The unstoppable Emily Blunt works hard to make it look easy—keeping her feet on solid ground as her star continues to soar.
“You should see what I’m wearing right now,” confesses Emily Blunt. Just five days ago, the expectant actress stole the show as a presenter at the Oscars, flaunting her new silhouette in a custom blush-colored Prada gown. But today she’s in New York, sitting in bed in flannel pajamas, talking on the phone. “There’s not a piece of Prada on me,” she says with a laugh.
These days, Blunt is not only juggling a high-profile career, but her growing family, too. Married to actor John Krasinski since 2010, Blunt, 33, gave birth to their first child, daughter Hazel, in 2014. Now, with the arrival of their second baby on the horizon, Blunt is ready to take a well-earned break from the spotlight in the final months of her pregnancy. “The first pregnancy is the most self-indulgent thing in the world because you get massages and prenatal yoga and hypnotherapy CDs. During this one I forget that I’m even pregnant. I’m hoisting my 2-year-old around!”
Six weeks ago, Blunt wrapped production on The Girl on the Train, fall’s psychological thriller based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling book of the same name. Blunt takes on protagonist Rachel Watson, an alcoholic recovering from a divorce who witnesses something from a train window and becomes ensnared in a mystery. The role was a demanding one that became even more challenging when the actress discovered she was expecting. “It was actually more physical than I realized, which worried me a little, but I wasn’t telling anyone until a little later on,” says Blunt. “I told a couple of people like [co-star] Justin Theroux pretty early because he and I were doing some of the physical stuff together. He’s my friend, and I think he knew anyway—you know how friends just have a feeling.”
It’s the latest in a string of action-heavy flicks for the actress, who also starred as a FBI agent in Sicario (2015) and as a soldier battling aliens alongside Tom Cruise in the sci-fi thriller Edge of Tomorrow (2014). Yet her career started off on an entirely different note. Raised in a suburb of London as the second of four children to a former actress-turned-teacher and a barrister, Blunt enrolled in acting classes at an early age to overcome a stutter. In high school she was discovered by an agent, making her professional stage debut soon after in 2001, opposite Judi Dench in The Royal Family.
Critically acclaimed on-screen roles followed; Blunt went on to appear in the British television drama Gideon’s Daughter in 2005, which garnered her a Golden Globe. The following year, she landed her breakout role as Emily Charlton, the catty, self-important co-assistant to fashion magazine editor Miranda Priestly played by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. In the 10 years since her game-changing performance (which also earned her both Golden Globe and BAFTA nods), Blunt has continued to prove her acting chops in the likes of The Young Victoria (2009), Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011) and in 2014’s charming musical fairy tale Into the Woods.
But it’s her latest role that has her entering new territory, playing her first “baddie” (“Do you use that word in America?” she says of the British slang for villain) in this month’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War, the fantastical sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman. Blunt immerses herself in the role of Freya, the ice queen who brings her equally sinister sister, Charlize Theron’s Queen Ravenna, back from the dead. “You’d be surprised by how much I enjoyed [playing an evil queen] and how easy it was to be this person, which is worrying,” says Blunt, jokingly. “She’s not just this rampaging villain. She’s actually someone who, as delusional as she is, is thinking she’s doing the right thing—and that was exciting to me.” Just as thrilling was the opportunity to work alongside Theron. “[It was] a huge dream of mine; to have a massive queen-off with her,” she laughs.
“As an actress, she is very generous. She comes prepared and ready to give you everything she can. When you are a director, it’s pretty amazing to find someone willing to dig deep inside.”
“Emily is the coolest girl around,” says The Huntsman director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. “As an actress, she is very generous. She comes prepared and ready to give you everything she can. When you are a director, it’s pretty amazing to find someone willing to dig deep inside.” As soon as the cameras start rolling, Nicolas-Troyan says there’s nowhere the actress won’t go with her craft. “What she gives you is real. She’s not faking it, or phoning it in.” That sense of authenticity shines through in her personal life, too: “When you meet her with John, you can see they are normal people,” he notes.
It’s a sentiment that seems to be echoed throughout Hollywood, and is also evidenced by Blunt’s longstanding glam squad, including stylist Jessica Paster, who began working with the actress in 2006. “I bumped into her at a restaurant,” explains Blunt. “The Devil Wears Prada had just come out and she came up to me and she said, ‘You’re going to get nominated for a Golden Globe.’ I was like, ‘No, I’m not.’ She went, ‘Yes you are, and when you do I really want to style you.’ When it did happen I got a call from my publicist and she said, ‘A lot of stylists want to dress you, but by far the most tenacious is Jessica Paster.’ I’ve also got tenacity and it just means a lot to me to be with the same people for years, because it’s a comforting world to be in.”
It’s also immensely reassuring to share that world with her husband. “It’s like [having] an immediate, deeper understanding of what each other is going through,” says Blunt, who was in a relationship with crooner Michael Bublé before tying the knot with Krasinksi. “It’s sort of been necessary to both of us to have a confidant who understands your perspective, your position.” And though the two have yet to work together, Blunt doesn’t rule it out. “I think we would prefer it to be something where we’re not married or boyfriend and girlfriend. Our chemistry is not up for public consumption. We’d like to do a play. That would be cool.”
Home is wherever work takes them but Blunt definitely feels like she belongs on this side of the pond, where she’s spent the majority of her adulthood (in 2015, she became a dual citizen). Nevertheless, the young family tries to escape to their home in Ojai as often as possible. “It’s really magical and peaceful. It’s certainly a respite from the city,” she says. And when in L.A., she loves strolling down Larchmont Boulevard and having lunch with friends at places like Alcove Cafe & Bakery in Los Feliz.
Until Blunt starts filming her next project (at time of press she was rumored to have been in talks to star as Mary Poppins), she’s soaking up every second with her soon-to-be family of four. “It’s quite a juggle with children, especially young children who are now able to vocalize, ‘please don’t go.’ I don’t want to feel torn,” she says. “When people say, ‘what do you want to do next? Who do you want to play next?’ I really absolutely have no idea. I love the surprise element of the job. I love to be surprised, and love to hopefully surprise.”
Photography by JAN WELTERS.
Written by LESLEY McKENZIE.
Styling by JESSICA PASTER.