There’s something cliché about interviewing a major movie star at the Chateau Marmont, but you know what? It’s a good cliché. Last Friday, at the end of a hectic week, I sat down with Emily Blunt to talk about her new film “The Girl On The Train” for an entertaining conversation you can enjoy in this week’s episode of the Four Quadrant podcast embedded at the bottom of this post or on iTunes.
This is probably the fifth or sixth time I’ve interviewed Blunt since her Golden Globe-nominated performance in “The Young Victoria” and she’s always been incredibly open and genuine about whatever we’re talking about. Many actors start off that way when they land their first break, but quickly succumb to the easy out of repetitive talking points and guarded responses (ah, remember the “Fish Tank” days, Michael Fassbender?). Thankfully, that’s never been Emily’s M.O. and if it is she’s an even better actor than she’s given credit for.
Our chat touched on a number of different topics including her reaction to not being in the upcoming “Sicario” sequel “Soldado,” the importance of a good cinematographer to an actor (a topic actors rarely talk about) and her excitement about playing the iconic Mary Poppins in Rob Marshall’s “Mary Poppins Returns.” That highly anticipated sequel begins with rehearsals in November and will keep her busy for at least the next 8 months. And, yes, she’s “beyond excited” to step into Julie Andrews’ shoes.
First and foremost, however, is Tate Taylor’s “Girl On The Train.” When I spoke to her a little over a year ago, before production began, she talked about how “challenging” and “different” the role was going to be. She wasn’t wrong as she immediately admitted that “the role required all of me.”
“To play somebody that is that tortured and traumatized and riddled with self loathing for the entirety of the shooting process? I think [that] was draining but also challenging in an exhilarating way because I got to play this part where you just hurl everything at the wall and just see what sticks,” Blunt says. “The whole experience was very thrilling actually. Just really challenging.”
Taylor’s follow up to “Get On Up” is an adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best selling novel and finds Blunt playing Rachel, a thirty-something alcoholic who cannot get over the end of her marriage. Every day she takes the train north from New York City and passes by her old home where her ex Tom (Justin Theroux) and his new wife Rachel (Rebecca Ferguson) seem to be living in never ending bliss. Also catching Rachel’s voyeuristic eyes are their new neighbors Megan (Haley Bennett) and Scott (Luke “How many more times should I take my shirt off today?” Evans) who seem to be in a more problematic relationship. When Megan disappears, Rachel is sucked into the investigation of a murder that she may or may not have been part of.
Blunt did a fair amount of research into addiction before filming and wanted to make sure not to trivialize the disease (one reason Blunt’s performance is so impressive). She notes, “I wanted to just represent that in the most authentic way. And yet, you are in a thriller so it’s got to move like a thriller. And the alcoholism is actually used as a device. It’s not just a portrait of an alcoholic. Her addiction is used as a device for the genre as well.”
As to why the mother of two would take on the difficult role? Well, that’s easy.
“Omigod, the fact that your female protagonist is blackout drunk. How completely rare,” Blunt says. “And I think the idea of voyeurism and I think everybody has it to varying degrees and I think that’s the only element of Rachel that I truly could identify with. That desire to look into people’s lives and their inner workings. I loved the setting of it, the underbelly of domestic bliss. I thought, how interesting and how relatable.”
She continues, “And the fact that these three women are flawed. And I felt like this book and this film is about women’s right to be bad. You just don’t see that in cinema very often. You don’t see where a woman can be ugly and they mess up and they are unfaithful and they behave badly. I think this is an interesting film for representing that women don’t have to be held in a feminine ideal in a mainstream movie.”
For more of Blunt’s thoughts on “Girl on a Train” and “Mary Poppins Returns” check out the podcast episode below or on iTunes.
“Girl on a Train” opens nationwide on Friday.