TERRE HAUTE —
Some people hold a fond memory of Terre Haute.
Some even dream of escaping to Terre Haute to start a new life.
(That was not a typo. The sentence correctly reads “escaping to Terre Haute” and not “escaping from Terre Haute.”)
Such attitudes about this city brought to life a new movie, starring an Oscar-winning actor, and written by an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.
And, just how significant is the connection? The film’s title is “Arthur Newman,” but it almost wasn’t.
“There was a whole campaign to actually call the movie ‘Terre Haute,’ but people thought it was too obscure,” Becky Johnston, the screenwriter and producer, said Friday by telephone from Los Angeles.
Even without a spot on theater marquees, this town reaps a benefit that economic-development and tourism advocates crave — the perception of Terre Haute as a destination. Of course, this occurs in the context of a cinematic drama. “Arthur Newman” offers no sunny travel-brochure material that will put the community on a “Best Places to Live” list.
It’s a dark comedy, filmed last fall in North Carolina and unveiled this month at the Toronto Film Festival. Yet, “Arthur Newman” also gives Terre Haute its most extensive silver-screen exposure, surpassing memorable one-liner mentions in “A Christmas Story,” “The Blues Brothers,” “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” “Breaking Away” and “Some Came Running.”
On the down side, Vertebra Films shot the Terre Haute scenes in Raleigh, rather than on the banks of the Wabash, using signs and decals to disguise cars and buildings in North Carolina’s capital city as those of the Terre Haute Police Department. Still, the talent involved is world-class. It stars Colin Firth (last year’s Oscar winner for Best Actor in “The King’s Speech”), Emily Blunt (a Golden Globe winner) and Anne Heche (an Emmy winner). Behind the scenes, the woman who wrote “Arthur Newman,” Johnston, has on her resumé an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay for 1991’s “Prince of Tides.”
Johnston is responsible for injecting Terre Haute into the plot of her latest project. Her choice to use it as a setting was “completely random.”
In the film, Terre Haute represents a new existence for Wallace Avery (played by Firth). Wallace’s mild-mannered life in Florida has collapsed. His ex-wife and son despise him. He’s lost his job, unemployment checks, and his dream career as a pro golfer by living up to his nickname, “The Choker.” His girlfriend, Mina (Heche), mistreats him badly. Wallace wants to leave it all behind and decides to cash in an offer he got after fixing a man’s golf swing. The guy needed a golf pro at the country club he owns … in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Adventure ensues. Wallace fakes his own death, takes on the persona of a golf pro named Arthur Newman, and embarks on a bizarre road trip. Along the way, he meets a troubled young girl named Mike (Blunt), also on the run from a dysfunctional past. With seemingly little more in common than the need to escape the past, they join forces and head for Terre Haute. En route, Arthur and Mike break into vacant houses, play-acting as the homeowners. Eventually, the wayward souls realize the identities they abandoned actually are what binds them.
TERRE HAUTE —
Some people hold a fond memory of Terre Haute.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
MARK BENNETT: Giving new voice to Ehrmann’s words
Max Ehrmann’s bronze face may break into a grin soon.
MARK BENNETT: Are you ready for some oom-pah along the banks of the Wabash?
Any time I hear Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly,” the sound transports me to 1973, when that classic song bubbled from my parents’ car radio on the drive to Sheridan Park for my youth football games.
MARK BENNETT: Filmmaker captures late uncle’s walk through illness and into ‘whatever is next’
Paul Fleschner sensed a remarkable strength as he filmed his beloved uncle one final time.
MARK BENNETT: Making road work a barrel of fun for drivers
We’re lucky orange barrels can’t talk.
Advancing the cause
On that day a dozen years ago, the black-robed justices of the U.S. Supreme Court sat behind the elevated bench, facing down at Jim Bopp.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute: The downtown that can
Two words can refute many of the “can’ts” occasionally uttered about this town.
MARK BENNETT: The road ahead
An invisible force shield — just like those found in comic books — formed a barrier between us and the edge of that road.
MARK BENNETT: Returning the dome to Normal
Folks at Indiana State University haven’t summoned Indiana Jones, yet.
MARK BENNETT: Generational ‘Catch 22’
Baby Boomers’ long run of cultural dominance gradually gives way to America’s 22-year-olds
MARK BENNETT: Downtown is full of unique cultural icons
A city’s “culture” boils down to its uniqueness.
MARK BENNETT: Midwest baseball fans flock to Valley tourney
As a major sporting event — the Missouri Valley Conference Baseball Championship — began to unfold in Terre Haute this week, a familiar question cropped up.
MARK BENNETT: Like other Indiana counties, Vigo struggles with voter apathy
Vigo Countians who trekked to the new voting centers, who endured long lines at a couple of popular sites, and who learned to use the new touch-screen machines displayed solid civic spirit in Tuesday’s primary election.
MARK BENNETT: Low, and OK with it
The little sticker in the upper-left corner of a vehicle’s windshield reminds us — three months in advance — when to get an oil change.
A safe, scenic path from downtown Terre Haute to the river worth planning
The community has to want it.
MARK BENNETT: The memories from a baseball mitt fit like a glove
Man hasn’t developed the technology for time travel.
The smell of your old baseball glove can come pretty close, though.
MARK BENNETT: Living the dream
Earth Day receives its share of under-your-breath criticism.
MARK BENNETT: Cleaning up Indiana could be as easy as a 10¢ deposit
Scan the roadside on a drive through the Wabash Valley, and you might spot an empty pop bottle or two.
MARK BENNETT: Waltman succeeded where others dared not tread
Royce Waltman sensed the “we’ve-heard-this-before” skepticism in my voice.
MARK BENNETT: Volunteers’ cleanup efforts key to river’s future role in community
People throw all kinds of garbage into and along the Wabash River, aiming to make their used-up stuff disappear from their lives.
MARK BENNETT: Are you up for high-paying jobs and wide open spaces?
Admit it. You’ve daydreamed about it.
Yes, North Dakota. There must be something in the water (or ice) up there, you figure. What else would explain the Peace Garden state topping all those “best in the nation” rankings?
MARK BENNETT: Breaking down the Billion Dollar Bracket
Guts, graphite and glory.
The night it rained tears
March fuels college basketball teams. Fun, glory, buzzer-beater shots and storybook endings in the NCAA Tournament await there.
MARK BENNETT: First BaconFest sure to cure your salty fried meat cravings
Bacon taught me a life lesson.
I wrapped strips of it around chicken livers and secured the cold, gooey bundles with toothpicks to earn money.
MARK BENNETT: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
MARK BENNETT: City sparkles during premiere of ‘The Drunk’
William Tanoos and Paul Fleschner cast their hometown in a starring role in their debut effort as filmmakers.
MARK BENNETT: ‘Notes on a River’ exhibition brings Wabash scenes to gallery
The best views of the Wabash come with wet, muddy feet.
MARK BENNETT: Quest for the perfect Valentine’s Day gesture may not involve gifts
You’ll need a broom, a pickup truck, trash bins, shop hooks and aspirin.
Filming a “Sanford and Son” remake? Preparing for the apocalypse?
MARK BENNETT: Illinois officials content their state has its business advantages, too
Most people count the Wabash River as an economic asset for Terre Haute. Of course, economic development officials in the Land of Lincoln beg to differ.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana should revisit its time-zone classification
Mister Spock would look at the situation in Indiana and, in that dispassionate “Star Trek” voice, utter a firm conclusion.
“That is illogical,” he’d say.
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- MARK BENNETT: Giving new voice to Ehrmann’s words