Emily Blunt has been in more than a dozen movies, but most people seem to remember only one.
“It’s not like people say, ‘Oh, my gosh, are you Emily Blunt?’” she says, laughing. “It’s more like, ‘Are you the girl in The Devil Wears Prada?’ I’m defined by it. And that’s okay.”
Her role in Prada—hapless but arrogant assistant to the dragon-lady fashion editor played by Meryl Streep—won her critical praise and legions of fans. She earned a Golden Globe nomination and all the work she could handle.
As I talk with her in Los Angeles, the 26-year-old English actress is refreshingly quick to make fun of herself. But she’s being taken seriously these days and has no fewer than five films about to come out, including Sunshine Cleaning, with Amy Adams and Alan Arkin, and The Great Buck Howard, with John Malkovich and Colin Hanks—both opening this month.
“I’ve been working a lot,” Blunt says. “I’ve always taken breaks between films, but they’re all sort of coming out in a big rush. It’s very strange.”
And very nice. Along with her sense of humor about herself, Blunt has a clear perspective on just how lucky she is. “I haven’t waited tables,” she says. “My mother is so glad. She tells me, ‘You’re succeeding in a job that crushes people.’ ”
As a girl, Blunt had a severe stammer, a source of much unhappiness. While refusing to pity herself, she says, “I think that you are misrepresented by it, which is the saddest part. You are riddled with limitations if you can’t clearly communicate.”
She made her first big step toward conquering the problem at age 12, in a school play. “I had a wonderful teacher who encouraged me to try a different accent from what I normally talk in,” she recalls. “I don’t know why it freed my voice, but it did.”
Blunt was just 21 when a small movie called My Summer of Love made her a star in England. She played a devious, spoiled young woman—casting inspired by her exotic, feline features and cool-blue eyes under dark brows. “Sly eyes,” a schoolteacher of hers once called them.
To this day, the stuttering resurfaces at times: “If I’m tired, stressed, or wound up about something,” Blunt says. Remarkably, though, when I ask about reports that she’s been spending a lot of time with The Office’s John Krasinski, she shows absolutely no sign of stress. Instead, a knowing smile—or is it a sly look?—crosses her face. She got all too accustomed to very personal questions once her three-year relationship with singer Michael Bublé ended last year. “If you talk openly about your relationship, when things go south—which they did—what you’ve said is still very much in the public domain when you don’t want it to be any longer,” Blunt says.
Okay, so can she tell us what qualities she looks for in a guy?
Blunt rolls her eyes. “Oh, I hate that question,” she says. “That just comes back to the first question.”
She’d much rather talk about what it was like to play the hotheaded, passionate Queen Victoria—who was wildly in love with her husband, Prince Albert—in another upcoming film, The Young Victoria.
Blunt smiles triumphantly. “There you are: This is what I look for in a man,” she says. “He’s my definition of a real man, because he encouraged her, in a very selfless way, to be the best version of herself she could possibly be.”
So may we read something into this?
“Umm—no,” Blunt says and laughs. “You can’t. But I’m sure you will.”