Emily Blunt relies on gut instinct when it comes to choosing a role. “There isn’t a plan and that’s why I keep going from genre to genre,” she says. “You know, I don’t really have a set idea of what I want, or what appeals to me, it’s whatever surprises me at the time when I read it.”
Her latest film, The Wolfman certainly appealed to her on many levels, not least because it gave her the chance to work alongside two actors she admires, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro, but also to try out yet another genre, classic horror.
“They are both great actors and the chance to work with them was certainly a big part of why I wanted to do Wolfman,” she says. “But I also loved the script; it’s a great story – it pays homage to a classic genre.”
The Wolfman is set in a suitably gothic Victorian England where Blunt plays Gwen Conliffe who tracks down Lawrence Talbot (Del Toro) and asks him to return home to the isolated village of Blackmoor after an absence of many years to help find his missing brother, Gwen’s fiancée.
Talbot discovers that a series of savage killings has left nearby villagers terrified and fears that his own brother may have been a victim. He also learns that the ancient curse of the werewolf may have returned to stalk the moors.
For Del Toro, working on the film meant hours in make up for many days on the production. Blunt saw firsthand the remarkable transformation, overseen by Academy Award winning make up effects supremo Rick Baker, which her co-star underwent.
“What I loved about The Wolfman is that I think it’s a very noble nod to the old horror films,” she says. “It’s escaping the green screen even though we did a little bit of it, but mostly it’s Benicio in special effects make up that Rick Baker created; and Rick is the king of that – he is extraordinary. So much of what you see we did without computer generation.”
“The effects are organic and I love that because I think that it doesn’t distance the audience. I think you become numb from seeing too much CGI and often when you see a shot you know isn’t real you pull back instantly or I do anyway. I can’t explain much about them but the stunts in this film like creating the Wolfman is running are incredible.”
Blunt has emerged as one of the best young actresses of her generation thanks to performances in films like The Devil Wears Prada, The Jane Austen Book Club, Sunshine Cleaning and The Young Victoria. This summer she stars alongside Jack Black in the fantasy comedy, Gulliver’s Travels.
Born in London, she first started acting at school and later began her professional career on stage and working in television. In a few short years she has established herself as a versatile and gifted performer who has now worked on several big Hollywood films including, of course, Wolfman.
It was, she says, a great experience. And she particularly enjoyed working with Sir Anthony Hopkins, who plays Sir John Talbot, the father of her missing fiancée.
“Tony has this wonderful enthusiasm and he loves creating a character,” she says. “And it’s a fascinating process he has when he is creating the character – he is very scientific about it. There’s so much going on when you’re working with him and those eyes are just so intense. He’s wonderful.”
Blunt makes frequent trips to the United States for work but she still considers London her home. And, despite the fact that she is recognised more and more when she’s out and about, she claims that most people can’t quite pin her down.
“It’s weird because I think people think they have met me somewhere or that they saw me at a party or that we used to work together or something,” she says. “Or it’s like ‘were you at Putney High (School)?’ and I’m like ‘no but I get that a lot…’ But it’s so rare that I will get like ‘oh my god…’ I get that in the States more but here people are far too cool to care which I love.”
She’s now appeared alongside some of the acting greats – including Anthony Hopkins and Meryl Streep, her co-star in The Devil Wears Prada. And she would now include Del Toro in that esteemed company. She’s never asked for advice, but, she says just working alongside actors of that stature helps develop her own skills.
“It’s not that anyone has ever presumed to sit me down and pat me on the back and give me some mantras for this business because it’s so individual to the person – what their experience of it is and how precarious or not it can be,” she says. “But just being around Meryl I found very inspiring. I learnt a lot from just watching her. Alan Arkin was also very inspiring just how he managed himself on set and the things he said about acting. He just said ‘you must always remember it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be real when you are acting…’ and I loved that because then it gives you so much space to take a risk.”
“I love seeing people take risks and that’s what I loved about Benicio because everything is a bit left of centre and he’ll see a moment in a more artistic light and he takes risks.”
“He sees the scene in a different dimension. Like he would bring in a painting of how he thought a certain scene should be and I got it, I understood what he meant. It was the Gustav Klimt painting of The Kiss. It’s not how I would approach something, but it still moves me when someone is able to approach something in that way. He was amazing.”