Saturday, February 23, 2019

Stars I Love: Emily Blunt

Richard Phibbs Harpers Bazaar UK January 2019
Richard Phibbs - Harpers Bazaar UK January 2019

Emily Blunt can do no wrong. While I’m sure this isn’t entirely true because we’re all human and have imperfections, every time I watch one of her films, I’m always taken aback by her pure talent and ability to mold into different characters and seamlessly move from genre to genre. We never quite know what direction she'll take her career next, and half the excitement is watching her filmography unfold year after year. For me (and her husband John Krasinski), I guess you can say, I think she can do no wrong. And it's mind-boggling to think that she almost didn’t become an actress.

As a young girl, Emily had a severe stutter – a speech disorder that runs genetically in her family. She often didn’t talk at school or in public out of shame and fear, but being creative, she wrote funny skits with her friends and acted them out. When she was twelve years old, one of her teachers encouraged her to be a part of a school play and suggested she perform with one of the voices she used. She found that when she performed and could step outside of herself, the stutter would lessen or disappear altogether. The moment brought a bit of freedom to Emily, who continued to act until she was a teenager.

In the words of Lady Gaga, there can be 100 people in a room and all you need is one to nudge you in a different direction. But Emily didn’t go out of her way to pursue acting. She was more determined to get a job centered around language and her eyes on becoming a translator for the U.N. While performing at the Edinburgh Festival, an agent wanted to sign her and she agreed (he's still her agent today) because she felt like she liked acting enough to at least try it out. The first big play that she landed was alongside Lady Judi Dench, who Blunt has credited as a tremendously supportive mentor in the earlier part of her career. Life has an odd way of pulling us in the right direction when we least suspect it.

After a string of roles in television and theatre, as well as a small debut in film with My Summer of Love, Blunt's next big break came with her second movie role The Devil Wears Prada. As the witty and acerbic assistant to Runway magazine editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) who trains a new assistant "Andy" Sachs (Anne Hathaway), the young star on the rise inadvertently cemented her legacy in the rom-com genre.

A role in a romantic comedy, especially one that's popular, is an easy trap for actors to be typecast. After knocking it out of the park with only her second film role, every audition and script that was sent Blunt’s way was nearly the same type of character. Wanting to play different parts that were challenging, Blunt turned down a lot in order for her career to steadily grow. Not accepting or chasing every opportunity is surely another way for an aspiring actor to fall off of Hollywood's radar, but Blunt kept making it work.
someone cast her as janis joplin

Her fearlessness and pursuit of wanting to take on as many varied characters as possible is evident throughout her career. From supporting to leading roles, every role genuinely strengthens her chops on-screen. While she's never really starred in films that are straight box office flops, you can tell she's coming into her own as an actress from her young twenties into thirties and beyond. Some movies tried to pocket her into silly tropes like a hot secretary in Charlie Wilson’s War, while other comedies like The Five Year Engagement or heartwarming dramas like The Jane Austen Book Club let her grow a little more and more. It's a challenge to label the women she's portrayed into one label because she gives performances that differ from the last one. From small indies movies to more widely panned movies, she manages to pull tricks out of her acting toolkit that makes me think about what she can’t do. Which is very little.

It's difficult to keep going on and on about someone who seems to be a truly great person in real life without really knowing them, but off-screen, but it's rejuvenating when actors avoid the pitfalls of click-bait and the public court of social media from controversies. Blunt has been able to avoid tabloid conjecture fairly well, but if you're famous and going to be recognized outside of your professional life, it might as well be making everyone believe in true love again. Her spirited relationship to husband John Krasinski is a breath of fresh air in the grand schemes of scandals and negative news swirling in and out of Hollywood. From their unwavering admiration to insanely creative pranks on Jimmy Kimmel (and inventing Lip Sync Battle)  they seem to truly enjoy life and each other's company, and isn't that #lifegoals?

