The Adjustment Bureau

Fight for your fate.

Emily as: Elise Sellas
Genre(s): Sci-Fi | Thriller
Written by: George Nolfi, Philip K. Dick (short story)
Directed by: George Nolfi
Other Cast: Matt Damon, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Release Date: March 4, 2011
Production Budget: $50m
Total Worldwide Gross: $127.8m
Filming Locations: New York City, New York, USA

Do we control our destiny, or do unseen forces manipulate us? Matt Damon stars in the thriller The Adjustment Bureau as a man who glimpses the future Fate has planned for him and realizes he wants something else. To get it, he must pursue the only woman he’s ever loved across, under and through the streets of modern-day New York.

On the brink of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate, ambitious politician David Norris (Damon) meets beautiful contemporary ballet dancer Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt)–a woman like none he’s ever known. But just as he realizes he’s falling for her, mysterious men conspire to keep the two apart.

David learns he is up against the agents of Fate itself–the men of The Adjustment Bureau–who will do everything in their considerable power to prevent David and Elise from being together. In the face of overwhelming odds, he must either let her go and accept a predetermined path… or risk everything to defy fate and be with her.

Production Info

  • Producer Chris Moore notes that since Blunt was cast in late July 2009 and the film began shooting in New York in September, she didn’t have many months to train in preparation for the dancing aspects of the role. Though the actress did work with body doubles, and films have the luxury of shooting at specific angles and cutting around talent in post production, many of the cast and crew admit that Blunt rarely relied on visual crutches to express her character in motion.
  • The phone number given to Matt Damon by Emily Blunt in the movie (212) 664-7665 is owned by Universal Studios and has appeared in other films distributed by the company; Definitely, Maybe, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in an effort to avoid the much overused “555” prefix. If called, it will ring indefinitely.
  • The names of the three main members of the Adjustment Bureau are Thompson, Richardson, and Harry: a play on the term Tom, Dick, and Harry, which is slang for any anonymous persons. Phillip K. Dick is also the writer of the short story the movie is based on.
  • According to Emily Blunt, filming at the Statue of Liberty was frequently interrupted by onlookers yelling out “Matt Damon!” in imitation of the puppet from Team America: World Police.
  • One of the production companies for this film is Electric Shepherd Productions, so named for the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (source of Blade Runner) by Philip K. Dick, who also wrote the short story, The Adjustment Team on which this film is based.
  • Character Quotes

  • [After dunking David’s cell into his coffee] It’s a sturdy little fucker, isn’t it?
  • “I haven’t seen you in three years, you make me sick.” That’s not an ideal come-on, just so you know.
  • Seriously, my number hasn’t changed, just call me like you didn’t last time.
  • I’m single. Now let’s hear your bullshit excuse for not calling me.
  • I think that everything you go through in life should come out in the way that you dance.
  • I’m not some hopeless romantic. I’ve never allowed myself to be that way. But once I felt, even for a moment, what I felt with you. You ruined me. I didn’t want to settle for less.
  • David: It’s the men’s.
    Elise: Yep. Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. I just didn’t know what to do. I heard you come in and say, “Hello,” and I probably should have said, “Hi,” but then I thought that would be weird because it’s the men’s. Then you started talking to yourself and it was obviously very personal. So I was kind of stuck in no man’s land, and then it all got to be too much, so I came out.
    David: What are you doing in here?
    Elise: I’m hiding from security.
    David: Why?
    Elise: I crashed a wedding upstairs.
    David: People still do that?
    Elise: It was a dare.
    David: Who dared you to crash a wedding?
    Elise: Me.
  • Elise: You’re that guy running for Senate, aren’t you?
    David: Yeah, I am that guy.
    Elise: And judging from your speech, you’re not winning?
    David: No.
    Elise: Oh. That’s too bad, the other guy is such a tool.
  • Elise: I could help poll test every word that comes out of your mouth before you say it.
    David: Oh, you like politicians?
    Elise: I like it when they do stuff I can relate to.
    David: Like pull their pants down?
    Elise: I love that.
  • David: Are you a registered New York voter?
    Elise: Do I sound like I am?
  • David: You know what? Here. You write your number down then I can call you and come pick up your skirt.
    Elise: Oh, my goodness, me. That is very smooth.
  • Elise: I’m a dancer.
    David: Oh.
    Elise: Not like that, you pervert. I’m in a contemporary ballet company.
    David: I think you have the wrong idea about me.
    Elise: No, I think that was the first thing that crossed your mind, actually.
    David: I think you should invite me to one of your performances.
    Elise: The company is called Cedar Lake, and there is actually a show tomorrow night, if you want.
    David: Is that an invitation?
    Elise: No, it’s information.
  • David: You’re not marrying that guy. I’m so sorry, and I don’t know what you must think of me, but you can’t marry him. You don’t love him. I’ve been terrible, I know.
    Elise: I’m getting married.
    David: No, you can’t.
    Elise: Don’t touch me! What are you doing? Do you know that no one has ever hurt me as much as you did?
    David: I’m so sorry that I left you the way that I did.
    Elise: David, you know what? You left me in a fucking hospital. What are you doing?
    David: I know it seems terrible but there was a reason.
    Elise: You don’t know anything about me and what makes me happy.
  • Quoting: Emily Blunt

    On her character: She’s a feisty, strong, layered, complicated girl who can hold her own. She’s tough, but she’s vulnerable too.

