Emily Blunt talks about 'The Wolfman,' making horror real, and working with Sir Anthony Hopkins
Oh, my. You ready to mock me mercilessly? Prepare to read an interview conducted by a man struggling to contain his shameless adoration. I think I managed to avoid yelling "I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU!" until she hung up so she could dial the proper authorities. But just barely. As a result, I'm not responsible for any spoilers we discussed, since I was just trying to maintain a sense of decorum.
Believe it or not, though, it's not her striking, quiet beauty that piques my interest... it's the talent behind it. There are many lovely women working in film today, but few of them make choices I like as much as the ones Blunt makes in front of the camera. I am impressed by the maturity to her work that made her seem like someone who had always been in front of the camera, completely comfortable even in her first film I saw, able to simply let the viewer in. She's still building her filmography, but I already consider her someone who is simply worth watching, each and every time.
Our chat took place late Saturday afternoon, and when she called, my youngest son Allen had just passed out in my lap for his nap. I'm almost positive she didn't notice his snoring as we talked by phone, her calling in from the Four Seasons:
Emily Blunt: Hello.
Drew: Hello, how are you?
EB: I’m good. How are you?
Drew: Excellent. Thank you for taking the time today.
EB: No problem.
Drew: So, I saw the film last night. Have you seen the finished version?
EB: I have seen it. I definitely have seen it.
Drew: I’ve already heard Joe Johnston talking about putting more of it back in. Are you happy with the theatrical version of it? Is there stuff that you wish you had seen in the final film?
EB: I don’t think so. I don’t even remember what else is missing, but I think the final thing works really well because it allows you into the creepy world, and there’s enough stuff if you want to see the relationship kind of tensely done, and you see all of that, but at the same time, I think you’ve got the brutality and the gore that people want. I mean, I think you’ve found the right balance within the movie.
Drew: The tone of this film... and tone is such a trick with horror films and especially a period horror film... the tone of the film is fairly confident from the very beginning. How did you guys, especially between you and Benicio, work to set the tone of the movie and figure out how you play this kind of very big material but make it still feel grounded?
EB: Well, the three of us sat down... Anthony, Benicio and I... and Anthony Hopkins is the one who said it. He was, like, "Let’s just submarine everything. Let’s just suppress everything," and we all kind of took our cue from him. We just wanted to make sure that the scenes had real truths to them and, yeah, that they seemed grounded. I didn’t want to buy into the whole melodrama of doing a horror movie. I don’t think that always works. I think it’s better to add to the suspense. You should keep everything else very truthful and grounded.
Drew: I said this to Joe earlier today... both you and Benicio seem to have these incredibly sad eyes that work so well for this movie, because it is all so unspoken.
Drew: When you’re playing the stuff towards the end of the picture with Benicio in full makeup…
Drew: How do you prep for a scene like that, because it is such an outrageous thing to be face-to-face with?
EB: I know. I mean, the best thing is probably not to prep for it because I think Joe often used the earliest takes, you know? Like the first or second take because that’s when you do get the actual reaction. Because it really is unpleasant to be confronted by that, even though I know it’s not real and everything and you’re cheating the camera angles and all of that stuff. You have to be aware of that so the technicalities behind doing scenes like that don't throw you. But really, that was one of the main issues I had... was, like, how do you actually react to seeing a werewolf? Like, what would be a truthful reaction? That was when your imagination would have to come in, and the thing that would help me was to talk to people that I knew who’d been in life-threatening situations, or who had frightening experiences where they literally couldn’t breathe, they were so frightened. And they all kind of said the same thing, that they were so frightened that their vocal cords locked out or they fainted, you know? It’s kind of one or the other. So that’s kind of interesting when you hear about people who have been that frightened. No one talks about screaming. They talk about being unable to breathe.
Drew: Well, that’s one of the things I like in the film... the way the reality is played, like the newspaper that Abberline hands you where it just matter of factly says "Werewolf Runs Rampant in London."
EB: (laughs) Yeah.
Drew: There’s no hesitation there. There’s no debate about it. It’s just "Werewolf Runs Rampant in London."
EB: Right. Well, that was a time when people were superstitious, and when Darwin’s theories were coming out, and it was science against the supernatural and science against superstition. And village gossip had run the world up until this point, so I think people were very prone to theories on werewolves. I think you couldn’t have a headline like that these days. People would laugh you all the way to Timbuktu, but I think in those days people wholeheartedly would believe that werewolves existed.
Drew: I’m a big fan of “My Summer of Love”. I think it’s a…
EB: Oh, thank you!
Drew: …really wonderful film, really smart and well-observed. It’s hard to believe it’s only been six years...
EB: Yeah, to me, too. Yeah.
Drew: Has it been a blur with the amount of work you’ve done in that time, and with the…
EB: Yeah, I think it has seemed quite blurred. I think that’s a good way of describing it. I kind of… the years have flown by because I remember every day on that set of “Summer of Love”. You know, it was a very intense experience for me, working on that film. I learnt more than I could even imagine on it. and when I look back upon films, they seem to have just… yeah, it seems blurred. I have blurred vision. I don’t feel I have a clear idea of how that all happened. I almost sometimes think, like, "Who is everyone talking about.? I don’t know. Oh, shit, it’s me." It’s weird.
Drew: Some of these films are movies that I’m not sure the audience ever got like a fair shot at seeing, whether it be “The Great Buck Howard” or “Dan In Real Life”, but they’re really nice movies that maybe didn’t get their chance theatrically.
