Emily Blunt is British to the core, London-born, a veteran of the West End stage and many a BBC production.
But in spite of break-out work in her native accent in films such as The Devil Wears Prada, Blunt’s finding her greatest fame on the big screen in playing Americans. In Charlie Wilson’s War, The Jane Austen Book Club and the new film, Sunshine Cleaning, Blunt leaves her Brit-speak at home and becomes as American as the best of us.
“If you’re in America a lot; the sounds, the vibe of the place, it’s easy to get into playing American,” she says. “All of it, the sounds, the energies, all very different from the UK. “But it’s really hard to do the accent. I tend to try and stay in it all day, which is the only way I can manage it. Tonally, the stresses you people put on different parts of words, it’s worlds apart from what I grew up with. I don’t know if I have the knack for it.”
And Blunt, 26, says it’s not just the voice that has to change – it’s a whole physical demeanor.
“Americans are a lot more open, of course,” Blunt says. “Raw. In some cases, there’s something more declamatory in the way you express emotions. It’s a stereotype but it’s true. British people can appear repressed in expressing emotions, compared to you. We’re not very good at self-evaluating, or affirming situations, touching, anything like that.”
For Sunshine Cleaning (opening Mar. 27), Blunt used every bit of American she could summon up. She and Amy Adams play sisters, members of the working poor who find a niche in cleaning up crime scenes. Blunt’s Norah may be the most damaged character the actress has ever played – angry, unfocused, bitter and flat broke.
“Blunt brings Norah to life and makes her appealing, no easy task with a character nursing serious resentment, repressing her sexual identity and indulging her inner child,” Rex Roberts wrote in Film Journal International.
“It’s such an unconventional part for me to play,” Blunt says. “She’s kooky and left-of-center and complicated and vulnerable and not like me at all! All of the characters in this movie are yearning for more, in some way, than the trench that life has plopped them in. The script is so quirky and original, the idea of having them clean up after violent deaths as a way of coming to grips with the death of their mother. That’s unique and heart-warming.”
It’s also a movie that, by accident of timing, shows people struggling to make ends meet at a time when people the world over are facing that same struggle, some of them for the first time.
“Isn’t that interesting that this film finally comes out when the whole country, the whole world, is struggling economically. This film really captures that. And since this feels like a real family, its very easy to sympathize. If you can capture the humanity of a family struggling in an economic crisis you can make a difference. You can raise awareness just of the simple humanity of your fellow citizens, many of who have it worse than you.”
Blunt’s 2009 has already been eventful. She was courted to play the Russian villain Black Widow in the much-hyped Iron Man sequel, but had to give up the part when Fox exercised its option to have her co-star with Jack Black in a film of Gulliver’s Travels.
“The whole beginning of the year has been rather dramatic so I just would rather go in with fresh eyes and know that I’ve made the right decision,” she says. “I think it’ll be all right. I may never hear the end of it 9from comic book fanboys), though.”
And there’s this little role in her native accent that may make her reputation, at least in the Mother Land. Blunt is the title character in The Young Victoria. It may be hard to think of Queen Victoria as anyone other than the grim-faced matriarch presiding over England’s Imperial glory dressed in black, with a hint of a mustache on her stiff upper lip.
“Nooo, I had mine waxed off for this one!” Blunt laughs. “I think what I’m most excited about are people’s perceptions changing about her by seeing her as a young woman, a rebellious young girl who is in love and in a job in which she’s in way over her head. I think that will make her someone a lot of people can identify with.
“I think a lot of period dramas can appear quite arch to most people, stuff. But what was clever about getting a French-Canadian director, Jean-Marc (Vallee), was that he brings a very different sensibility to her story. Unlike a Briton, he didn’t hold her in such reverence that he wasn’t willing to show her wilder side. It’s not that we weren’t accurate. We even had an etiquette coach on the set. But we went for this very intimate portrait of her and her family. It’s about family, in the end. It was a big challenge and the most rewarding film I think I’ve ever worked on”
Source: Orlando Sentinel