TORONTO – Things are pretty good these days for Emily Blunt. She”s starred in back-to-back hits, helped put the new TV show “Lip Sync Battle” on the map and is now enjoying another round of rave reviews for her new thriller “Sicario.” Oh, and she continues to make waves speaking the truth on why she keeps being rumored for superhero roles.
This past weekend Blunt took a few minutes for a sit down interview before the North American premiere of “Sicario” at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival (it originally premiered at Cannes). We chat about the backstory regarding one of the film”s pivotal scenes (a moment which has earned her some awards season buzz), her love of its cinematographer Roger Deakins and her unusual role in “The Girl On The Train” which she”ll begin shooting later this fall.
Oh, and there”s that revelation about Tom Cruise (among others) calling her about possibly retuning to the world of “Edge of Tomorrow.”
HitFix: Let”s talk about your movie because I love your movie. I actually reviewed it in Cannes.
Emily Blunt: Oh you did!
I spoke to you for like three minutes (see the video embed at the top of this post)
Oh fantastic. (Laughs.)
Remember that day where all four of you guys were in a weird space where you could all hear each other?
Oh yes. It was very odd. It was so weird. The paper walls.
Now we can actually have a proper conversation. You”re not asking like the simple questions when you only have three minutes.
Exactly. First of all, what about the script appealed to you or was it Denis coming on board that made it such an interesting project?
Denis was a big factor for me because I found him not only spookily talented, but delightful as a person. He was a very big factor for me, but I found the script very unusual because you have a female protagonist in this sort of world which you don”t see very often. It”s usually guys being guys running around with guns. We”ve seen it. And so you kind of look a bit closer, it magnifies the world a little more because the dynamic is unusual. And I think the idea of somebody with a very strong moral compass being systematically broken down throughout the course of three days was quite sad and actually struck me. I thought that would be difficult to play and interesting.
Obviously many different types of people work for agencies like the CIA or the FBI. Some have a strong moral compass but then others take more of a middle ground in how they approach it all. How do you believe her background influenced her point of view? Was this something you and Denis discussed beforehand?
I mean that”s sort of personal to me because I sort of have my own way of going about it and, you know, thinking about it and coming up with some kind of backstory that I don”t usually share with people. I think the most informative thing for me was speaking to these four female FBI agents. They were very honest, very open with me and I based the character predominantly on one of them who was actually quite shy, quite internal. There was a sort of steeliness to her and an innate goodness to her. But there was a bit of a loner quality that I thought was interesting for this character.
Did they know what all the movie was about? Did they think it was a realistic?
I asked them a few questions like, 'Would this happen? Would you be unaware of how the CIA works in this way? What do you feel about the CIA? What do you know about the war on drugs? Have you heard of this person or this person?' I asked them all of those to sort of questions to fact check it and [screenwriter Tyler Sheridan] was right on. The writer was very, very close to accurately [conveying] how it is.
By the end of the movie your character has gotten to this point where she says she”s been broken down and then there”s that amazing scene with you and Benicio. When we talked at Cannes I didn”t realize that you'd figured that scene out almost entirely that day on set. Is that correct?
And Denis says he went in not knowing necessarily what you guys were going to do?
So what was your understanding that day what you were going to shoot?
I wasn”t quite sure. It was different in the script and I knew that Benicio and I had an issue with it and that we wanted to do something that was I guess more brutal in some ways. A bit of a stronger way to end it and more complex emotionally for the audience. So, Denis was great. He allocated three hours in the morning just to rehearse it and block it through and no crew was allowed on. With the three of us sat there with Roger Deakins and we just talked and talked and blocked it and tried different things. And then eventually we landed on something that really worked. It was Benicio”s idea to come in with that contract that essentially I have to sign.
Did you feel at the end of the day you'd figured it out?
Oh yeah. It was an elated atmosphere after it. It was like, I sort of live for those moments in the job where it”s like the air shifts in the room and you hit something that is so unique. And they don”t happen very often, you know. Things can be a little more formulaic usually.
Do they come to mind just off the top of your head like 'Oh, it was on that movie when this happened and we all were like yes!'?
Yeah, there”s been definitely many of those moments. I can”t think of them right now, but they are few and far between. As an actor, when you hit a pocket of that sort where it feels very real you forget you”re acting and you actually achieve that person for a moment.
Taking that all into account was it odd to watch that scene for the first time?
Yeah. Yeah. Very, because it was actually a scene that felt very personal to me. It was a scene that was quite upsetting to shoot yet we all high fived each other at the end of the day so I guess we knew we”d hit something interesting. We knew we”d hit something interesting when Roger just looked at us and he was like 'that.' Because he doesn”t give you much of that.
Do most cinematographers give feedback or is it a rare thing?
