From her unforgettable scene-stealing splash opposite Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada 15 years ago, Emily Blunt forged an eclectic career that includes outstanding work in The Young Victoria, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Your Sister’s Sister, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, Sicario, The Girl on the Train, A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns for starters. Along the way, she picked up six Golden Globe nominations (winning for the BBC Drama, Gideon’s Daughter), three SAG nominations (winning for Supporting Female for A Quiet Place) and three BAFTA nominations.
Her latest film, Wild Mountain Thyme, couples her with Jamie Dornan in a film written and directed by Oscar-winner John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck). Based on his Broadway play, Outside Mullingar, Thyme is a fairly tale rom-com of sorts, set in Ireland, about the seemingly-forever courtship between Rosemary Muldoon (Blunt), a strong-willed farmer, and her childhood crush, the apprehensive Anthony Reilly (Dornan). The film also stars Christopher Walken as Anthony’s father and Jon Hamm as Anthony’s rich American cousin who tries to woo Rosemary away from her homeland and her true love.
Not surprising, Blunt imbues Rosemary with all the frustrations and delights necessary to gain our understanding and empathy.
In April she will be seen in her husband, John Krasinski’s, A Quiet Place Part II.
Awards Daily spoke with the affable actor about the new film and her career.
Awards Daily: How did the script come to you and why did you want to play Rosemary?
Emily Blunt: It came in a wonderfully serendipitous way. I had been thinking and mulling over how I’d like to do something quite intimate and unique. And something a bit odd. And so the script just landed in my lap as these musings were happening for me. So it was really magical. I was completely bewitched by it. I knew it would be pretty singular because Shanley’s writing is always so exciting to me, but I was really bewitched by this odd poem on love and how we express it. I certainly fell in love with these bonkers farmers who’ve been sort of driven mad by their isolation and loneliness. And I recognized what Shanley was writing, which is almost a farce on caution. Because I’m from England and Jamie’s from Ireland and this is what we do. This is in our DNA. [Laughs] We are so cautious and unexpressive about saying what we feel. And I think that’s what the film is emblematic of. So it really appealed to me, coming from that part of the world and how I was raised–how they go about things as clumsily and broken as they do was very familiar territory.
AD: The film almost exists in this fairly-tale world which you have experience with, it was like realism meets fable.
EB: Totally. Exactly.
AD: How did that influence the choices you made?
EB: Well, I think Shanley’s writing—there is a sort of magical realism to it. And I think it’s very lyrical. They almost speak in verse to each other. It’s very transporting to do those lines. They are very poetic characters. But the reality is, when you go to Ireland—and Shanley has said the further out you go, the more rural you go—the more poetic the people get. Almost as if the land makes them more lyrical or something. So I think that was very clear to me and the words were so beautiful that, in itself, it takes on a different tone to how you normally would speak to someone or express yourself to them. So I just went with that, really. I just went with the script.
AD: Tell me about working with Shanley as writer-director and if the script change at all while you were making the film?
EB: No, the script really did not change. It was such a perfect piece of work. And he writes so specifically that I don’t know if I was even able to offer any suggestion, because the way he phrases and words things is so unique that I wouldn’t even be able to say, ‘Oh, here’s a line I’m throwing out to you.’ It just doesn’t happen. But what I do love about Shanley is that even though he wrote it, he’s not at all territorial about it. Or precious. He’s more interested in what you’re going to do with the lines, genuinely interested and excited by it. So you don’t feel straightjacketed by his own possession of the script.
AD: You have this great chemistry with Jamie Dornan. There’s this connection between you two that makes us root for you.
EB: Oh, good! He’s just effortless to work with. And I think chemistry is such a strange thing. You can kind of fake it, it’s just not as fun and I don’t think it’s alive or electric to watch. So when you have it naturally with someone and it’s a bit like doing a dance, it’s just much more exciting. And he’s hilariously funny and such a blast to be around and such a lovely person. We became such good pals and we knew we were making the same film. So when you have that safety with someone it leaves so much room to explore things.
AD: And you had a different kind of connection with Adam, played by Jon Hamm. But there was something there, too, to root for.
EB: We were so lucky to have Hamm play that part, because he could have just been an obnoxious American character that came in to disrupt everything but actually you do root for Adam. You do recognize that, on paper, he might check all the boxes of what Rosemary should be looking for in who she’s with. But I think what you see of her being sandwiched between these men is who do you want to soul-gaze with and who looks good on paper. And she wants to soul-gaze with Anthony. That’s what she wants.
AD: Why does it take them so long to connect?
EB: Because of our repression. [Laughs] Because of the repression you get from British and Irish people! These are Irish people. Because of not saying what you feel. Because of fear. And I think because of Anthony’s unwillingness to allow her to drag him into the next phase of his life.
AD: Emily, you get to show off your singing chops again in this film. (Blunt sings the Irish folk song “Wild Mountain Thyme” in the movie.)
EB: It was slightly terrifying to sing for Christopher Walken because I’m so in love with him and have grown up watching him…And I knew on the day, the song, it’s really about me trying to remind him about love and persuade him to come back to love and family. So it’s a bit of a manipulative move on Rosemary’s part. And in the scene he’s supposed to get emotional listening to it. But it was so moving for me, that day on set, to sing for Christopher Walken and to see him cry. He’s so iconic to all of us so those blue eyes, when they start watering, I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is so crazy!’ It was really an out of body experience. And we did do a prerecord of it, but Shanley chose to go with the live version because it’s imperfect. It’s not like she’s a perfect singer. It’s more human and real and it sounds like she’s singing in a bar (which she is.)
AD: From your amazing splash in The Devil Wears Prada 15 years ago, what would you consider your career highlights to date?
EB: Hmmm. It depends because some things galvanized great change in my life so Devil Wears Prada was a huge turning point. But I have certain films that I am unbelievably proud of, that have really left their fingerprints on me like Sicario and Edge of Tomorrow and Quiet Place. And Mary Poppins Returns was a really big moment for me because I felt like a lot of my experience making films led me to (that) moment, to play Mary Poppins. I think that was a rather extraordinary couple of years of my life.
AD: Speaking of A Quiet Place, is there anything you can tell us about Part II?
EB: Well, I just can’t wait for you guys to see it because we’ve all had to just surrender to the moment that we’re in and wait until it’s appropriate for everyone to see it. But more than anything, I cannot wait for you guys to see John’s prowess as a filmmaker. It just expands–the world gets bigger. And what he was able to do, which was fairly impossible when you’ve got a beloved first film it can’t necessarily be about outmatching it, but you do have to meet certain expectations. I think there was an awful lot of pressure on him and I think he extended the story and turned the page of the story, but he did it with such prowess that honestly I was pretty wowed by him. And it’s very visual and very emotional. It’s a bigger world for sure. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s any less intimately emotional.
Wild Mountain Thyme opens December 11th.