Yesterday, Emily Blunt was nominated for a Golden Globe award. On Friday, The Young Victoria, the movie for which Blunt received her third nod, arrives in theaters. In the film, a biopic about the early days of Queen Victoria’s 60-plus year reign, the 26-year-old actress plays the young monarch, with all the corsets, crowns, court intrigue and ladies-in-waiting that entails. Focused on the years surrounding Victoria’s coronation, the movie chronicles the headstrong royal’s early missteps and her love affair with future husband Albert (played by a dashing, German-accented Rupert Friend). Lest this sound like the stuff of melodramatic costume dramas, you should know that Queen Victoria was famously randy, producing nine children in 21 years of marriage, and not given to sentimentality. (“An ugly baby is a very nasty object — and the prettiest is frightful when undressed,” she once wrote.) Blunt, until now best known for her gleefully wicked turn as a snotty assistant in The Devil Wears Prada, has a busy year ahead of her: a frontrunner for an Oscar nod, she’ll be walking red carpets (with her fiancé, The Office’s John Krasinski) through March. In February, she’ll do her part to make werewolves happen, co-starring with Benicio Del Toro in gothic horror film The Wolfman. Last week we sat down with Blunt, who was sporting leather pants while curled up on a hotel room couch, to talk about The Young Victoria, dive bars and Rastafarian hats.
Do you think there are parallels between being the Queen, a person who is always being watched, and being famous now?
I think it does correlate. Queen Victoria was a celebrity of that time. We’re unfortunate that we have the internet now. You say one thing and its completely taken out of context and blown across a thousand blogs. It’s weird. I think its more suffocating now simply because of the media influence. But in her day, she was ridiculed. People would stand on pedestals and bray to the world about how bad they thought she was doing as a queen. She was caricatured in a drawing in the newspaper and she had to see that. The awareness of knowing that you’ve made a dumb move like she did – trying to overturn the government which was a rather stubborn, teenage thing she did—and the whole country turned against her, she must have felt the heat of that. She must have felt that.
Did you think about the parallels when you were filming?
No, because it wasn’t such a big deal to me then. It’s gotten to be a bit more for me now. I find that there’s a certain awareness that I have when you step outside the door. But I’m not hounded in any way, like so many people are. It’s not that life changing or life inhibiting.
That’s because of your choices?
Yeah. I feel like you can make a choice. I really do. And you can have an aura about you that doesn’t attract that kind of attention. You just find the dive bars. That’s my advice. Go get a cheeseburger and find a dive-bar. But that’s how I like to live my life. Some people don’t like to live it that way. Some people want to go to those places, the chic, chic places and go to the scenes. That’s there choice.
Have you found different cities treat you differently?
Yeah. They’re all different. London is the best. Everyone pretends they don’t know who you are so its great. I can step out in my sweatpants to get a pint of milk, looking like a hag and no one cares.
Do you think about that a lot?
I don’t think about it there, but I think about it more here. I’d rather not be photographed in my sweatpants first thing in the morning getting coffee. It’s not exactly the prettiest site.
Does that happen often?
It has happened a couple times outside the apartment here. I was like, “Oh, fuck.” I’m wearing my big, black-rimmed glasses because I’m actually blind. I don’t wear contacts, but I can’t see far away.
I have terrible vision.
Oh no! You weren’t called four eyes or anything?
I grew up in New York. It was ok to be nerdy.
That’s what’s great about New York. Do you know what I mean? It really allows for individuality, for people to be eccentric and look weird and everyone’s geeky and everyone’s a brainiac. I think New York’s good like that. London’s a bit like that, as well. London’s like ‘too cool for school.’ I think people really strive to look as eccentric and as wacky as they can. I encourage that.
Every city has its sort of vibe. In New York, everyone cares so much about being hip.
Everyone is wearing those Rastifarian hats.
But, wait. I actually have one, so I shouldn’t judge it too much. I’m probably going to wear it tomorrow when I go out in my sweatpants.
You’ve done a lot of interviews saying that you fought very hard for this part. What did that entail?
I just really wanted it. It’s not that I barraged my way past security, but I really wanted to meet [producer] Graham King because I knew it was going to be one of those parts that was highly sought after so I thought I should get in early. I thought it was such a rare find. She was really complex and such a remarkable girl and a fighter. I loved how the script had more than that period feel. It felt contemporary. It felt accessible. It felt like it was a more intimate portrait of a girl, rather than a sweeping historical drama about a queen.
The movie’s portrayal of Queen Victoria is largely complimentary, but she did some nasty things, like to Flora Hastings, that didn’t make it into the film.
