”Arthur”, the 1981 classic which starred Dudley Moore as the alcohol-guzzling, wildly wealthy New York party boy and the bold, brash and loveable Liza Minnelli is being remade for a new generation starring Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Garner, Nick Nolte and Greta Gerwig.
When Arthur’s parents threaten to cut him off from the family fortune if he doesn’t settle down and marry their woman of choice (played by Jennifer Garner), he must decide which is more important; the abundant fortune – all he has ever known, or the real woman (Greta Gerwig) of his dreams.
Moviehole’s Tim Johnson spent a day on-set of the film just outside New York City and spoke to the director and film’s stars between takes. While Brand was a huge fan of the original, surprisingly Helen Mirren says it wasn’t the original film that drew her to this production.
“I didn’t particularly like it, it wasn’t my kind of movie … it’s better just to let that one be and this is our thing, we’re doing it new and fresh.”
Brand, who couldn’t help but gush about his predecessor and fondness of the original, says there is only a single difference he sees in his performance of Arthur compared with Moore’s.
“I’m two foot taller than Dudley Moore. Other than that, I’ve tried as best I can to perfectly recreate Dudley’s performance as a tribute,” he jokes.
Director Jason Winer on the other hand, says he sees distinct differences between the two productions.
“This movie is about a fun-loving playboy played by Russell Brand, who as a 35 year old still has a nanny, played by Helen Mirren. That description right there seems to stand out from the original.”
Winer is noting the difference in the character of Hobson which was a butler (played by John Gielgud) in the ’81 version and has now been transformed into a nanny. Brand describes Mirren’s Hobson in an extremely flattering way.
“Helen Mirren is like Mary Poppins with menopause. “
And working with the woman who played the British Queen? Brand describes that as a huge privilege for him.
“Through that performance she altered the perspective of a lot of British people of the Monarchy. For example, before Helen Mirren played the Queen, I did not want to have sex with the Queen. But obviously it’s a glorious privilege to work with Helen Mirren and to flirt with her, hang around. But I’ve been given a bath by Helen Mirren!”
Mirren too, is full of praise for her co-star.
“I’ve been around Robin Williams who’s sort of a friend and Russell reminds me of Robin. I think he’s amazing and talented.”
When asked if she found Brand’s antics infectious on-set, she immediately lights up in agreement.
“You’re absolutely right, it’s infectious. Everyone starts being Russell basically.”
Jennifer Garner who plays Susan Johnson, the mean-spirited but wealthy woman Arthur’s family want him to marry, is almost too sweet to play the part says Brand.
“She’s a very good actor Jennifer Garner … and I think she’s such a sweet person that she doesn’t enjoy playing a villain. But she’s very, very good at it because her character in this is a bastard. But I don’t think she enjoys it.”
Brand too had his own struggles playing the role, including playing an alcoholic – a demon he battled years ago.
“I’ve not had a drink for getting on eight years one day at a time, so pretending, acting drunk is kind of tricky. It was at first, but now it’s easier and I like it,” he explains.
Though he says Arthur is a much different addict to the Russell Brand of the early 2000’s.
“I think the character of Arthur is essentially benign, he’s friendly and sweet and childlike. When I was a drug addict, I was a little darker and more sort of crazy and affected and not very well.”
With the film now in the can and soon to be released, the stars talk about their upcoming projects.
“I’m just about to go off to Hungary to do an art film called “The Door” so it’s fabulous to be able to mix things up all the time,” Mirren says.
And on the rumors of Brand playing the childhood classic Fred in a remake of ”Drop Dead Fred”?
“Yeah. I mean, if that happens, I’d like that. To be an imaginary childhood friend. That would be brilliant, if that happens. But it’s one of them things, sometimes they don’t make them,” Brand explains.
This remake did happen, and “Arthur” is coming soon to cinemas.