    On preparing for the role: I did this Tracy Anderson workout, which is what Madonna does. So, I was trying to get guns like Madonna. But my trainer kicked my butt for about an hour-and-a-half every day, six days a week, for a long time. And it does change your body. And I like to eat like a truck driver. That was the hardest part. It wasn’t actually the working out. The food part, for me, was the hardest. ‘Cause they come by with cheesy, melting snacks on set. And Matt would be like, “I’ll have one.” I’d be like, “You are the worst.”

    On the challenges of the role: The training was unreal. I hurt every day. It’s one thing to say, ‘I’ll do it for you,’ but it’s another thing to actually do it. It was hell to learn at first, and then it became invigorating, and one of the biggest, life-expanding experiences I’ve ever had.

    On filming in New York City: I think it was so essential to the film that we gave it that grit and the elegance at the same time that New York has to offer.

    On the film’s themes and messages: It’s a question of how powerful is fate and how much can you outrun it, actually, and when two people are really destined to be together, how much can you stop that, really? You root for these two people against all odds.

    On David and Elise’s relationship: David’s just about to go make his concession speech and he‟s at a point where he feels like he’s lost it all. My character pumps him up and reinvigorates this passion for what he does. She encourages a frankness in him, because that’s what she has. It’s a very chance encounter. It’s a very unusual encounter. The dialogue was witty, it was bantery between them. They almost fell in love through laughing at each other. They’re very real.

    On David and Elise’s relationship: You can’t help who you’re attracted to, and you certainly can’t help the situations or environments that you find yourself attracted to this person. It shows great spirit of character in him that he chooses to fight against that, and I think it speaks volumes about the attraction that these two people really have for each other. He is willing to risk a lot for her.

    On working with Matt Damon: Matt is an instantly likeable guy, and he’s got the toothiest grin in the business so he’s gonna win some votes with that smile. We hit it off instantly which I think is important because it’s effectively me and him for a lot of it.

    Quoting: Cast and Crew

    Director George Nolfi: She was an incredibly passionate advocate of trying to do it [dance sequences] in the most realistic way possible. And really taking it very, very seriously on an athletic and physical performance level. She came out here a couple of months before production and she worked with the dance company. So she was dancing probably five or six days a week.

    Producer Bill Carraro: When Emily came in and was gracious enough to do a screen test with Matt, she really just nailed it. It was quite obvious that what she brought was just as important, if not more, than her just being a good dancer.

    Producer Chris Moore: You can tell… and everybody there, camera guys, grips, me, the executives, we’re all just standing there, going, “Well, she’s way better than everybody else.” But she worked hard to get the part. [After witnessing Emily’s screen test]

    Producer Michael Hackett: She just became Elise, an accomplished dancer. I mean, to even get into that neighborhood in the short time that Emily’s had speaks of real discipline and talent and drive to bring everything to the character that she can.

    Choreographer Benoit-Swan Pouffer: When I met her, I said to her, “We’re not gonna try to make you a dancer. We’re gonna make you a mover.” And I said, “I just need you to not say, ‘I’m not gonna make it.’ “You gotta open your mind and really trust that you can do it.” And she came full force. Going to a world that she’d never done, never took a class, takes a lot of courage to go forward like this, with not knowing, and say, “I trust.” She actually learned pretty quick. So I could move forward and add layers on the dancing.

    Co-star Matt Damon: She changed her body. I mean, professional dancers have a certain look. They’re incredibly fit and they’re incredibly strong. It’s just required for that art form. The only way you can get that look is by doing just an enormous amount of work with the intention of looking that way. And she did it. It just blew the crew away. She was just so great and utterly believable. It was just very, very impressive to watch.

    Critical Response

    Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: Emily Blunt, who has heretofore seemed chilly, is not the first actress I’d have thought of for this role, but her acerbic irreverence makes a nice foil for Damon’s earnestness and brings his smile out of hiding.

    Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: As James Franco and Anne Hathaway now know too well, chemistry is everything. And within moments, Damon and Blunt generate sparks that fly not between superbly compatible physical specimens but real people.

    Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: For her part, this is the best Blunt has been onscreen since her early work in My Summer of Love and The Devil Wears Prada and certainly the film in which she seems most vibrant and alive in a romantic pairing; Elise sasses and tests David at every turn up to the point when she allows herself to become vulnerable and honest.

    Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: Damon, in what might be his most classically romantic role to date, and the always excellent Blunt combine to make us want them to be together as much as they want it themselves.

    Justin Chang, Variety: Elise’s actions seem to carry no weight in this male-dominated universe, which is perhaps fitting for a story that at times suggests a contempo riff on Orpheus and Eurydice. That sense of helplessness only amplifies Blunt’s touching vulnerability, though elsewhere she’s a nice, tart match for Damon’s engaging protag (and she gets to show off months of physical training in a few striking if incongruous dance sequences).

    Awards and Nominations

    Below is a list of all accolades Emily has received for her role in the film.

    WON: Saturn Awards – Best Supporting Actress