“Get Inside!” Emily Blunt commands when she sees me waiting in the rain outside of The Dutch, a popular New American restaurant in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. “What, are you from LA?”
We make our way to the back room, where she encourages me to get a whiskey even though it’s before noon. I decline and, instead, we both order coffee and the Green Clean, a zinger of a drink made from kale, lime and pineapple.
“Isn’t it great?” Blunt says in her disarming, dulcet British accent. “Let’s down it and make ourselves sick.”
I order a mushroom omelet with French fries. “And I can have some,” Blunt whispers into the air. She asks for a side of the wood-fired beets. “And you may not have any,” she says out of the corner of her mouth.
The waiter asks if we have allergies.
“Let’s find out!” Blunt chirps.
It doesn’t take long to realize that lunch with the 31-year-old, London-born actress, already a four-time Golden Globe nominee and one-time winner, is going to be as entertaining and unexpected as her filmography.
In the near decade since her supporting performance as a snarky fashion-magazine staffer in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, audiences have been charmed by Blunt in a diversity of roles, ranging from indies (Your Sister’s Sister) to period pieces (The Young Victoria) to blockbuster action flicks (The Adjustment Bureau).
Now she’s venturing into musicals, with a standout role in this month’s Into the Woods , a Disney adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway show that weaves together several Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The ensemble film— which co-stars Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp—is being released in the thick of an awards season that could once more prove propitious for Blunt, who has already had a luminous year. In February, she and her husband, actor John Krasinski, welcomed their first child, a daughter named Hazel. Then, in June, she co-starred with Tom Cruise in the sci-fi juggernaut Edge of Tomorrow , which has grossed some $370 million worldwide. And just days before our lunch, she was seemingly at the center of the universe when she and Krasinski attended George Clooney’s wedding to lawyer Amal Alamuddin in Venice.
But there is nary a sign of any of that—neither the limelight nor new-parent exhaustion—as Blunt sits bright-eyed on a black leather banquette, wearing a denim shirt, black jeans and black boots, with her hair casually pulled back.
“I am not that recognizable,” she says. “When people see me, they think they went to school with me.”
Indeed, that familiarity is perhaps her greatest dramatic asset.
“You feel you know her,” says her Into the Woods director, Rob Marshall. “She lets you in. There are very few actresses who have the humor and also the acting chops, as well as her vulnerability and warmth.”
Marshall had asked Blunt to audition for his previous musical, 2009’s Nine, but she declined. “I sprinted away from every musical audition,” she says. “I found the thought of it hellish.”
Although she sang in her Golden Globe–winning role in the 2006 BBC miniseries “Gideon’s Daughter,” Blunt says she rarely belts out a tune, outside of an occasional Otis Redding rendition in the car. But she was won over by Marshall and felt “emboldened by the idea that Sondheim didn’t want perfect singers,” she says. “He wanted actors who could kind of sing.”
She was also attracted by the prospect of reuniting with her Devil Wears Prada co-star, Streep, who plays the dastardly Witch in Into the Woods. “You just try to soak up every moment with her,” says Blunt.
Her role as the Baker’s Wife provides the thread between the film’s multiple story lines, which embody the theme “be careful what you wish for.” After suffering an infertility curse cast upon her by the Witch, she and the Baker (played by fellow Brit James Corden, the newly appointed host of CBS’s “The Late Late Show”) set out on a quest to break the spell and begin their family. It’s no wonder that Blunt, as she says, “responded to that yearning for a child.” She was, after all, pregnant during production, enough so that when she started to show, the shooting schedule needed to be changed.
With eight-month-old Hazel now sleeping through the night, Blunt is relishing motherhood. “There’s joy in the small things,” she says. “Like, ‘Wow, leaves really are incredible.’” And her relaxed but sensible child-rearing philosophy—“You’re like the bumpers on a bowling alley,” she says, extending both arms out parallel and moving them slightly—is not so different from her laid-back approach to her career.
Growing up in London, Blunt initially tried theater to conquer a stuttering problem, then dove headlong into acting at age 17 when she was discovered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. An agent saw her and asked, “‘Do you want to give this a go?’ It was as off-handed as that,” she says. “I wonder if a casual attitude serves you well in this job.”
Not that Blunt’s easygoingness should be confused with a lack of passion for her craft. “It’s the most life-expanding job,” she says. “I have experienced so many walks of life not only through the people I’ve met but through the people I’ve played.”
Blunt is equally mindful of her good fortune. “It’s a business that can be crushing to people,” she says. “And it has been very kind to me. It’s not without its difficulties, but it’s ultimately a job that I have a love affair with.”
Those difficulties include the indignity of paparazzi photographing Hazel at the airport and the tabloid scrutiny she and Krasinski are subjected to as the result of their close friendships and occasional vacations with the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Matt Damon and Clooney—whose wedding was, yes, “wonderful,” Blunt says, though she’d rather not elaborate.
This unwanted attention has made Blunt, who normally calls Los Angeles home, enjoy her current temporary residence in New York, where Krasinski is busy editing a film he directed. The greater anonymity the city provides has been “heaven,” says Blunt, who is taking a brief break after recently wrapping Sicario, a film about drug trafficking in which she co-stars with Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.
“I want to get puked on for a bit and get back to work sometime next year,” she says, clearly undaunted by the messiness of motherhood.
Yet not long after uttering those words, her eyes drift to two young women who sit down at a nearby table. They wear nearly identical outfits: jeans and white shirt collars poking over sweaters.
“Oh! They’re dressed the same,” Blunt trills as she tracks their movements. “It’s the classic mum’s lunch.”
She purses her lips just so and expertly pretends to straighten an imaginary collar—and one suspects her break from work will be very brief indeed.