FOR COLIN FIRTH, one of the first challenges he took after winning Best Actor for "The King's Speech" was the title role in the little indie "Arthur Newman."

Not a challenge in terms of scale - the movie opened Friday on a handful of screens. The challenge was in taking a role that asked him to step so far outside himself. Firth is a family man, a married father of two, and Arthur Newman is a failure as a father and husband.

"Any parent will tell you how detrimental parenthood can be to your freedom, to your self-worth, to your composure. But, actually, all of those things are rendered completely moot, I think, by the actual fact of your child," Firth told Daily News movie critic Gary Thompson.

Finding a balance between work and family is crucial, he said, especially in the movie business. A lesson he learned early on, after encountering one of his idols (he won't say who).

"I remember running into this actor, once, and I was a fan, because he was a very great actor, but also very serene, and one of the most contented people in the profession. And at that point in my career, I was rather alarmed by how many rather discontented older actors there were. I wondered: Is this destiny, is this how we're all going to end up? Messed up? And so I asked him, 'How do you get to be so happy with things?' And he gave me a one-word answer: 'Family.' And it wasn't a hokey moment, or heart-warming. He was being very thoughtful."

Firth's character in "Newman" has seen his family disintegrate. His marriage has failed, he's estranged from his son, and even a second relationship (with Anne Heche) has gone south.

Newman simply leaves his old life and starts a new one, on the road, with Emily Blunt, who, as it happens, has a habit of pretending to be other people. Newman takes up her method, and, as another person, ends up learning about himself.

"There's an old acting exercise, you start by wearing a mask, and you see how much of yourself you can reveal," Firth said. "It's interesting what happens when you put on a physical mask, the way it changes the body language, and you end up expressing yourself in a way that's not possible without the mask. And I think you see that working with Arthur."

Firth said he felt sympathy for Arthur, though they are men in very different situations in life.

"I think we all identify with this idea of wanting a second act in life, whether we've had success or not," said Firth. "And it's a relatively new problem. Not long ago, people expected to die much earlier. They didn't think they'd live past 40. Now, there's a whole life past 40."


* The Tribeca Film Festival ended on a royal note with Jerry Lewis showing up at the 30th-anniversary screening of "The King of Comedy."

The 87-year-old comedy legend walked out to thunderous applause after Saturday's screening, joining co-star Robert De Niro and director Martin Scorsese.

* They're not quite as old as Lewis, but the Rolling Stones rocked the small Echoplex club in L.A. on Saturday night as a kick-off to their upcoming tour.

Tickets were $20. Although it was supposed to be hush-hush, Bruce Willis, Gwen Stefani and Skrillex managed to get tickets.

To hinder scalpers, fans had to line up outside the El Rey Theatre across town for a chance to attend the spontaneous show. Buyers were limited to one ticket, and they were required to pay with cash, show a government-issued ID, wear a wristband with their name on it and be photographed. Their names were then verified at the Echoplex venue.

Cameras and smartphones were not allowed inside.

* The original "Star Wars" is being dubbed into Navajo.

Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Ariz., says he sees the translation as entertaining and a way to preserve the Navajo language.

Wheeler says it's rewarding considering the U.S. once tried to eradicate the language, then called on Navajos to use it during World War II.

* Who says you can't go home again? Not Lorne Michaels.

A year after leaving "Saturday Night Live," Kristen Wiig is coming back to host the Mother's Day show on May 11. Expect other returning "SNL" alumni.

NBC also announced that the season finale on May 18 will be hosted by Ben Affleck, with Kanye West as the musical guest.

Rihanna gives Chris Brown a ride

Tattle wonders some days, if we had celebrity money, would we spend $42,000 on a fancy pen, as Robert Pattinson reportedly did for Kristen Stewart's birthday? Would we plunk down $17 million in cash for a home, as Taylor Swift reportedly just did in Rhode Island? Would we, as reports, spend $1 million on a limited-edition (only 75 were made) 2009 Mercedes-Benz SLR Stirling Moss, as Rihanna did for Chris Brown's birthday present?

Keep in mind that Brown already has a red Ferrari to tool around in, so it's not like he needs a new set of high-end wheels.

But, as an unnamed source told Naughty But Nice Rob, Rihanna "had his initials put on the red leather seats."

Gee, it used to be that if you had a "CB" in your car, you were talking to truckers.

* In less-romantic news, Chris Brown's dad, Clinton Brown, told the New York Daily News that he would prefer Chris stay away from Rihanna.

He doesn't see it ending well.

He might feel differently if she bought him a million-dollar car.

- Daily News wire services

contributed to this report.

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