Emily Blunt Interview, The Wolfman

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

Emily Blunt stars opposite award-winning actors Sir Anthony Hopkins and Benicio del Toro in her new film, The Wolfman, directed by Joe Johnston. She plays Gwen, the fiancée of Lawrence Talbot’s brother, Ben, and comes to London to beg her soon-to-be brother-in-law to help find her betrothed who has mysteriously disappeared.

Blunt was drawn to the role because of who was attached to it. She also found the script very moving. “It wasn’t just about violence,” she explains. “There was a love story and a human struggle that I was attracted to. What’s beautiful about The Wolfman is that it’s a haunting story, but it’s also a love story. Joe started off with a vision of making a classic, sweeping, huge monster movie, and he has maintained that vision throughout the shoot.”

Emily Blunt shot to international prominence in 2004 with her lead role in the multi award-winning British movie, My Summer of Love. In 2005, she starred in the critically acclaimed Gideon’s Daughter opposite Bill Nighy and Miranda Richardson and won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. In 2006, Emily appeared in The Devil Wears Prada opposite Anne Hathaway, Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci.

MoviesOnline sat down with Emily at the L.A. press day for The Wolfman. She talked to us about what it was like working opposite Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, doing action sequences while wearing a tight-fitting Victorian costume, and acting in a genre that she’d never worked in before.

Q: How was it to work with someone as intense as Benicio del Toro?

Emily: It was intense. No. He’s awesome to work with. He’s such a rare actor, in that he has a real unique approach to a scene. He’s exciting to work with ‘cause he’s quite raw and instinctual, so you don’t really know what he will do in the scene. The scene can really take shape and dance and shape shift, in some ways. I love working like that ‘cause there’s a real openness, and you need a co-star who’s going to play with you, in that way. He’s a great guy. We had a laugh on the movie. He’s a lot of fun. He’s a big teddy bear. People don’t know that.
 
Q: Has it gotten any easier for you to work in corsets and Victorian costumes, now that you’ve done it a few times?

Emily: I don’t know why I managed to go from one corset to another. I don’t know quite how that happened. It was not my intention. But, I actually love the physical elements of creating a part and, once you’ve got the costumes on, they’re so ethereal and alien and they feel so strange, when you first put them on, that you almost don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to worry about moving differently or standing differently because it does everything for you. So, I find the costumes quite transporting, particularly if they’re as beautiful as the ones that I’ve gotten to wear. Milena Canonero designed beautiful, exquisite costumes for this film. They were very creative, in that she incorporated a lot of animal materials into them, like furs and feathers. It was really cool, working with her. Sometimes it can be a bit restraining, but I think it’s good because, particularly with the Victorian era, you want to create those constraints for the implications of what goes on within the world to be relevant. I appreciate doing the dress-up part of it, but I also like to wear jeans and a t-shirt ‘cause then you’re really free.
 
Q: How was it to work with Anthony Hopkins? Do you have to call him Sir Tony?

Emily: No. You call him Tony, and he’s very, very cool. I was riveted by him. I would sit around and talk to him between takes, and he’d tell us wonderful stories. He’s a great mimic. I think riveting is the right word [to describe him]. When you’re acting with him, he’s got such a simplicity to what he does. He’s quite an economical actor, in a way, but then he puts layer upon layer upon layer upon layer, and he’s simmering beneath the surface. It’s masterful to watch and it’s distracting. I’d watch him in the scene and be like, “Oh, shit! I forgot my line.”
 
Q: Can you talk about working in the horror genre and what your familiarity is with it? Are you a fan?

Emily: It’s funny ‘cause I had never really done the horror genre, and certainly not the monster movie genre, and I love doing something I’ve never done before, so that was cool. Benicio [del Toro] is the freak about horror movies. He is so well-researched. He’s seen every one of them, 20 times. But, I was a really nervous child, so I never wanted to go watch horror movies. I remember the first one that stands out for me, that I watched, was The Exorcist, and I didn’t sleep for a week. And then, I saw Jaws as well, which is kind of a horror movie, in some ways. I’m still a victim of Spielberg. I have a real problem with the ocean and with the depths of the unknown. Maybe that’s what’s so fascinating about monster movies. You’re dealing with a supernatural element and the unknown forces. Maybe that’s why people are so fascinated by the Ouija board, whether ghosts exist and where we go when we die. I think that’s why these movies will always be so relevant and of interest to people. We just don’t know.
 
