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ELLE Interview: Emily Blunt

Elle Canada
Celebrity

ELLE Interview: Emily Blunt

Four nights ago, Emily Blunt was playing the supportive wife in Alaska , hanging out while husband John Krasinski filmed the movie Everybody Loves Whales. Three nights ago, she was in New York , being whisked off to a photo shoot. Last night, she touched down in Los Angeles , her current home. Now, the British actress is flopped on a sofa in a lavish suite at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. She wears black skinny jeans that are so well loved they’ve turned navy, as well as a black blouse with tiny orange flowers that she says she picked up at some vintage shop in town. “My head is fried,” admits Blunt with a laugh, though she hardly looks jet-lagged. “What’s my name right now? Gwendolyn, I think.”

If Blunt is having trouble keeping her own identity straight, it’s no wonder that the public can’t quite place the thespian yet. “Most people think they have met me somewhere or went to school with me,” she says. “I’m not the instantly recognizable person who gets hounded.” This could also be chalked up to the variety of roles that the 28-year-old has taken on in her relatively short career and how thoroughly she disappears inside them. Over the past five years, Blunt has played everything from an acid-tongued, couture-clothed assistant ( The Devil Wears Prada) to a largely unclothed 1980s political constituent ( Charlie Wilson’s War) to an 1890s damsel in distress ( The Wolfman). Last year, she snagged a Golden Globe nomination for playing the teenage Queen of England in The Young Victoria

But Hollywood producers have no trouble recognizing the actress’ A-list status. She has three films currently in production, and recent months have found Blunt starring in two family movies: Gulliver’s Travels with Jack Black (in which she plays a pint-size princess) and her first animated feature, Gnomeo and Juliet (in which she lends her voice to a star-crossed garden gnome). For that one, she loved going to work in flipflops and jeans or pyjamas, “looking like a dog’s arse,” she says. “I would roll up in greasy hair and no one would know.” (Well, her director knew— and on the days he filmed the bonus features for the DVD, Blunt says she would get a call saying “Leave the baggy pants at home.”)
emily-blunt-canvas.jpgThis March, though, Blunt will step into a contemporary role that she says, due to her character’s strength and playfulness, is the closest to herself she has ever played. In The Adjustment Bureau, which opens in theatres on March 4, she stars as Elise, a quick-witted ballerina who falls in love with David (Matt Damon), a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Blunt’s dry sense of humour is front and centre when Elise and David meet serendipitously in a men’s washroom at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria. David is practising a speech in front of the mirror; Elise emerges from a stall holding champagne. Sparks fly. But fate didn’t intend for them to meet or fall in love—and a group of mysterious agents, who want nothing left to chance, aggressively try to stop them from staying together. It’s George Orwell’s 1984 mixed with The Matrix. Blunt could have followed up this romantic thriller with a starring role in Captain America: The First Avenger—a potential franchise that may be as big as the Twilight or Harry Potter series—but, to everyone’s surprise, she turned it down. Blunt insists that she didn’t reject the role because of its blockbuster nature but because of a scheduling conflict with Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, a 2012 release co-starring Ewan McGregor and Kristin Scott Thomas. “The choices I make are not always about ‘Oh, I don’t want to be overexposed,’” she says, “because you have to do those movies to be green-lit to do small films or a passion project.” 

It’s the kind of pragmatism you’d expect to hear from someone who grew up dreaming of Tinseltown and silver screens. Instead, Blunt was raised in leafy Roehampton, a suburb of London , England, the daughter of a barrister father and a teacher mother who stayed home to raise four children. What kind of youthful trouble did Blunt get into? She arches an eyebrow and says dramatically “I can’t! I won’t!” And then she folds like hot laundry. “As a child, I stole some carrot seeds from the local garden centre. My mom made me take them back and apologize.”

At school, she studied French and Spanish. “I had an interesting feeling that I would become an interpreter at the UN,” she recalls. Blunt didn’t entertain thoughts of acting until she began taking drama classes at 16; in 2000, she was selected to participate in the Edinburgh fringe festival, where an agent spotted her performance and signed her. Her parents are pleased that she’s thriving in an industry known for devouring people, but “they’re not the type of family that dines out on this kind of thing,” she says.

So, while Blunt is happy to skewer her good-girl image—“Let’s trash this hotel room and I can play a heroin-fuelled rock star next,” she deadpans— she is most interested in maintaining a quiet life with The Office star Krasinski, whom she married last July and refers to as her “better half.” That’s about all she’s willing to give up: She has kept her silence when it comes to her 2008 breakup with Michael Bublé and is just as committed to keeping details about her marriage on lockdown lest she feed the gossip mill. (The gossip mill, of course, churns on. Blunt describes going to a Bikram yoga class without her wedding rings: “They literally fall off because I sweat, but of course [the tabloid headline was] ‘The marriage is on the rocks!’”) 

As our interview draws to a close, I ask the actress to reveal a hidden talent. Smiling, Blunt says that she has a party trick—something that she has been able to do for as long as she can remember. Puckering her lips, she wiggles her tongue and suddently emits a high-pitched, pigeonlike trill for a full five seconds. Her eyes water, and then she throws back her head and laughs. “Very few people have seen or heard that!” she says. Suddenly, Blunt seems rather far away from all of her roles. She doesn’t look anything like an ice queen or a Victorian princess; she just looks like she’s having a ball.

Click here to read about Emily Blunt's 5 most beloved things...
emily-blunt-canvas.jpg MAKEUP 
“Trish McEvoy Essential Pencil in Nude. I wore this lipliner on my last movie. The makeup artist gave it to me, and it’s the jam.”

BOOTS 
“Coach’s platform suede Luck Bootie—it’s a very sensible winter bootie.”

NIGHTTIME READING 
Sister by Rosamund Lupton. It’s a thriller about a woman who is trying to find out what happened to her sister. It’s written as a series of letters, and it’s haunting and very emotional to read because I’m so close to my sisters. My elder sister is a literary agent who represents the author, and she gave it to me.”

CARTOON LEADING MAN 
“Popeye, because he has big guns and eats spinach .”

JUNK FOOD 
“Cookies: chocolate chip, ginger, toffee. I can eat an entire bag of Oreos without taking a breath. I eat them like a three-year-old does: I take off the top and then lick the icing inside—without milk.”

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ELLE Interview: Emily Blunt