What do Hollywood stars do before they walk the red carpet? Jazz Tangcay caught up with actress Emily Blunt before the London premiere of Into The Woods. Blunt was about to take a bath, but she still had time to talk about auditioning for director Rob Marshall, being pregnant on set and how she likes her tea.
Awards Daily: This isn’t the first time you’ve appeared in a musical, you appeared in Bliss at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Emily Blunt: I did, which only eight people saw and that was pretty nerve-wracking in itself. This is the first time the public get to see me sing.
AD: Who knew you could sing? I spoke to Rob Marshall the other week and he told me you brought tears to his eyes when you auditioned for him.
EB: Yes. I was nervous to not only sing for him but also to audition because he is such a musical God. It was definitely nerve-wracking. He wanted actors who could sing, rather than the other way around. He wasn’t looking for the perfect singing voice. He was looking for you to make sense of this extraordinary material and what these songs are trying to convey, rather than what they’re sounding like. That’s the beauty of Sondheim. The music emotionally requires all of you. These songs are unique in that they don’t allow the audience to sit back in their chairs and let it wash over you. They make you sit up and are arresting in that way. So, for all of these reasons it seemed like a better fit for me because these songs felt like a real performance for me.
AD: How familiar were you with Stephen Sondheim before Into The Woods?
EB: I hadn’t even heard of it until I heard about this film being made. I think evidence of how big it is in America was in my husband (actor John Krasinski) who loathes musicals sang, “Into The Woods” to me when he heard that I was going out for it. He knew it, his school had done it. In England no one had really heard of it, so I’m thrilled this film adaptation will bring it to a wider audience. It’s really entertaining but metaphorically there’s so much to grasp in it and there’s a wonderful poignancy to it. It’s fun, it’s entertaining but it’s also very poignant.
AD: How was it acting whilst pregnant and how did that conflict with playing someone who wanted a child?
EB: (laughs) It’s an irony really that I was blooming with imminent motherhood and I was playing somebody who was desperate for that. I’m at the age, and I know women of my age and older who are trying to have a baby and are unable to. I’ve seen the anguish and how blinded with desperation they become to have a child. This character will stop at no lengths to get what she wants and she does pretty morally questionably things. Some could argue that she’s one of the slipperiest characters in the whole thing. She does it without much malice that she is very deliberate and is tenacious about it. She struck a chord with me. We’re also dealing here with a real married couple. They’re very cantankerous, they argue with each other and bicker with each other, which is very unlike my own marriage which I’m very happy in. (Laughs)
They’re bored of each other and they need something new, so the woods represent risk and yearning. The woods represent in a way the trials of life, what we go through and what we regress and what we forgive.
AD: Given that you were pregnant, and your character is rather physical in this, what was the toughest scene to shoot?
EB: I think probably the toughest number to shoot was Moment in the Woods, which was that big number and I was really pregnant at the time. I did the scene with Chris Pine where I meet him, and it was really lots of fun. (Giggles) It was probably harder for Chris Pine who had to schlep me around when I was at least 25 pounds heavier than I was in rehearsals. (Laughs) Poor Chris Pine having to dip a woman who was bulging. I think that song, Moment In The Woods was really complex, we shot it all day, so I wanted to do it justice.
AD: You’re working with Meryl again and you saved her from falling off a table. Do tell.
EB: Oh gosh. This story. I blame James Corden entirely he mentioned in a Q&A and it became national news. She stumbled standing on top of a table, I’m sure she would have been fine but I caught her elbow because it looked like she was going to fall off it. It was fine, she was throwing herself into it as only Meryl does in rehearsal. She was wearing her witch’s cape and had her walking stick and was trying anything. That was the beauty of having this rehearsal period, we managed to throw a bunch of things into a wall to see what would stick.
AD: You’ve known James Corden for eight years, what was that like working with him after all this time?
EB: It was a really effortless fit. We knew each other well. I loved him. I loved doing these comedic scenes with him, comedy wise he’s very precise and so brilliant. So, getting to work with him was great. We met at a Polo Match. It’s so Welcome to England. The princes were there. Oh, It was so British, I’m sure there were strawberries and cream and everything British Upper Class that are those things. (Laughing) It’s so cliché. I don’t know why we were there, but we were. That was fun, so we sat and drank champagne and got to know each other.
AD: Are we going to be seeing you in more musicals then?
EB: I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s certainly one of those things I’m more confident at now, but if I have the chops to do it eight times a week.
AD: Were you a fan of musicals before this?
EB: I was a big fan. I’ve always been incredibly moved by watching people singing and dancing. I wish I could dance brilliantly. Yes, I always loved them. This one taught me a new avenue of musicals that actually do make you think rather than just be entertained.
AD: Do you have any off set stories to share?Tell us something no one knows.
EB: Uh….Oh my GOD! I can’t even think. I was so not expecting that. Off set stories? I’m sure you wanted something scandalous, but I was pregnant so I probably didn’t have anything fun to talk about. I went home and watched the Food Network like a bore.
We were having so much fun, so we asked Emily Blunt some fun non Into The Woods related questions…
AD: What’s your favorite tea?
EB: Alright it’s very unconventional, but it’s the tea grew up drinking that my mum would make. One tea bag of Ceylon and One tea bag of Earl Grey. That’s the mix I like, with milk, no sugar.
AD: Now that you’re based in LA, what do you miss about the UK?
EB: I miss the people.I miss the Brits. I have some British friends in LA, actually the people in the pub.
AD: Were you a fan of The office before you met your husband John?
EB: I’d seen a couple of episodes. Actually I’d seen more of the British Office. When I met him, obviously I caught up on my homework.
With that, Emily Blunt goes to take a bath…
Into The Woods is in movie theaters across the country.