Emily Blunt’s arsenal of gifts is enviable. She makes a mean British beef roast and specializes in Italian cuisine. She’s able to nimbly traverse Manhattan in “serious” red suede Christian Louboutin booties that can best be described as perilous.
But most of all, as her friends will tell you, she’s a deft mimic and an ace at accents. Here’s her uncannily precise imitation of a particularly memorable interview recently conducted at a film festival.
Blunt’s proper, crisp British accent vanishes as she assumes the guttural voice of the reporter in question. “‘What’s the most amazing thing about John?'” she demands, before switching back to herself. “Oh, I don’t really talk about that. ‘Well, can you just be specific? Please be specific.’ No, I won’t.”
The John in question is her husband, actor John Krasinski, whom she wed July 10, 2010, in a private ceremony. Blunt understands the interest in her personal life, but adroitly steers questions about her better half toward other topics. She won’t tell you how they met because “that is so our story. People just want to know something, anything. It’s all the stuff you never want to talk about, the private stuff,” she says.
The two tend to not discuss each other in interviews. “It wasn’t a strategic decision. It’s just how we are. I think it’s the best way to be,” says Blunt, 29. “I find it quite hard to sum up my relationship in a sound bite. I feel that it trivializes it for other people’s pleasure. It’s an adventure.”
Instead, Blunt explores romantic entanglements of various natures in three films opening back-to-back this spring and summer. In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, opening today, she’s an unflappable, driven and focused London executive charged with opening a fishery in the desert.
On April 27, she’s Jason Segel’s betrothed, Violet, in the comedy The Five-Year Engagement, a whimsical, sweet look at the circuitous road one couple takes to the altar.
In the June 15 IFC release Your Sister’s Sister, she finds herself in a very unique sort of love triangle involving a grieving best friend (Mark Duplass) and a sibling (Rosemarie DeWitt) desperate to have a baby. Oh, and that’s her you see in the lush ads for Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium, as the new face of the fragrance.
“People are going to be like, ‘Her again?’ The films are different enough. But it’s like an overload,” Blunt quips.
Not really, because all the projects have their own charms and showcase different aspects of Blunt, who first broke out as Anne Hathaway’s uptight, perennially hungry colleague in the 2006 hit The Devil Wears Prada.
Yemen, she says, appealed to her because of its unwieldy, if memorable, title, and the spirited character, Harriet, she got to play.
“There was a buoyancy to her, a tenacity and warmth. She seemed very British to me and very familiar. I’m quite like her, I suppose. Everything about the film didn’t feel derivative of something else I’d seen or done. I do strive to find projects that are trying to carve out some new space. I enjoy projects that leap away from the crowd a little bit.”
Even if being the female lead in a film about salmon has resulted in Blunt being served that form of seafood at every possible promotional appearance. Indeed, she arrives to this interview sated from a lunch where, you guessed it, that same fish was served, but Blunt remains undaunted.
“It’s quite hard to faze me. I’m fairly un-shockable,” she says.
Perhaps that laissez-faire attitude is why Segel calls Blunt “one of the guys. She’s so easy to hang out with. She’s the most feminine tomboy you could ever hope to meet. She’s a tomboy in a dress.”
Five-Year Engagement came about through Blunt’s close relationship with Segel, who co-created the movie. “We’d been friends a while, so I think he wrote it with me in mind. At least, that’s what he told me. You never know. He may have told five other actresses the same thing,” Blunt says, laughing.
In fact, says director and co-writer Nick Stoller, he and Segel had Blunt in their sights from the start.
“I’d wanted to work with her for a long time. I’d loved her since Prada. She was who we were writing it for. She has such a strong comedy presence,” Stoller says. “She’s a smart person who exudes intelligence and this character needed to be really smart. She’s really funny. She’s really game. She’s great with improv. She does great physical comedy. When her heart is broken, you feel for her.”
Her relationship with Segel begins with the titular engagement, and moves forward in fits and starts as Blunt’s extremely motivated Violet gets her dream job in the psychology department at the University of Michigan, leading to a relocation from San Francisco to Ann Arbor.
