Last fall, Emily Blunt settled in on the New York City set of “The Adjustment Bureau” but confessed there was something unsettling about the impending production: She was set to play a ballerina opposite Matt Damon, yet, as she told us at the time, had “never bloody danced before.”
The duo play star-crossed lovers whose gaga-at-first-sight encounter becomes a source of what-coulda-been frustration as they’re kept apart by inexplicable, string-pulling forces. With the film’s echoes of “The Matrix,” “The Truman Show” and “Dark City,” it’s better to know little about the plot particulars. You won’t have to wait too long to check it out for yourself.
“Adjustment Bureau” hits theaters July 30, and as part of MTV News’ Summer Movie Preview, we’re bringing you another chat with the always delightful Blunt. Safely back in Los Angeles after her ballet experimentation, the 27-year-old British actress gave us a call to talk about her harrowing dance preparation, the sources of Damon’s actorly inspiration and the importance of munching doughnuts in the middle of the night.
MTV: We have to start with the dancing. You were worried last time we talked. How’d it go? Were there tears?
Emily Blunt: The tears did start to flow. I did cry a lot in pain. It was actually an extraordinary experience, because I don’t think I’ve ever had to do something that frightened me to that degree, day in and day out. I had to combat those fears of excruciating embarrassment that I couldn’t do these moves. But I pushed through, and it was really rewarding at the end. I think it’s that strange thing where you have to learn to do something physical — you can’t blag your way out of it. It’s so extreme in how precise it is. I got in the best shape of my life, so I was grateful for it, in a way. MTV: Was there one tough day in particular?
Blunt: I think there was a day where I calmly said to the artistic director of this revolutionary modern-dance company, Cedar Lake — he’s called Swan; of course his name’s Swan — and I just said calmly after I couldn’t get this one turn that he was trying to teach me. and I was really tired and I’d thrown my back out, as I could feel myself welling up and didn’t want to cry, I was like, “Swan, I need you to let me go home now. I’m going to get in the car and get home, and I’ll come back tomorrow and be fine.” And he was like, “Emily, what’s wrong?” And I said, “If you try and hug me, I’m going to cry.”
MTV: So you’re working alongside this guy Matt Damon …
Blunt: He’s the worst. Charmless, talentless. I had to carry him through this movie!
MTV: Clearly. He plays a young, charismatic politician. Matt’s a big Obama supporter. Did he draw on any of the commander-in-chief’s persona?
Blunt: I think the research went very deep and crossed many borders, so I’m not sure if he based it on Obama.
MTV: So no Sarah Palin either?
Blunt: No, I don’t think Sarah Palin was involved! But he definitely did a lot of research, and they managed to talk to people who were very much in the know. It was interesting to see the background about what happens behind closed doors to push a politician through the race. He spoke to politicians and a few other people. I’m not sure exactly who they were, and I’m sure they’d prefer to remain nameless anyway.
MTV: The movie’s got a lot going on, it seems: a love story, a thriller, it’s based on a Philip K. Dick story, and it’s got shades of “The Truman Show,” “The Matrix” and a lot of other of these sci-fi films. Is that your take on it — this mix of genres?
Blunt: I wouldn’t say “The Matrix.” That conjures up, for me, really high-tech acrobatics, and we weren’t doing any of that. Ours is much more grounded in realism. I think that’s interesting, because then you can much more authentically tap into people’s insecurities. I think a lot of people these days have this sense of “Are we being watched? Who is manipulating us? How much control do we have over our lives anymore?” And I think it’s an interesting approach that [director] George [Nolfi] took, to do it in a more realistic, grounded way.
MTV: George Nolfi is a first-time director. Obviously, you and Matt have been to the party many times before. How was it working with a rookie?
Blunt: The thing that’s great about George is he’s very open to collaboration. It’s actually not so much first-time directors but first-time writer/directors that tend to hold on to their baby a little more, but George [who also wrote the script] was so great in his willingness to be collaborative and see the characters in a different light. We always felt able to bring stuff to the table, and he was endlessly excited, which is contagious.
MTV: Do you know when the first trailer is going to hit?
Blunt: I don’t know when it’s coming. I think they’re cutting some together right now.
MTV: When you weren’t dancing and crying, what did you do in New York? Did you hit the hot spots or take it easy?
Blunt: My version of hot spots is probably not other people’s version of hot spots.
MTV: If you say Dunkin’ Donuts or something, I’m going to be very upset.
Blunt: Do you know what? There’s a Dunkin’ Donuts around the corner, and I have made several trips there. Probably at 2 a.m., which is the best way to do Dunkin’ Donuts.
MTV: Although probably not if you’re training to be a ballerina …
Blunt: I had to sneak them in when people weren’t looking. You have to do it clandestinely at night.