Gabrielle Donnelly

Being Blunt

The actress Emily Blunt on coping with fame and not speaking American

Being Blunt
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Emily Blunt is jolly busy. This year, she’s in three movies – Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, with Ewan McGregor; The Five-Year Engagement, with Jason Segel; and the offbeat My Sister’s Sister. Her fans, I tell her, must be really excited.

Emily seems unsure: ‘D’you think so?’ she says, wrinkling her nose. ‘It might be just incredibly boring. I can imagine people’s faces when the next film comes out. “Ugh, not her again!”’

We are having coffee in the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Emily and I. Emily looks every inch the movie star in a white pencil skirt and a vintage top. But as it turns out, she isn’t a diva at all. She spends much of the interview sending herself up — not the usual form in filmland.

Which isn’t to suggest that she’s the shy, retiring type. Her self-confidence as an actress was apparent from the start. She burst on to British screens in 2004, all of 21 and smouldering wickedly in Pawel Pawlikowski’s sexy, controversial My Summer of Love. Two years later, she made her mark in Hollywood with The Devil Wears Prada, in which she skeetered and teetered on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and all but stole the movie from Anne Hathaway and even Meryl Streep. Since then, she has attracted public attention and critical acclaim with films of all sizes and budgets, from The Young Victoria to Gnomeo and Juliet.

Emily was born in Roehampton, the second of four children of Oliver Blunt QC and his wife Joanna, an actress turned teacher. Life in the Blunt household was not dull. ‘It was a loud, raucous, very fun household, and my parents were committed to each other and committed to us. It was a very loving environment which was a wonderful thing.’

As a child, she had a stutter — a condition which she is quick to point out is genetic, not emotional, in origin. To overcome it, her parents had the bright idea of sending her to acting school. The class cured her stutter, improved her confidence, and found her a career into the bargain.

‘I never had any formal acting training,’ she says. ‘In fact, I originally planned to go to university and study languages, but when I was 17 I did a play at the Edinburgh festival to earn some money and an agent came to see it who said, “I think you can do this — would you like to give it a go?” So it just sort of happened from there.’

It did indeed. Twelve years later, she is one of the most sought-after young actresses in Britain and America. Critics compare her to Meg Ryan, because she has that combination of looks and comic timing.

‘I don’t think,’ she says, without acknowledging the understatement, ‘that my lack of formal training has held me back. I do know a lot of actors who have had training who have also done very well and they fall back on those drama school tools a lot and find them very helpful. I can’t speak to that because I don’t know what it’s like... but what I do know about this job is that it’s one of the very few professions where you think only with your gut as opposed to your head, and I don’t know how much you can be taught to do that.’

Two years ago, she married John Krasinski, a lanky, genial American actor who stars in the US version of The Office. She moved to Los Angeles to live with him. ‘I still don’t talk like an American,’ she says. ‘I say “shedule” and “ga-rage” and the thing that trips everyone up here is when I ask for water in a restaurant and people say “What?” so I have to say, “Waw-derrr”, and they go “Ohhh! OK!” Oh, and the other day a waitress asked me, “Would you like some more water?” and I said, “Oh, go on, then”, and she looked hurt and said, “Uh... do you want me to go away?” I had to say, “No, I wasn’t asking you to leave, I was asking you to pour me some more water please!” ’

Ask her about her relationship with John, and she says, politely but firmly, that it is nobody’s business but their own. But she will allow that he is ‘officially the funniest person on the face of the planet’, and admits that, since she has met him, she has become much more picky about her girlfriends’ love interests. ‘If any of them is in a relationship that seems bad or looks like an endurance test, I will encourage them to seek elsewhere, because now I know for sure that it doesn’t have to be like that. I know that a good love is out there and it’s available, and when you find it, it’s great.’

The Krasinskis live in a cheerful house in the Hollywood Hills, filled with books and kitchen gadgets (hers) and cameras (his); they have a labrador, Finn. ‘My favourite day would start with a nice leisurely breakfast and then I’ll go and have a swim and then have lunch with my friends. In the afternoon I’d read or catch up with a TV show — oh God, I’m obsessed with Homeland and have to limit myself to one episode a day or I’d spend all day watching it — and then in the evening, I like to get a little dressed up and go to a bar or a party...’

All of which sounds like a great deal of fun: more fun, in fact, than many movie stars allow themselves, given the LA paparazzi. Surely they must get in the way of her good times? ‘I zen them out,’ she shrugs. ‘I’ve decided to make friends with the whole idea of having them around because I think the more I allow their frenzy to get to me, the more that bad energy will sort of creep under my skin in what could be a quite unpleasant way.

‘Look, I like going out. I like going to the gym. I like seeing my friends, I like going out and buying my groceries. I like doing these things, I don’t want to stop doing them, and if that means someone gets a horrible picture of me looking terrible coming out of a gym, well…’

She stops herself and grins. ‘The truth is,’ she concludes, lightly, ‘I really don’t care.’