Elbowed Aside

Since writing Wednesday’s story about whether Arthur‘s teaser poster misleads by omitting Greta Gerwig, the ostensible female lead (i.e., she plays the same role that Liza Minnelli had in the 1981 original), a friend sent me a 10.17.09 draft of Peter Baynham‘s 117-page script. I read it right away, and without being too specific I can confirm that Gerwig does indeed have the “Minnelli role” in this draft, which is to say the dominant one as far as a third-act resolution is concerned.

To repeat, a Warner Bros. spokesperson said yesterday that the current poster is a teaser, and that another piece of Arthur art (possibly to feature Gerwig) will be seen down the road. But the fact remains that for the time being, Warner Bros. marketing has (a) kept the romantic female lead off the poster and (b) shown the secondary female lead (i.e., Jennifer Garner) instead, obviously because her name means something to Eloi ticket buyers while Gerwig’s means zip. Unless Jared Stern’s rewrite of Baynham’s script has switched things around entirely (which is highly unlikely), this is a deliberate hoodwink maneuver as far as your average ticket-buyer is concerned. I’m not saying a major studio hasn’t done this before, but I can’t think of any examples.

The teaser trailer pretty much eliminates Gerwig also. She’s seen in two brief cuts early on, and has one line (“Who are you people?”). The basic impression is that Arthur is a three-way relationship story between Russell Brand, Helen Mirren and Garner.

Gerwig will almost certainly benefit from Arthur, as any lead actress in any half-decent, studio-funded romantic comedy would. (For what it’s worth, Baynham’s script is spirited and funny-dopey — not a half-bad “read.”) But marketing-wise she’s definitely being shafted as we speak.

The Arthur poster is analagous, to use a fictitious example, to a poster of Warren Beatty‘s Heaven Can Wait showing Beatty (i.e., Joe Pendleton/Leo Farnsworth), Charles Grodin (as Tony Abbott, Farnsworth’s administrative assistant) and Dyan Cannon (as Farnsworth’s scheming and unfaithful wife)…but not Julie Christie‘s Betty Logan, the romantic female lead.

Or, if you need a parallel for a young actress just breaking in (as Gerwig is into the big-studio realm), it’s like a poster for Billy Wilder‘s Sabrina (’54) showing Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and Martha Hyer (who plays a romantic also-ran)…but not Audrey Hepburn.

27 thoughts on “Elbowed Aside

  1. What’s the level of the comedy in the script? The original had some great dialogue and character moments – does this script compare at all?

  2. It’s vigorously written — I’ll put it that way. It has a certain half-assed spirit. You can’t tell with these things since a good comedy depends on several different elements working together in perfect harmony, but it definitely doesn’t feel like flat-out merd on the page. I don’t really remember the original Arthur all that well. I recall John Gielgud speaking dismissively to Dudley Moore (“I suppose you want me to wash your dick for you, you little shit?”). And Moore, of course, with his rollicking laughter. And Minnelli with her openhearted-Queens-girl sincerity. And I remember Jill Eikenberry playing a kind of chilly bitch. And Christopher Cross‘s hit tune (“If you get caught between the moon and New York City”). But it’s been thirty-effing years, and I’ve never re-watched it.

  3. Is Arthur still a drunk in this version ?

    From the trailer, it looks like the alcoholic side to the character is either being downplayed or eliminated altogether.

  4. I’m always a big fan of the “I’ve never rewatched it” argument as the ultimate write-off — it’s pretty precise, unless it’s some total homework-type movie that’s indisputably great but you’d never want to watch again to while away a lazy Saturday, a la The Pianist or Last Emperor or Schindler’s List…

    But, man, ARTHUR was on HBO like *four times a day* every day throughout 1982 and 1983. It ran on a constant loop sandwiched between “Looker” and Robert Hays in “Take This Job and Shove It.” And maybe Ryan O’Neal in “Green Ice” and “Clash of the Titans.” How could anyone who was alive in 1982 and 1983 not have re-watched Arthur like 40 times minimum just by ACCIDENT, even if it didn’t warrant it? Oh, yeah, that would’ve been the Cannonball Run, Nighthawks, Sharky’s Machine, Escape From New York year of HBO, too.

