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Arthur's World
"Wow…This is amazing. If I lived here, I'd never want to leave.” - Naomi

Shot on location in New York City, primarily Manhattan, "Arthur” opens with Arthur and Bitterman on a late night joyride that ends with a collision into the great bronze beast known worldwide as The Wall Street Bull.

"This is a quintessential New York movie,” producer Michael Tadross declares. "I don't believe there's any other place in the world we could have shot ‘Arthur.' There's no back-lot to substitute for it; the iconic landmarks, the streets, the crowds.”

Some of the highlights of Arthur's excursions include Pershing Square, 42nd Street, Central Park, the New York Public Library, Dylan's Candy Bar, and the famous Le Cirque restaurant, where Arthur provides an impromptu floorshow for the regular clientele. Naomi's apartment, located near the rail line in Queens, was filmed on site between the regular rumble of trains.

Trains—or more to the point, their absence—also figured into one of the movie's most interesting set pieces, Grand Central Station as few can imagine it: surreally devoid of commuters. "Jason had to shoot Grand Central in a two-hour span in the middle of the night because that's as long as we could have it cleared of people. It wasn't an easy location to get, and then to have to work that fast, but he pulled it off beautifully,” says Tadross, of a scene in which Arthur re-routes traffic for an intimate romantic dinner with Naomi on the station's main floor, complete with acrobats performing in the balconies.

Shooting on location was challenging but well worth the effort, Winer acknowledges, with a bonus being the enthusiasm the actors and crew drew from spectators. "You can't stop New York. But we shot there for a reason, to make audiences feel as if they're on the streets of the city. You have to assume there will be a few takes where we have to cut around someone who suddenly popped into the frame—and that did happen. People wanted photos of our stars and they graciously posed with fans. A lot of New Yorkers and tourists from around the world now have shots of Russell running down 42nd Street in his underwear.”

For the most part, however, Brand is handsomely attired in a range of custom suits by costume designer Juliet Polcsa, incorporating many English bespoke details, as well as Arthur-izing with "extra-large pockets to accommodate the dimensions of a flask”–the perfect example of form following function.

Similarly, award-winning composer Theodore Shapiro's score captures and complements the defining facets of Arthur's personality. "Arthur treats the world as a toy to be played with. He's irresponsible but also kind-hearted, generous and has a love of life, and Jason and I wanted the palette of the score to reflect that dichotomy,” he says. "The core of the ‘Arthur' sound is a toy music box sample, accompanied by bells, solo cello, and a warm, out-of-tune upright piano and the upbeat character of Arthur's theme reflects his worldview.”

In keeping with these themes, "Arthur” also features a number of original songs by musician, producer and DJ Mark Ronson, as well as songs written and performed by Ben Gibbard. Says Ronson, "I absolutely love Jason Winer's new take on ‘Arthur.' I think the music will be a signature element of the film and I relished the prospect of being a part of that.” The film will also include a cover of "Arthur's Theme,” performed by Fitz and the Tantrums.

Production designer Sarah Knowles and set decorator Chryss Hionis created Arthur's apartment, built on a soundstage to the dimensions of the Pierre Hotel's penthouse, as a kind of opulent playhouse that incorporates rich antique furnishings and expensive art with eclectic accents like a red London phone box converted into a salt-water aquarium, vintage toy robots, a NASA spacesuit suspended in the bedroom and a life-size statue of a giraffe, painted blue—not to mention a regulation-sized boxing ring. His closet features a rotating shoe rack and a dry cleaner's conveyer laden with suits and shirts that seem to extend into infinity.

The set's showpiece is the floating bed, courtesy of digital editing but inspired by a $1.5 million model that actually exists. Designed by Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars, its steel platform is held in suspension between industrial-strength magnets above and below it, so that the bed literally floats on air without physical supports.

The fact that Arthur may have the only magnetic floating bed in the western hemisphere exemplifies the kind of outrageous conspicuous consumption the character is all about, a strategy Winer carefully considered. "In 1981, you could put someone in a tuxedo and give him a Rolls Royce and say he was a billionaire, but in 2011 people have a different concept of what it means to be incredibly wealthy,” the director explains. "They've seen it all. So we had to come up with more extreme and unique ways for him to spend his money.”

Among these one-of-a-kind updates to Arthur's arsenal against boredom, the filmmakers included the Batmobile from "Batman Forever” and the DeLorean from "Back to the Future.”

"As the project developed, early drafts of the script contained some lines that directly referenced the first film and resonated with all of us. But that diminished as time went on because we found it better to focus on the spirit of the story and make it our own in meaningful and creative ways,” Winer concludes. "We found our own language.”


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