? Is there something wrong with you?
Arthur: Will you stick to the matter in hand?
Mike: What’s the big deal? I told you all about the insanity in my family, so what’s a little infertility?
Arthur: There’s nothing wrong with me, Mike.
Mike: How do you know? Maybe you have extremely weak sperm.
Arthur: My sperm’s fine, thank you.
Mike: You should probably get it tested.
Quoting: Emily Blunt
On the script: 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.
On her attraction to the role: 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.
On preparing for the role: I never know how to talk about the process. I read a couple of books on schizophrenia, not that Mike is actually schizophrenic. She’s just terrified that she will become so. But, I got an idea for what maybe her upbringing might have been like, or what she might have witnessed or been around, with her family. I never really like talking about the process because I don’t know how to talk about it without either sounding wanky or like I don’t know what I’m talking about. It just sort of happens. I think about it a lot.
On playing an American character: I find that it really helps that I live in the States. I’m married to an American, and I have lots of American friends. If you’re immersed in the sounds on a habitual level, that helps you a lot. But, I don’t necessarily think of it as an accent. I think you’ve got to just find a voice for the person. Who that person is becomes the voice. It’s not necessarily that you’re concentrating on getting your vowel sounds right. Even if it’s not perfect, I think you’ve gotta do all the technical stuff, and then just hurl it out the window because you’ve got to just play the character.
On Arthur and Mike’s relationship: 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. I think Mike desperately wants to be touched. She just doesn’t know how to have sex.
On Arthur and Mike’s relationship: I don’t particularly feel that these characters are crazy. They just are acting on that impulse. I think Arthur is much kinder to Mike than she is to him. I think she finds it baffling, at first, because she really tries, desperately, to keep everyone at arm’s length by adopting this crazy persona. I couldn’t put my finger on quite why I was so drawn to the script, and that’s always quite a good way in. If you feel there’s ambiguity there, that’s something to play with.
On the film’s golfing sub-plot: 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.
Quoting: Cast and Crew
Director Dante Ariola: In terms of Emily, she’s such a chameleon in the role. It was like discovering someone you hadn’t seen in a movie before. I felt like she was able to inhabit a strange character without bringing any baggage to the role. From the first moments I saw Colin and Emily’s real-life dynamic together, I knew in my heart we would be making the film I had imagined.
Jen Chaney, Washington Post: There are several moments in Arthur Newman that seem unrealistic at best and tonally out of deep left field at worst. But we continue to stay semi-interested for two principal reasons: Firth and Blunt. Sanding down the curves of their British accents so they can pronounce their vowels with true American flatness, both actors effectively capture the crushing guilt and still-flickering hope that lurks within their characters.
Tomas Hachard, Slant Magazine: Blunt’s magnetic performance gives weight to an otherwise frivolous film, particularly as we discover Mike’s own motivations for ditching her name and identity. She fears the psychological problems seemingly fated for her by her family history, meaning she not only desires a much more radical new beginning than Arthur, but also has more substantial reasons to pursue a new self, even if that amounts to a hopeless struggle against an uncontrollable future.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: Much as I enjoy the actors I didn’t buy a word or frame of Arthur Newman. Firth and Blunt took it on, presumably, because the movie amounts to a two-person, multicharacter play on screen: an acting exercise. They’re good, as always. But here they’re on their own.
Rex Reed, New York Observer: Firth is always charming, polished and agreeable to watch. With heart and soul, he and Emily Blunt bounce off each other in a pair of beautifully modulated performances that personify understatement (and in perfect American accents).
Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: Blunt and Firth do an admirable job with their mismatched pair.