As someone on youtube wonderfully commented, "I want that woman's charm bottled as air freshener". Every interview she’s been in (and I’ve watched a fair few), she’s direct and straight-forward but also radiates positivity and enthusiasm.  I'm in love with her cackling laugh and it doesn't hurt that she's absolutely gorgeous. She has chemistry with literally everyone from talking about Steven Colbert's cute run and how hot Bert was in the original Mary Poppins to trying to break Tom Cruise's spirit and seeking to understand testicle pain. To this day, she's still managing her stutter with great success and working with organizations to end the stigma about having a stutter. She's honestly a goddess and we don't deserve her. I'm totally jealous of John Krasinski. #notgonnalie

5 Favorite Roles

Her whole career is honorable mentions: My Summer of Love, Your Sister's Sister, The Wolfman, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, The Adjustment Bureau, Looper, Into The Woods, The Girl On The Train, A Quiet Place, Mary Poppins Returns. I'm having a tough time not putting most of these in my top five picks...

Edge of Tomorrow

Every role Blunt takes on pushes her out of her shell even more. Edge of Tomorrow is her first action flick playing Rita, an iconic hero of the war Earth is facing off against aliens. The Full Metal Bitch helps Tom Cruise's slimy PR agent infiltrate the enemy's battle zones to destroy their nerve center and achieve victory. To be a bad-ass, most female roles in action movies are limited to damsels or looking hot. Occasionally, if they are supposed to have a moniker like The Full Metal Bitch, they become emotionless and uninteresting. Rita might have one mission on her mind, but like many of Cruise's films, Rita is a counterpart to his character - she's not relegated to being robotic or the eye candy. She's driven, has no time for bullshit, and still remains vulnerable.

Sunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning

When Rose (Amy Adams) swaps housecleaning for decomp clean-up at crime scenes, she finally believes she's figured out how to organize her complicated life. But things are not as easy as it seems when her clever son gets thrown out of school, her mischievous father can't keep track of his businesses, and her sister Norah (Emily) struggles with her sense of self and grieving the loss of their mother. I think everyone has a subconscious list of actors they want to see work together, and my dreams came true with Sunshine Cleaning. While Amy's performance is also one of her best so far, Emily offers a lot of fine moments as Norah tries to be strong enough so Rose doesn't smother her allow herself to be be openly vulnerable about her grief.

Sicario Emily Blunt


Various producers of Sicario offered more money if the role of Kate Macer was changed to fit a male actor. Thankfully, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan didn't take the bait (even though he basically rewrote the film without a central female character for its sequel) and the role went to Emily Blunt. After Macer joins a special task force mission in the heart of Ciudad Ju├írez, Mexico, her moral code is shaken to its core as Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and secretive operative Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) obliterate all of the rules of military engagement. In the land of wolves, Macer's curiosity about Graver and Gillick's plans test her reluctance to not become another sheep. Her sympathy isn't a weakness and her's challenged to consider whether the special branches of the military are the good guys. It's a fascinating contained performance that slowly spirals out of control.

The Devil Wears Prada Emily Blunt

The Devil Wears Prada

Yes, the movie put both her and Anne Hathaway on the map, but Blunt truly outshines everyone - even Meryl Streep. I truly wish Blunt would do more romantic comedies like these because I think she's absolutely hysterical both on-screen and off. She lands every line she's given no matter who it is directed to, and no matter how haughty her character is, she doesn't feel flat or under-developed. If you're going to go out on top with a rom-com that centers on female characters trying to maintain strong professional and personal lives (and not only needing a partner to make them happy), it might as well be this one.

The Young Victoria Emily Blunt

The Young Victoria

Some biopics tend to throw everything at the wall, especially if the story centers on A Very Important British Person, by following their life's story from childhood to old age. The Young Victoria is surprisingly overlooked as a reasonable biopic that's full of romance, conflict, and light-hearted comedy - one that isn't gloomy and brooding. The adolescent queen-in-the-making has been sheltered by her duties from a power-hungry uncle until she starts rebelling against his aspirations, falls in love, and rules the throne herself. Not only does Blunt and Rupert Friend have incredible chemistry, and the costumes are absolutely gorgeous, but Blunt's subtle transformation from a sheltered young woman to a fierce regal queen is stunning. It's a quintessential performance in a historical film if you ask me.

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