I think you look for it with Roger because he has such fantastic taste and he doesn”t give you very much. So when he”s happy with it even if it”s like a nod and a sort of smile you”re thrilled.
Was there anything else that he brought to the set? Most people don”t know about what most DP's contribute outside of the lighting and camerawork.
No, but Roger”s like another character in this film. I mean he is the DP that every actor wants to work with because he shoots so emotionally. He takes such good care of you in the shot and the composition and the lighting. The framing is just so interesting. There”s less you have to do because he”s kind of got your back and he”s capturing exactly the right moments in exactly the right way. So he”s sort of our hero. All of us, we”re all a bit obsessed with Roger Deakins.
When you”re on set do you actually look at the playback or is it…
So, was this a movie that maybe you wanted to look just a little bit because of Deakins involvement?
No. I saw a couple of bits like when I”m seeing, you know, I could see on the monitor as he was lining it up like how he was framing it and all of that and that was really cool when you see that. But I don”t tend to watch my performance back.
Are you okay with going into a premiere and seeing your work for the first time or are you like 'Please I”d like to see it before…'
Oh, it”s very hard. I like to see it by myself before with maybe John [Krasinski] there and that”s it. I like to sort of have that moment where you”re just sort of distracted by not liking what you”re doing. And then I can watch it in a more sort of objective way when I see it at the premiere.
Once that happens can you go and see your movies again?
I don”t tend to watch my own movies. I”ve probably seen every movie I”ve done like once or twice.
One recent film of yours that fans have really latched on to sis 'Edge of Tomorrow.' It's has this long shelf life where people that people keep discovering it months or a year after it originally came out. Now there”s this rumor that there might be a sequel. Is there any truth to it?
There is an idea in the works. I have no idea what the idea is but I have had a couple of calls from like [screenwriter Chris] McQuarrie and Tom [Cruise] and like a couple of emails testing the waters as to whether that would be interesting.
Interesting in terms of whether you”d want to go back to it?
Yeah. Whether I want to go to the gym again or something. At this point in time I was like, 'Not right now,' you know? But yes, I would love to work with them again though. They are an awesome group of guys and it was the biggest movie I”ve ever been a part of and yet it was maybe my first experience feeling, worrying that I was going to be in boy”s club and yet I”ve never felt more valued on a set like with my opinion and my ideas. It was awesome. Like I was in all the script meetings and 'Sicario' felt very similar in that way, you know.
I was just going to ask about that because similarly you”re the only real female character in 'Sicario.' Did doing something like 'Edge' make it easier to shoot this one?
Very much so. Very much so. I think '' was a very embolding experience and on 'Sicario' I was working with the most collaborative director I”ve ever worked with who just was such open to any opinion or any idea that any of the actors had. He listens greatly and doesn”t sort of have any of the tendencies that you associate with an [auteur director]. He”s very collaborative. Just a delightful human being. No ego. Honest.
And passionate right?
Very, very passionate and effusive and doesn”t hold anything back. I love working with people like that.
One of the things I”ve noticed is you've recently taken on really challenging roles with 'Edge,' 'Into the Woods' and now this. I mean, sure, they”re probably great projects on paper but there”s nothing about any of them that are like you can sleepwalk through.
Oh no, no, no, for sure.
Is that something that you look for in a project?
Yeah, yeah. For sure. I think now, particularly since becoming a mother, it has to really be worth it for me to go and spend that time away. Because it”s such an all-consuming job. When you do do a movie it”s all consuming. And so for me it really has to be worth it emotionally for me to want to go and do it. It had better be something that challenges me, that inspires me. I used to kind of pop into a bunch of different movies every year and now it”s like…
If it”s one a year that”s okay.
For sure. One a year is plenty.
And aren't you about to shoot something? Are you going to star in Tate Taylor's 'The Girl on the Train'?
I”m going to do 'Girl on the Train' later on this autumn.
Can you say anything about which character you're playing?
I”m the creep on the train. I am the sociopathic alcoholic. So, I”m a big hot mess which is very different for me.
You”re doing another challenging thing!
Very challenging. Yeah, I have not done that before.
Is that why you took it on?
Yeah and also the terrifying parts of it, but I”m excited and nervous.
Have you ever thought about directing? Is it something you'd consider?
No I don”t have the desire to direct. I think the pressure of having to answer for everything is too much for me (Laughs). John is built for it much more efficiently than I am. I mean he”s such a problem solver and he can kind of see the issue and connect it all and find the solution. I think that I”m a little more vague in that approach. But I do think what I really enjoy is developing a project.
Yes, more of the creative producing side of it.
Is that something you want to get into more?
Yeah, yeah. I”ve just started to find my feet with that.
“Sicario” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday. It expands nationwide on Oct. 2.