Unlike her character, who puts her career first, Blunt is more balanced. “I’m quietly ambitious. Is there such a thing? I love this job. I’m in love with this job. I never thought I’d be in love with it because I never had the intention to be an actress. So if I love a part, or want a movie, I’ll definitely make a play for it.
“But I don’t think I’d sacrifice a relationship or something more than this business for it. Violet’s main problem is that she has to define herself by that job. She credits a lot of her happiness to that job. I think a lot of people do that. There’s a lot more to how I like to define myself than just by my job.”
Her talents off the set are myriad. Lynn Shelton, who directed Blunt in the intimate romantic comedy Your Sister’s Sister, says the actress taught her and the cast and crew how to chug a beer in a very specific way that involved a pen and stabbing a can of brew.
“There were always antics on set. We were hurling insults at each other constantly,” Shelton says. “Emily would watch Conan the Barbarian with us late at night. She was one of the gang. I never saw her glum. She’s very warm and up and very well-balanced. Just so jolly. She likes to smile.”
Even though Blunt and Krasinski pal around with George Clooney and Matt Damon and his wife, Lucy (Blunt has something of a girl crush on Mrs. Damon: “I’m kind of obsessed with Lucy. She knows it. Everyone is obsessed with Lucy. She’s the coolest chick in the world, literally”), Blunt says her life is about far more than her career. Her mother is a teacher, her father a lawyer, and her sister Felicity, a literary agent, is engaged to Blunt’s friend, Stanley Tucci. “The Toochmeister. The best dude. My brother-in-law. He’s friggin’ adorable,” she says, giggling.
Blunt seems to have a healthy perspective about her profession, as well as a backup plan.
“I’d like to have my own restaurant. I love to cook. So I would love to do that. I like the sounds of the cooking and how it makes me feel. It’s a really welcome thing when you have friends coming over. A completely different thing than going to a restaurant. It’s a really loving thing to do for people.”
Recently, a friend asked her to make something for his birthday, so she whipped up Ina Garten’s lasagna recipe. Blunt’s passion for culinary pursuits is evident as she explains how to make a roux, and waxes poetic about Garten’s chicken pot pie concoction, a favorite. “I could watch the Food Network all day. I have to be strong-armed out of the house. If I’m on the couch, it will mean that my arm is magnetized. Sometimes I will watch and rush off to the supermarket. Cheese is my passion.”
Which leads to the obvious question: How does someone with a penchant for dairy and pasta stay a sample size? Blunt lives up to her name, sidestepping standard celebrity clichés about fast metabolisms.
“It’s not that fun. I have to go to the gym to accommodate my eating habits. I’m greedy, and I like to eat so I have to sweat it out the next day. I’d rather live life like that, in extremes, than starving. That makes me sad,” she says. “I quite enjoy exercising now. I used to hate it. I’ve learned to make friends with it. I don’t consider myself one of those skinny-skinny people. I think a lot of people are a bit unhealthy. I’ve never felt that much pressure.”
Another thing that’s not eating away at her: the pressure to procreate. Yes, she has friends with the “most delicious” kids. But, Blunt says, she’d like a little more time for “selfish spontaneity and Food Network marathons — maybe a bit more of that.”
And more time to build as diverse a career as possible. Her charms, professional and otherwise, aren’t lost on those who work with her. Lasse Hallstrom, who directed Yemen, likens Blunt to an “English rose.” Shelton says that when Blunt comes to work, “There’s a love affair between her and the camera. There’s something the camera brings out in her, a pop, a sparkle. It’s impossible to shoot an unattractive shot of the woman. She just glows. She is radiant.”
Blunt will take the compliments, but says work is not her life. She and Krasinski make every effort, after they complete a film, or he has a break from shooting his NBC series The Office, to travel and lose themselves somewhere that isn’t Hollywood.
“I’ve been quite fatalistic about the job, which is a luxury, I know. It’s not easy. I was just talking to my mum on the phone about a friend of hers who’s been an actor for years and who’s now working in the Covent Garden box office. It’s just really hard. It can devour you, this business. I know every day how unfathomably lucky I am that I can be particular about what I do.”