Victoria hated Flora Hastings. Flora looked like she had a swollen stomach one day so Victoria accused her of being pregnant and having a sordid affair, when Flora was actually dying of cancer. Actually, we did film a whole story line about Flora Hastings. It was a really good storyline. It wasn’t like we were trying to paint a rose-painted picture of Victoria. It’s just that there were too many threads. There were actually too many story lines. There was so much going on then that to fit it all in one film we needed to really concentrate on what this film was. Is it a historical drama or is it a love story? Essentially, it’s really a love story.
The movie makes the point that Queen Victoria was really concerned about the welfare of the poor, but I’m not sure that’s historically accurate. Why was it important to have that in the film?
Well, that was just her. That was what she and Albert did to really revolutionize the country. It was mainly down to Albert, who was so educated in social reform and architecture, the arts, the sciences. He did so much to influence those fields and to work against tradition and make things better. There was a tendency in England to let any desire to change things be overshadowed by the desire to maintain protocol and tradition. I think she and Albert were very modern thinkers. They really were. She absolutely always wanted to do better work for the poor and help people in some way. I think partly because she had a very lonely, oppressive childhood, she very much emphasized with people who suffered. She felt, even though it’s all relative, that she had suffered as a child.
But what did she actually do for the downtrodden, underprivileged?
She did a huge amount when it came to housing, making sure people had accommodations. I mean, the list goes on… I don’t know if you’ve heard that expression of hers, “We are not amused.” Everyone thinks it’s this sort of snooty, arch response to something that happened. It really was said in defense of a soldier who was being made fun of at this big state dinner. These officers had come back from India and they were insulting and laughing uproariously about this soldier who had had his leg amputated. She cut through it, all of the laughter, everyone was laughing and she said, “We are not amused.” It was really in defense of someone that she respected in a huge way, who was being teased and bullied.
There’s been so much written about her and by her, did you read a lot of it?
There’s so much to read about. I read all of the letters between her and Albert. The diaries were the most revealing. She was really open, to the point of fault really. Her youngest daughter, Beatrice, was the one who released the diaries. She actually edited them because Victoria even went into explicit detail about her wedding night and her daughter was like, “No one has to see that.” God knows what was cut out because there were pages and pages going on about her love for Albert from the details of the way his moustache curled to how he dressed and what kind of a man he was. She wrote ferociously every day in that diary.
Because she was the Queen, she probably never doubted that she was inherently of interest and should write every single thought down. There are a lot of people, I would never want to read people’s diaries. I’m sure it’s boring as hell. But there was not really any self-indulgence in her diaries. I always really enjoyed them. She was energetic in how she wrote, emphatically underlining words and there was something really passionate about it. It wasn’t a boring list of what she did that day.
Had you thought that you wanted to play her before you saw the script?
No. It never occurred to me. People ask me that question: “Who do you want to play?” I have no idea and I don’t want to know. That’s probably the best part. But, I’d seen, years before, what Judi Dench did in Mrs. Brown and I just loved it. It’s one of my favorite performances by a female of all time. I felt that even before I started reading about Queen Victoria, but I wouldn’t say that I had a burning ambition to play her.
So you’re in The Wolfman. Do you think werewolves are going to be…
Like the new vampires?
I hear that New Moon has both.
I haven’t seen it.
Have you seen the first one?
Have you read Twilight?
So when you say you “haven’t seen it,” you mean, “I’m not going to see it.”
[Laughing] No. I actually quite want to see it. I want to see what the hype’s about.
How was filming The Wolfman?
It was great. I had a blast on it. I felt sorry for Benice. He had to have five hours of make-up. That’s not fun. He said once, “I feel like I’m being buried.” I was like, “Dude. That’s not good.”
Do you like horror movies?
No. I don’t watch them. I find all these slasher movies to be… I just feel ill watching them. I feel like I’m going to throw up. What I loved about The Wolfman is that it feels like a noble throwback to those old horror films, like the Lon Chaney movies which I did see as a kid with my dad. I was terrified of them then. They’ve got that gothic eeriness to them. I think that Wolfman has that. You know? There’s something more paranoid about Wolfman. What is the darkness in everyone? It deals with all of that. How do you unleash it? How do you not? It’s great. It was a great story and great characters.
Are you working all the time?
This year’s been quite busy because I did Gulliver’s Travels and went straight on to Adjustment Bureau, which I am working on at the moment. I’m done in about a week. Holla!
I have a friend who says that all time!
Yeah. My friend says that. She’s like, “Heeey! Holla!” So, I’m going to go back to London for Christmas.
And then you start working again?
No. I’m going to have a break. Holla!
Do you feel like you are allowed to do that now, like you can get off the escalator now, and take a break?
Yeah. I don’t care what I’m allowed to do. I’m just going to take it.