Emily Blunt has captivated audiences with many roles across different genres. Barbaros Tapan met the British actress in Los Angeles to talk about her career, her marriage, and her role as Mary Poppins.
Your latest movie is Mary Poppins Returns. Let’s talk about the magic of the film that was released 50 years ago and what it brings today. The two times are so different.
A movie like this brings a sort of escapism, spectacle, and hopeful joy. Musicals are often seen as being very nostalgic and maybe even of a bygone time. I remember when Rob Marshall did Chicago, people were like “That will never work,” and it won Best Picture. This makes us realize the need for people to escape into something that is a heightened world and fantastical and exciting. And certainly, in the fragility of the times that people find themselves in, and for many this can be a very disconcerting time, we must never see the idea of hope and joy as being trivial words or trivial life choices.
Mary Poppins’s education of values and your interpretation of this can be quite a challenging model. As a mother, what are the values you have passed down to your children?
For me, education is not about “one plus one equals two,” knowing how to spell your name perfectly, or listing all the states in America. We need to create great thinkers and innovators. The idea that Mary Poppins has is that anything is possible, even the impossible. I think it is a great lesson when it comes to educating children who are so enriched with their own imagination anyway. Let’s not squash it or squander it. I do prefer a kind of unconventional approach to education. I think that certainly the school that I really love for our kids is a really innovative school.
What was your first experience with Mary Poppins and when did you first learn about her? What are your memories compared to your thoughts when you got asked if you wanted to do this?
I am pretty sure it was one of the first films that I ever saw. I was around six. And because I decided not to rewatch the original as an adult, I did have this sort of searing memory of her. But this was going to be my version of her, and I didn’t want to just impersonate Julie Andrews. I knew if I was going to take on this role, I just had to completely carve out new space for myself as this is the next chapter in a different time. But I do remember my lasting memory of her as a child and I think a lot of kids do feel this with her, is because she is a bit of a disciplinarian and kind of stern. She comes in and makes everything right again. I remember feeling really protected and safe with her as a child.
John Krasinski and you have two kids. You manage to take care of business, the children, and have a very happy marriage. Could you give us a little insight?
He’s a great helper. I have hit the jackpot with him as a dad. He is incredibly involved and completely devoted to them. It’s a juggle as it is for every parent and I think any parent who is working. To be honest, we consider ourselves very fortunate because our family gets the luxury of time off. I do find that sometimes it can be a bit all or nothing, like I am either with them all the time or I am working a lot. But I don’t think it’s more of a juggle for me than it is for any other parent out there. It’s often women who get asked, “How do you juggle it?” But actually, it’s hard for him to juggle it too. I mean we try, I have never been away from them for longer than a week, he’s never done longer than two weeks.
I will go back to another movie, A Quiet Place. As an actor, when you read that script, with no dialogue except that scream, is it a relief that you don’t have lines to memorize?
No. And I find that if actors are concerned with how many lines they have, then that is probably an issue.
Is there any advantage in acting with gestures as opposed to verbalizing words?
I have actually learned over the years how arresting it can be to do scenes that are sparer with dialogue. I remember when I did Sicario, Benicio cut about 70 percent of his dialogue because he knew he would be more arresting in that role, there would be more mystique with that character, and he would be more dangerous saying less. And it worked so beautifully. I have learned over the years that the fast-paced smart conversing can often be more tedious than watching people be unable to figure out a way to talk to each other.
Is this what you kind of dreamt of or expected when you started as a young actress in Britain?
I don’t believe starting out that I was a terribly ambitious actress. I came into it kind of late, and I did not have the burning desire for it my entire childhood. I was never planning on being an actress. My mother is a great linguist, so I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to do modern languages and be a translator. When I sort of fell into this and an agent saw a school play I did and said, “Oh you are good, you should do this,” I was like “Okay.” I was 17, I didn’t know, I sort of shrugged my shoulders. I remember doing my first play and I was working with Judy Dench. It was such a familial atmosphere. And now as I have lived in the industry for a long time and it’s embraced me, I am so grateful. It has its tough sides, and there’s sides where you have to kind of readjust. It is a job that I have fallen in love with as the years have gone on, but it was never in the plan.
What was the hardest obstacle you had to cope with after you became an A-list actress?
That probably. I think that when you get to a certain point in your career, where people come at you with all kinds of things from great projects to too much attention, too much criticism, the thing that I had to overcome was to let all of it be just like white noise. I feel that finding the clarity to make choices just for yourself was the hardest part in some ways because you just get a lot thrown at you suddenly. You just realize that all you have really are the choices that you make in some ways, and you should take ownership over that really.