A few days after interviewing Emily Blunt at Hollywood’s famous Chateau Marmont hotel, she’s spotted enjoying dinner on its softly lit patio, with her husband, actor John Krasinski.
According to reports, the pair were on a date night and giggled as they shared a chicken salad. It was a very public display of togetherness, and interesting because Blunt had confided to me only days earlier the many ways in which the couple strive to keep their relationship private.
Looking stunning in a vintage blouse, black ’50s-style cigarette jeans and designer heels, the 27-year-old star of the soon-to-be-released Gulliver’s Travels nibbled on raw vegetables (“I’m not pregnant, so please don’t get the wrong idea”) and sipped water, as she revealed their anti-paparazzi strategy.
Married in July at George Clooney’s estate near Lake Como, in Italy, she and her husband, who found fame in the American version of The Office, have become tabloid staples, much to their chagrin. Not only does she get snapped filling up her car with petrol, but also walking through airports.
“It can be quite intrusive when you step off a plane, so we put on our sunglasses,” she says, smiling sweetly. “We’ve started cracking jokes about it, so it’s not such an ordeal. When you have a photograph taken, it can be open to any kind of interpretation. If you’ve had a big meal and someone sees a slight bump, they immediately surmise that you’re pregnant, and I’m like, ‘That’s what you call a food baby!’”
Warming to the subject, Blunt reveals more celebrity tips for fooling the paparazzi. “People who are experienced in this tell me you should wear the same thing every day, and never change your facial expression, because photographers are always looking for a different shot,” she explains.
“That’s why a lot of people remain very impassive because they know it results in a boring picture. It’s a really smart thing to do.”
Such is the price for securing a place on the coveted Hollywood A-list, which the South Londoner earned thanks to well-received roles in The Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada and the upcoming Jack Black Christmas comedy, Gulliver’s Travels.
In the fast-paced updated re-imagining of the Jonathan Swift novel, Blunt plays the hapless princess of Lilliputia, which required her to wear yet another corset. After The Young Victoria and The Wolfman, surely she’d want to stay away from vintage costumes for the rest of her life?
“I know! I must be some kind of sadist,” she laughs. “Breathing’s overrated. Every morning, I’d take a baleful look at it before it was strapped on. On the positive side, it does a lot for the boobs.”
The filmshoot, which took place in the UK, was a riot by all accounts and boasted an impressive cast of comedians, including Catherine Tate, James Cordon and Billy Connolly, who had a few words of wisdom for the young actor.
“We were waiting for filming to start one day and I told Billy that sometimes I question my job, and the crap that comes with it,” she admits. “I wondered if my job was important enough. He told me, ‘You can change someone’s day if they see a film, and people need the escape.’”
But, back to the hype. Naturally, Blunt and Krasinski, 31, are constantly being asked about their plans to start a family, even though they’ve been married less than a year.
She tells me that “marriage is wonderful”, as I comment on her enormous – yet tasteful – diamond engagement ring, which she jokingly calls, “a speck of dust”.
Her mother, Joanna, was an actor who gave up her career to look after Blunt and her brother and two sisters, while her father, Oliver, forged ahead in his career as a QC. Would she do the same one day?
“I come from a big family and I’ve always wanted children, but not quite yet,” she admits. “Yes, Mum gave up her career, but it’s a different age now.”
Blunt pauses for a moment, and continues, “I’m lucky in that, hopefully, I will have established myself more than my mum was able to before she had children. I think it will be easier for me. But, honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to feel until it happens.”
The postscript to that story is that now the kids have flown the coop, her mum is back in the entertainment business. “She doesn’t miss acting because she’s doing voiceover work now,” Blunt reveals. “Mum has an amazing voice, and loves what she’s doing because it’s just for her.”
Mother and daughter are definitely close. In fact, Blunt’s biggest wish is that she could see her mum more often, even though she visits the family home in south-west London as much as she can.