EB: Yeah. Yeah. But that’s okay, you know?
Drew: Do you hear from people who catch up with the films on video?
EB: Yeah, I do. Often. I do and then there are the movies that you don’t really expect for them to do as well as they do, like “Sunshine Cleaning”. Everyone loved that movie, so I think it’s kind of a gamble. As long as people see it, I don’t care in what medium they see it. If they want to watch it on a plane, that’s fine. That’s not really why I do the job. I mean, I don’t really make films thinking that thousands of people are going to go see them. I mean…
Drew: It certainly seems like “The Wolfman” has the potential to be one of the biggest of the films you’ve been in so far.
EB: Yeah, I think so. I think “The Wolfman” has mass appeal for sure.
Drew: Speaking of mass appeal, you have done one of the things that I think makes somebody a milestone in pop culture. You were a “Simpsons” voice.
EB: (laughter) I’m glad you say that. I was very happy to be a part of “The Simpsons”.
Drew: Can you talk about that experience?
EB: Yeah, it was very cool. I got to sing Josh Groban in a child’s voice. And it’s really weird to try to play a kid. They kept being like, "Go higher, go higher." I was feeling like a Smurf, but yeah, it was just so cool to be a part of that legacy in some way. It’s just so… yeah, I think it’s like the most perfectly written show that’s ever been.
Drew: It seems like it’s one of those moments where you know you’re really crossed some line…
EB: Made it.
Drew: ... and become part of things.
EB: Yeah, yeah.
Drew: Are yougoing to be working with Sir Hopkins again for “Shoot the Messenger”?
EB: Well, we both really liked that script, but I don’t know if it’s happening. I know that Tony likes it and I know that I really love it, but I don’t know if that film is actually happening or not at the moment.
Drew: How is he as a co-star? Because I’ve always heard that he is the opposite of what people expect, in that he really takes this as an opportunity to have fun and to just enjoy the process.
EB: Oh, 100%. That is the whole deal for him. I mean, he loves the creative part of the job. He’s never lost his child-like enthusiasm for the play element of the job. There’s nothing jaded about Anthony, which is so refreshing, and I used to just follow him around. I just was like, "Please keep talking to me," because he was just riveting to be around.
Drew: I know Benicio was a monster kid, like he grew up really loving horror films. So for him, I would imagine the make-up was a personal... like, "Okay, I’ve done it. I’ve been in werewolf make-up, designed for me by Rick Baker."
EB: Yeah, I think he was probably psyched by the time he looked at himself in the mirror. He turned to Rick Baker and said, “Thank you so much, and thanks for making me look like my dog!”. It’s always been a dream of his.
Drew: Were you there for some of the days when Sir Hopkins was also in the full makeup?
EB: I never saw Hopkins in it.
Drew: Oh, really?
EB: I never saw him in it on set. No.
Drew: Oh, well, that is, to me, the craziest moment in the film.
EB: Yeah, when you see those blue eyes. It’s crazy.
Drew: That’s unmistakably him and, wow, look at that!
EB: Yeah, yeah. It’s awesome. It’s awesome.
Drew: He is obviously off to do “Thor” next.
Drew: I can’t tell you how disappointed I was that…
EB: Oh, no, really?
Drew: …that you did not end up as The Black Widow for "Iron Man 2."
EB: Oh, right! I thought you were going to say you were disappointed that he was Odin.
Drew: Oh, no, I’m thrilled that he’s Odin.
EB: (laughs) Oh, don’t you dare say that! Well, don’t worry about it. Don’t be too disappointed.
Drew: It just seemed like that was a nice match of character and actor, so…
EB: Oh, it’s all right. I’m okay with it. It doesn’t always work out.
Drew: So, “Gulliver’s Travels” is next, right? And “The Adjustment Bureau”?
EB: Yes, yes.
Drew: George Nolfi was a first-time director on "Bureau." Is that a different process when you’re working with somebody on their first time behind the camera?
EB: Yeah, it is a bit different, because... it is different, you know? I think when you’re working with someone who’s wildly experienced, there’s a surety to what they’re doing. But I think that George did a really great job, and he wrote the script and he really knew it, and he really knew what was going on, and what he wanted out of it. So I think that helps if you have a first time director who wrote it, because then they have a clear idea of what’s going on.
Drew: And because he’d been on the “Bourne” films, did he and Damon already have a shorthand of sorts?
EB: Yeah, very much. Very much so.
Drew: That had to help somewhat.
EB: Yeah, in a huge way. And Matt is just... Matt’s a great guy for... in every movie, he's just a great orchestrator for that movie. You know, he’s got a really clear idea of how things should be shot and he’s very collaborative like that. He’s very cool.
Drew: With “The Young Victoria,” you really chased that role. Like it was something that was very important to you.
EB: Yeah, I did. Yeah, I did chase it.
Drew: Is that something that you'll do when you’re reading material? Do you say, "Okay, this is something where I’m absolutely I’m going to do everything I can to get this," or…?
EB: It’s rare that I really, really want something, but I think there are those rare movies which you know are going to be a fight, and you know that everyone’s going to want them. So I did get in early for "Victoria," and I just said, "I really, really want you to give me the part, and I’m aware that everyone else is going to be saying the same thing, but hopefully you’ll listen to me more than them." So they were kind enough to give it to me.
Drew: Well, it was strong work.
EB: Thank you.
Drew: Take care, Miss Blunt.
EB: Take care, bye.
"The Wolfman" opens this Friday, February 12.
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