Q: Do you feel you had enough time to explore the acting in this film, with all the effects that were going on around you?

Emily: Yeah, I did because it was a very collaborative process with Joe [Johnston] and with Benicio [del Toro] and Anthony [Hopkins]. If I’d simply been there to run and scream, I wouldn’t have done the movie. I thought the relationships were really tensely written, and we actually collaboratively cut a lot of the dialogue, particularly in the scenes between Benicio and I, to try to capture that essence of forbidden love in a more subtle way, so it’s not so on the nose. I never wanted it to be that she callously leapt from one brother to the other, with the greatest of ease. That would be bad. People would be like, “She’s a slut.” When you’re doing a monster movie, there’s an element that you take second place to and you react to that. It’s not acting. You’re reacting, the whole way through a movie like this. But, I was lucky enough to work with people who were willing to make changes that were beneficial. To speak personally about my character, I wanted to make her more pro-active and less passive, and Joe was very cool, in that way, and allowed for that to happen. It was a really atmospheric set as well. The sets were incredible and we had plenty of time. I never felt overwhelmed by the werewolf.
 
Q: How much do you think Gwen is attracted to Lawrence as a man, and how much of it is that primal beast that’s inside of him?

Emily: I don’t think she recognizes the primal beast. I think that she’s quite a scientific girl. So, when village gossip ruled the world as it did in Victorian times, she was probably the one studying Darwin. That’s when all of Darwin’s theories were coming out. She always saw the man. You can’t help who you’re attracted to. I don’t know if chemistry or attraction is something you can ever crunch numbers on. It’s a rather ethereal thing. You’re either attracted to someone or you’re not. And because she was so helpless in being able to save her fiancé, and she could do nothing, it became her mission to do something for this man who was in hell. She could see that he was in hell. He was tormented. He was actually quite a soft man and a quiet man, and I think she was more attracted to how enigmatic he was rather than this darkness dwelling within him. I don’t think she really chose to recognize that side of him while everyone else was raving about it.
 
Q: What has the last couple of years been like for you, with all of the high-profile projects you’ve been doing?

Emily: I don’t know if it’s felt like that. It’s been really fun. I’m a huge fan of doing indie movies. I think they’re some of the best scripts out there. But, there’s also some great scripts for more high-profile films. Gulliver’s Travels was attractive to me because it was really smart and witty. Anything that’s high profile and is of a bigger budget that’s good, I’d be willing to look at. But, this last couple of years has been a real ride, and I think I’m ready for a break. It’s a surreal life, on a film set, whether it’s a high-profile movie or not. I’ve gotten to work with some of the best actors around, and I feel like [The Wolfman] was no exception. I’ve admired these two guys (Benicio del Toro and Anthony Hopkins) for so long. And then, working with Matt [Damon] (on The Adjustment Bureau) was a real experience. The magic of the job is the camaraderie that you have on those film sets, and the accelerated friendships. You’re like a dysfunctional family for awhile, and then you say goodbye. But, I’ve really enjoyed all the movies I’ve been a part of. They’ve still been very different from each other. As long as I can keep doing roles that are different, [I’m happy]. I love the shape-shifting part of the job. I don’t want to lose that, no matter if it’s big budget projects or not.
 
Q: What was it like to play a ballet dancer in The Adjustment Bureau?

Emily: It was really tough. I was in boot camp for a long time. It was the hardest and scariest thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s an incredibly exposing experience to go through because it’s all about physical perfection and accuracy, and I don’t know if I’m a very meticulous person. With my job, I’m used to turning up on a film set and being like, “Oh, I think I’m okay. I get what I’m doing, but I don’t really know what I’m going to do until I do it.” It’s a far more open, emotional experience, whereas dancing is all about physical perfection and striving for that. I found that really frightening and I felt like an idiot some days, when they were trying to teach me these new moves. I was like, “I can’t do that. You know I can’t do that. There’s no way I can spin three times and not fall on my ass.” But, I think it’s a wonderful thing to go through, when you challenge yourself to do something that frightens you, every day, and there’s some kind of end result. It was contemporary ballet. Thank God it wasn’t traditional ‘cause I would have been screwed. It reminded me of acting, in a way. I remember one of the dancers said to me, “What I love about this kind of dance is that everything you go through in life can come out in the way that you dance, and this is the kind of dance that allows for that,” and that reminded me of what I feel about the job I do. It was a wonderful experience, but it was the hardest thing I’ve had to do, for sure.
 
