If you don’t know Will Arnett’s face, you’ll certainly know his voice. As well as starring in some of the most beloved American comedies of recent years, the Canadian Actor was the voice of the titular Hollywood horse in Bojack Horseman. Judging from his taste in cinema, however, it would appear Arnett’s comedic tastes are distinctly trans-Atlantic.
Arnett’s love of acting bloomed at a very early age. After being encouraged by his mother to pursue a career in acting, he landed roles in productions such as Close Up, Sex and The City and The Mike O’Malley Show, the latter of which turned out to be his big break. After the television series came to an end, Arnett found himself in a bit of a career-lull. It was around this time that he secured the role of George Oscar Bluth II in the Fox comedy series Arrested Development. Shortly after, he managed to bag a role in 30 Rock. He has also appeared in the likes of Semi-Pro, Blades Of Glory. Hot Rod and Let’s Go To Prison.
Being asked to name your favourite film of all time is a hard task. If it were me, I’d have spent literally decades weighing up my options; Arnett didn’t hesitate for a second. “Hands down, Withnail and I,” he told MTV. “It’s the perfect movie.” Explaining his love for Bruce Robinson’s 1987 black comedy, Arnett said: “It’s my kind of movie, which is brilliantly funny on a very profound level and has a lot of drama and a lot of heart to it as well. There’s not a wasted word in that film.”
He’s not wrong. Robinson’s dialogue and screen direction cut like a knife through the murky world of Withnail and I. The gloriously glum comedy tells the story of two out-of-work actors (one with a severe drinking problem) who decide to escape the grime of their London flat for the soggy climes of the British countryside.
Largely autobiographical, Withnail and I is a heightened rendering of Robinson’s days as a penniless actor. While many of the more anarchic scenes are often assumed to be the product of the director’s wine-addled brain, a good deal of the action was inspired by his real-life acting buddy Vivian MacKerrell, who Robinson shared a flat with in the 1960s and early ’70s. “He absolutely inspired me,” Robinson told the Independent, adding: “I have never had such intense conversations in my life as I had with Viv. He was a public schoolboy from an upper-middle-class background, while I was a secondary modern kid who didn’t even know what poetry was. He used to start the day with a cup of black coffee, honey and hashish: what he called the Baudelaire Principle”.
All of that lived experience made Withnail and I immensely rich in detail. The actions of every single character are underpinned by their own internal logic. Their inner lives – packed with dreams and ambitions – creak and quiver like rusty bicycles when met with reality. It is this that makes the story of Withnail and Marwood’s accidental holiday so utterly mesmerising. It is kitchen-sink drama meets Charlie Chaplin: dark, unnerving, but intensely uplifting and undeniably poignant. A fine choice, Mr Arnett. A fine choice indeed.