Emily Blunt nearly stole last year’s “The Devil Wears Prada” out from under its young star, Anne Hathaway, as the frenetically chic senior editorial assistant Emily Charlton. Critics stood up, lavishing tasty reviews on her. Now, while Blunt divides her time between London and Vancouver, where she lives with her jazz-singer boyfriend, Michael Bublé, Hollywood’s waters have parted for her in a big way.
The 24-year-old actress has five new films in various stages of production and release — all are American. Up this fall are “The Jane Austen Book Club,” an ensemble film directed by Robin Swicord that opens on Sept. 21, in which she plays an unhappy wife at an emotional crossroads; and “Dan in Real Life” (Oct. 26), a Steve Carell romantic comedy about a love triangle in which she has a small role. Also coming is the much-anticipated “Charlie Wilson’s War” (Dec. 25), a fact-based drama from Mike Nichols with Tom Hanks as the Texas congressman who spearheaded U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in the 1980s. She’ll also face off against herself early next year with two projects opening Jan. 1: the long-delayed “The Great Buck Howard,” in which she costars as the publicist of an eccentric magician played by John Malkovich, and “Sunshine Cleaning,” an offbeat comedy, with Amy Adams and Alan Arkin, about two sisters who run a biohazard-cleaning service.
Blunt is currently in London learning such queenly skills as waltzing and riding side saddle for her role as “The Young Victoria,” a biopic produced by Martin Scorsese about Queen Victoria’s early adulthood. Blunt spoke about her dizzying schedule by phone from London. Not surprisingly, she’s funny in real life, but she’s also self-deprecating, heir to that British skepticism of America’s unseemly obsession with fame.
Now that you’ve been embraced by Hollywood, how does it feel? What do you think of the whole glamorama Hollywood scene?
You never have a bad meeting in L.A. It’s incredibly deceptive. You walk out thinking you’ve nailed it and then you never hear from anyone again. No one’s willing to miss out on the next Orlando Bloom, the next young phenomenon to shoot to stardom, but no one wants to be the one to say yes. They’re waiting for someone else to say yes. But I think you can find your niche there.
Were you besieged after “Prada”?
There were definitely more yeses. It felt like I was going to get the variety of roles that I’d always wanted. It’s funny because everything since “Prada” has been American — American accent, American film.
What was your first post-“Prada” decision?
It was doing The Great Buck Howard. I really wanted to work with John Malkovich, and I really thought the character was funny and eccentric. I played someone who was less on the edge of a nervous breakdown and that was appealing.
How was it working with John?
Did you say that to him?
I think it was pretty transparent. I think John knows all. People loved him–the makeup, the crew–and that’s always a good sign, when someone is kind to everyone. But I just couldn’t remember what my name was when I was trying to talk to him, and I don’t know why.
What came after that?
After that came The Jane Austen Book Club. That was based completely on the role [of Prudie]. I tend not to base my decision on the film. I tend to always base it on the kind of character. It doesn’t matter to me what film it is or whether it is commercial or not. But yes, The Jane Austen Book Club was role-based. I had never played that kind of part before. She was so secretive and unhappy and quaking with vulnerability and social ineptitude, and I guess I understood her more than other characters that I’ve played. I thought of her as being in that awkward stage of adolescence. She still seemed to be stuck there.
You drew on that from your own adolescence?
Mine, yes. I’m sure you hate hearing that. Every actor is like, God, I was such a geek.
Yes, but you look fabulous in your 5-inch heels today.
It must be so irritating. Every actor likes to tell you they were such a geek, but I actually was. I was so thin you could snap me like a twig. I was a very late developer with a bad haircut and a stutter, so I was kind of up against it. But back to Prudie, I thought she was a challenge as well, because she comes out with very self-important, pompous things. And it’s how to make them seem like something completely different, which is actually someone who’s desperate to be accepted and doesn’t know how. I really liked that balance and how complicated that would be.
So the wig was your idea? What said Prudie to you about her black bob?
It’s that kind of contrived French thing she was going for, and I think it’s what she imagined French women to look like. I think she thought it was sophisticated but, in the end, she didn’t quite pull it off.
Where’s the wig now?
This is quite funny because they sent it in a box to my home in Vancouver and Michael opened it and screamed. He thought there was a dead animal at the bottom of the box. Now it’s kind of waiting. . . in a closet somewhere.
Could all of your new roles be described as character parts, and is that what you’re going after rather than leading lady roles?
Yes. I’m definitely more drawn to character parts. They’re better. And I’ll be allowed to age. That’s kind of not OK in Hollywood, is it? You can’t really find a 55-year-old actress who actually looks 55. I heard this report that they’re struggling to find actresses who look their age. I love that I say, self-righteously, that I’ll be allowed to age when I probably won’t want to. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’m 35, 40. You’ll see me with fish lips by then and I’ll be like, “No, I’ve aged gracefully.”