Q: Do you ever keep any of the skills that you learn for a movie?

Emily: I’ve now built a ballet bar in my house. No. I don’t know. Sometimes. I think it always stay with you a bit. When you’ve soaked up that much information, it definitely stays with you. I now know how to horse ride side saddle. I’ll always have that. I’ve heard of people who have learned piano for something and they’ve carried it on. I know that that happens a lot. But, to be honest, all of the dance was so grueling that I don’t know if I’d put myself through that. I really like to eat, and that’s part of the downside of learning how to dance and trying to look like these dancers who are like sculptures. They look incredible.
 
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of making The Wolfman?

Emily: I found the action scenes in those clothes really tricky. In the scene where the Wolfman jumps on me and Hugo [Weaving] and I have to get up, he actually yanked my skirts down, as I was trying to get up. That was probably the hardest stuff we had to do. It’s a combination of all the physical parts of the costumes and how restrictive they are, and trying to get that relationship and love story right without it appearing like she’s callous. And, how do you really react to a werewolf? What would you really do, if you came across a werewolf and were confronted by one? That was also something where you have to really use your imagination. I don’t have anything to draw from. I’ve never seen one and I don’t know anyone who’s ever seen one. I would ask people that I knew had been in life-threatening situation, “What happened? What did you do?,” and they all said the same thing. They either fainted, or they said nothing. Their vocal chords literally locked out because they were so frightened. A few people I’ve known have literally been so frightened that they don’t utter a word. Their brain melts and they hit the deck. I think that’s funny.
 
Q: This film is full of metaphors for man’s relationship with nature and the film unfolds in the Victorian era of Darwin, when science gave us a new understanding of human behavior. Did you talk about the philosophy of it at all, or is it just a scary movie?

Emily: It’s a combination of both. Actors love to talk, so we did sit around and talk about certain things, like our feelings on the metaphorical sense of this film and the darkness in everyone, how much you allow that to thrive, how you control it and whether we all feel we’ve got a little beast inside of us. We did talk about that. And all of us read up about the period and everything that was going on. There was also an element we discussed, which was that this was the Victorian era where sexual repression was very prominent. These ghost stories about werewolves and vampires were incredibly relevant to that time, when everyone was feeling that they had to repress the beast and repress the instincts. It was an interesting setting for the film to place it in Victorian times. I think it worked really well. But then, we knew we were in a monster movie and we had to create candy, at the same time. It’s a combination.
 
Q: Do you have a preference when it comes to working on sets and being immersed in the world, or working on location?

Emily: I love being on location. I think you form a really close bond with people on location. When I was doing Sunshine Cleaning, Amy [Adams] and I lived next door to each other and we had an amazing time. We cooked for each other, every night. It is a very bonding experience to be somewhere, like Albuquerque, where I’d never been before. I like both. I like to change it up. If I did the same thing all the time, I’d probably get bored. They both have different highs and lows.
 
Q: Were there any scenes of yours that were cut out of the film that could end up on the DVD?

Emily: There was, yeah. There’s only one scene that I miss, but that’s ‘cause I’m a real fuddy-duddy about seeing the characters and human behavioral stuff. I’m sure most people are like, “Let’s get to the bite,” but I love all the setting up of the relationships. So, I think there was one scene with the three of us (Emily, Benicio and Anthony) that was cool, but I don’t really think much was cut out of it.
 
Q: Do you have an inner beast yourself?

Emily: I don’t know. I feel like it’s dwelling. It hasn’t come out yet. It’s lying dormant. I think someone’s got to really piss me off. It’s weird because I see people where I think they wolf out a bit. When you see people fighting in the street, their faces look weird. When you see guys fighting, their faces contort. That’s the beast coming out, when people’s faces look weird, and they’re so angry and raging, and all of those instincts are just flying out of you. But, I’ve never been in that state yet. I’ve never been in a fight.

Q: Do you live in Los Angeles now?

Emily: Yeah.
 
Q: How do you like it?

Emily: I love it, but I have a lot of British friends here as well. I have wonderful friends and I really enjoy it. I always feel very peaceful when I come to L.A. I always feel very peaceful when I land here. I don’t really associate it with work. I know a lot of people see it as a place that you work, but I haven’t worked here for awhile. It’s usually in New York or London, so I always feel like this is my downtime place.

The Wolfman opens in theaters on February 12th.

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