“I miss being able to nip out and see a play with Mum, or meet my dad after work. That was always fun; he’d come out of court and we’d go for a drink. I’ve been nomadic for some time, so I’m accustomed to being away, but I still miss everybody.”
What do her parents think of her incredible success, which includes a BAFTA nomination in 2006 for The Devil Wears Prada, a Golden Globe win in 2007 for her role in the TV drama Gideon’s Daughter and another nomination this year for The Young Victoria?
“Dad’s a QC so, in a way, he’s an actor himself, and Mum is very happy for me,” she explains. “I think she’s just relieved that someone she loves is doing well in a business that’s very hard.”
Her success is all the more impressive when you learn that, as a youngster, Blunt suffered from a speech impediment. In an effort to cure it, she was encouraged by her parents to take part in school plays.
“Between the age of 8 and 14, it was terrible. It’s genetic; my grandfather and cousin also stutter,” she reveals. “At that age, all you want is to be cool, and stuttering misrepresents who you are. I appeared to be someone who was nervous and anxious, and I wasn’t at all. I just couldn’t speak. Performing definitely helped. I’m still fascinated with voice and different accents.”
The teenage Blunt originally had designs on studying languages, and working as an interpreter for the UN, before being spotted by an agent 10 years ago, after appearing in a play in Edinburgh.
The actor has since become something of an ambassador for stutterers. “I learnt a lot more about it after joining the board of the American Institute for Stuttering,” she says, in her perfectly clipped English accent. “They have revolutionary methods to help people overcome stuttering, and they’re changing people’s lives by freeing up their voices.”
Clearly, doing charity work gives her a sense of purpose, but she’s the first to admit that even though it wasn’t her first career choice, she finds acting extremely fulfilling: “It’s a precarious existence. I was unsure at first, but I’m so happy it found me.”
That said, she’s not shy of putting in effort to make a part her own. Her next film after Gulliver’s Travels is The Adjustment Bureau, with Matt Damon, for which she trained as a ballet dancer. Even though she isn’t one to succumb to Hollywood’s brutal size zero standards, Blunt threw herself into perfecting her body, just like Natalie Portman did for her upcoming ballerina role in Black Swan, which saw the actor undergo a much talked-about physical transformation.
“I do want to take care of myself, but it depends on the role,” she says. “if I’m playing a normal girl, I don’t go to the gym every day. But the movie I did with Matt Damon was physically intense. I had to play a dancer, so I had to look like one.”
“The dancers I worked with were sculptures – there wasn’t an inch of fat on them. That’s the most toned I’ve ever looked. I spent two hours in the dance studio every day and two hours in the gym six days a week.”
She rolls her eyes as she remembers the gruelling diet she had to follow. “That was the most miserable part. I’m obsessed with food. I love to eat, cook and go out to restaurants, so it was arduous. I lived on muesli, chicken and vegetables for five months. It was hell. My mum didn’t like it, she told me, ‘You look like an aerobics teacher.’”
So what happened to her regimen after shooting wrapped? “I only ate pizza and pasta, and drank beer. I didn’t go to the gym for three months,” she laughs. “I never want to do that again, because I believe I have a responsibility to look real onscreen.”
It’s obvious that Blunt is a real woman, living in the real world. Her husband and family are very important to her, and she lights up when recalling a family trip to Australia when she was 19. While visiting Sydney’s Manly Beach, her dad introduced her to the pleasures of oyster shooters.
“He had so many, I don’t know how he walked home that night,” she giggles.
“I’ll never forget that place, it was simply amazing along the cliff, overlooking the beach.”
As she pulls back her long brunette hair, which is currently sporting caramel highlights, I comment that she seems to know exactly what she’s doing, and comes across as very decisive. “It’s weird in this job, in that people have opinions of you depending on the parts you play,” she says. “After The Devil Wears Prada, a lot of people told me they thought I’d be horrible.”
She reaches out for a carrot stick and chews for a moment, before announcing: “When the truth is, I’m just a sensitive nerd at heart.”