    AKA the GREATEST YEAR OF HBO EVER.

  5. “instead, obviously because her name means something to Eloi ticket buyers while Gerwig’s means zip.”

    And Garner means what, exactly? I think the closest movies you could say she’s a draw in are Valentine’s Day and Daredevil, and those have more to do with their overall appeal.

  6. Are you leaving out 13 Going on 30 on purpose because it single-handedly destroys your argument, or were you just too bleary-eyed scrolling through IMDb when you posted that in the wee hours of the morning?

  7. “Or, if you need a parallel for a young actress just breaking in…”

    If the best parallel you have is a young actress who won an Oscar for her first role, a role that pre-dates the one you’re citing, she’s a bad example, Jeff.

    I actually kind of like the idea of a movie *not* giving everything away on the poster, let alone the trailer. It’s just a shame that it has to be a remake, so that most of the people actually talking about it won’t even think about it that way, because they’re already aware of the original. But the target audience are all the people who don’t care much either way about the original.

  8. Hell, Julie Christie won an Oscar for what was practically her first role too. So that’s really two bad examples, because they’re not “unknown” to nearly the extent that Gerwig is.

  9. Peter Baynham is hilarious, and the main reason why I’m not writing this film off like some of the kneejerk reactions to the not-that-bad trailer. He’s been involved in numerous comedy classics over the years, and most recently had a hand in Borat and Bruno. I know Brand isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but some of the instant dismissals on this site were remarkably po-faced. Might it be shit? Of course. But the trailer really wasn’t that bad.

  10. “It ran on a constant loop sandwiched between “Looker” and Robert Hays in “Take This Job and Shove It.” And maybe Ryan O’Neal in “Green Ice” and “Clash of the Titans.”

    You’re forgetting SPLIT IMAGE, Lex.

  11. That poster is off-putting, to say the least. Then I watched the trailer. Miserable. This will bomb.

    I understand why film nerds like Gerwig: she’s pretty — but not intimidatingly so — and she takes her clothes off in every movie. Fair enough.

    But maybe the studio left her out of the poster and trailer because they realized (too late) that she’s better suited for the indie world, that a mainstream audience won’t find her shtick appealing? And by shtick I mean the whole “I can barely be bothered to breathe, much less enunciate words, and forget about moving my facial muscles” thing.

    Her “naturalistic” style feels very manufactured and willful. She looks like she’s trying to look like she’s not trying. Or maybe she really isn’t trying at all. I don’t know what’s going on but I don’t like it.

    Maybe she’ll get better with time and experience. It happens.

  12. I’ve said it before: “Arthur” means nothing to anyone under 35 or 40. The generation that made the Dudley Moore version a blockbuster is now in their mid-40s to early 60s and they probably don’t have much affection for Russell Brand. Unlike “Caddyshack,” “The Blues Brothers,” “Stripes” and some of the other big comedy hits from that period, “Arthur” is not one of those films that had much lasting appeal beyond the 1980s. The highly unflattering stills make Brand look like a cross between Tiny Tim (of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” fame) and 1940s Boris Karloff. (And no, Moore’s character was definitely not going to AA at the end — he was slightly more sober, but still “enjoying” himself.)

  13. Kane: 13 Going On 30 was a minor hit at best. I mean, $37 million budget with P+A means it probably broke even at best. And it was gimmicky enough that anyone could’ve been in it, and it’d probably do the same box office. Otherwise, it would’ve translated into a big hit for her with Elektra.

  14. “I mean, $37 million budget with P+A means it probably broke even at best.”

    DZ – the fact that you say this about every movie shows that you don’t really understand how film studios make their money. By your logic, no movie has ever made money, and yet somehow, the studios continue to turn a profit. It’s almost as if you’re a stupid idiot whose statements never reflect reality in any way.

  15. That poster is off-putting, to say the least. Then I watched the trailer. Miserable. This will bomb.

    I understand why film nerds like Gerwig: she’s pretty — but not intimidatingly so — and she takes her clothes off in every movie. Fair enough.

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