Emily Blunt has won over Hollywood with her effortless wit and wry, British charm. Now she’s embarking on her most ambitious production yet: motherhood.
“It’s really the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me,” says Emily Blunt of imminent motherhood. Never mind her debut on the London stage at eighteen alongside Judi Dench, directed by Peter Hall; the Golden Globe she won for her performance in the BBC movie Gideon’s Daughter, with Bill Nighy; acting opposite Matt Damon, Ewan McGregor, Meryl Streep (twice), and swinging on wires in an “exosuit” with Tom Cruise in this summer’s sci-fi spectacular Edge of Tomorrow. On a sunny January afternoon in Los Angeles, Blunt couldn’t be more excited about the baby “pretzeled in there,” as she puts it, a month or so away from birth.
“I feel good,” she says, “although I do wake up feeling like my grandmother. I sleep with a fortress of pillows around me. I’ve got one of those huge C-shaped ones,” she adds. “My husband calls it Gary.”
Blunt is dressed in a navy silk T-shirt and silk drawstring harem pants, an Isabel Marant cardigan-jacket that can accommodate a pregnancy in progress (it’s currently fastened a third of the way down), and gladiator sandals. Her toenails are painted a shade debatable between “fluorescent salmon” (my suggestion) and “undercooked salmon” (hers), and she is wearing a pair of Carrera sunglasses belonging to her husband, the actor and writer John Krasinski. We’re off to have coffee and take in a spot of maternity–and–post-maternity shopping, leaving Krasinski, newly sprung from a nine-year commitment on The Office, at home in his “writing cave” working on a movie script.
Blunt first grabbed our attention with her movie-stealing turn as a fashion-world assistant in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, when she was 22. (“I couldn’t have been more surprised that she was that young,” remarks Streep, who was struck by her “clear, confident comic instincts. Her humor is self-deflective in the manner of people much more veteran.”) Her line in that movie, “I’m hearing this [duck-quacking hand gesture] and I wanna hear this [finger and thumb pinched shut],” has become an immortal screen moment—as well as a useful tool in raising children. Everything about Blunt is infused with a pleasant irony, starting with her disembodied voice talking through the intercom at the gate of her rental house in the Hollywood Hills (the couple’s permanent home nearby is under renovation), which is full of character: part warm welcome, part sardonic twang.
It’s a quality that has enabled the 31-year-old Blunt to steer her way through a surprising variety of roles in a busy decade-plus career, from costume dramas to indie curiosities to big-budget thrillers to, most recently, the movie version of Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods. Even in a four-square romantic comedy like 2012’s The Five-Year Engagement, in which she stars opposite Jason Segel, Blunt brings such idiosyncratic charm to the girlfriend role it’s as though she’s found a fresh way to throw out convention and make eccentricity mainstream.
In person Blunt is relaxed and friendly, and she laughs a lot. She began acting to help conquer a childhood stutter, and her career took off virtually of its own accord. “She takes the work incredibly seriously, but she doesn’t take herself seriously at all,” observes James Corden, opposite whom she acts in Into the Woods. At a neighborhood café festooned with chintz and chandeliers, Blunt talks about the extraordinary year she’s had. “It’s hard to find fantastic female parts, and I feel like I found two of them,” she says. To prepare for Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow, she endured three months of Krav Maga martial-arts training and gymnastics before going to work in an 85-pound costume with assault weapons built onto the arms and legs, held together by a steel plate. The shoot was so physically demanding, she says, “I looked like an aerobics teacher by the end of it. It was almost unattractive.” Even Tom Cruise—here she inhales sharply and grits her teeth to keep smiling, in imitation of the tirelessly upbeat actor—admitted to her that he found it “a challenge.”
Now, she says, “I understand what it takes to get in that kind of shape. And when I got pregnant, not long after I finished the movie, it helped me to keep active.” The result is a gorgeous pregnant person: all lean, glowing limbs plus bump. In the earlier stages, she did core exercises and Pilates; lately she favors hiking in the hills, where she sometimes has to dodge paparazzi leaping out of bushes who can’t resist stalking a burgeoning Hollywood family.
Blunt and Krasinski married three years ago at their friend George Clooney’s villa on Lake Como. Between their two careers, they have crisscrossed paths with many of the major names in Hollywood, from Judd Apatow’s circle to Matt Damon’s, Bradley Cooper, Jimmy Fallon, Amy Adams, Jennifer Aniston, and on. Since moving full-time to L.A. five years ago—she previously lived in Vancouver as the girlfriend of the singer Michael Bublé—the British-born Blunt has made herself very much at home in her tight network of industry and non-industry friends.
She orders a soy cappuccino (“I allow myself one coffee a day”) and gluten-free cookies—“I know everyone rolls their eyes, but I met a hippie doctor who suggested it, and it’s really helped me in the pregnancy.” Besides these peccadilloes, she takes a “non-fuss, non-intense” approach to the maternity business. “Everyone says don’t go online and read as few books as you possibly can,” she says, and she avoids neurotic health-and-beauty rituals in favor of “gallons of Kiehl’s Creme de Corps.”
After racing around a postapocalyptic set looking like a weapon in human form, Blunt made Into the Woods during her second trimester, alongside an all-star cast including Corden, Johnny Depp, Streep, and Star Trek’s Chris Pine. “I’m playing a baker’s wife, so I figured she must eat a lot of buns,” she says with a laugh. “By the end I was doing a lot of creeping behind trees and hiding behind other characters.”
It’s time to go shopping, and Blunt has selected the showroom of Hatch, a mixed maternity/post-pregnancy and regular clothing line launched two years ago by Ariane Goldman that has picked up such chic fans as Gwen Stefani and Jessica Joffe. Hatch is responsible for Blunt’s silk outfit today, and she’s looking for a few more pieces to take her through the coming months.
Blunt describes her style as “bohemian tomboy, quite urban.” For herself she likes shopping at the small L.A. boutiques Creatures of Comfort and TenOverSix, buying young labels Rachel Comey, Alasdair, and Ryan Roche, while for the red carpet she’ll break out Oscar de la Renta, Prada, Alexander McQueen, or Givenchy. Having worked with the same team for years for these events, including the stylist Jessica Paster, she has her routine down. “I’m out of the house in an hour and fifteen minutes,” she says. Her looks tend to be unfussy, and her hair, which runs the gamut of colors from blonde to dark brown, is mostly worn long and natural. “I like to make simple choices with what I wear, and I like to look like me,” she says. For her latest pregnant outing, the previous day—a charity luncheon for Operation Smile—she wore a nude Dior dress with a neon-green lining. “It was stretchy, thank God.”
At the Hatch showroom she chooses some long, flowing shirts she can imagine nesting in for some time. She hasn’t made plans to return to work yet but would like her next project to take her back to her roots on the stage, this time on Broadway. “I haven’t done a play for ten years. It’s so exposing, but it’s what I’m most interested in right now.”
There are no limits to what she can do, says Into the Woods director Rob Marshall. “She’ll have it all. She will have a Maggie Smith career if she wants,” he predicts. “If you want a leading lady, and someone who has great humor and vulnerability and warmth and smarts, women aren’t really bred for that anymore. She stands alone in many ways.”
n the showroom, it’s not all coziness and comfort. Not one to be typecast, Blunt picks out a sexy black silk jumpsuit and models it; then tries on a pair of leather leggings, as tight as can be beneath the baby bump.
Gary would love them.
Manhattan’s iconic mainstay, The Plaza Hotel, sets the scene for a dramatic entrance by actress Emily Blunt. She descends the stairs of the Royal Terrace Suite into a room with ample gilding and baroque furniture more suited to Marie Antoinette than Eloise. Donning a flowy Valentino dress in tangerine chiffon and flashing equally striking eyelashes, which accentuate an already transfixing gaze, Blunt’s certainly dressed for the surroundings. Having wrapped the day’s shoot, she plops herself on a nearby couch, and by way of introduction, says, “I can’t wait to take these lashes off.”
It’s an accurate first impression of the 29-year-old English actress: poised, glamorous and utterly disarming. When she returns a few minutes later, having changed into what she says is her standard uniform of a slouchy cotton top and pencil-leg black jeans, I mention how naturally she seems to inhabit high-fashion magazine spreads. That comment is met with a burst of laughter. “Really?!… I dress like that all the time,” Blunt jokes.
The self-deprecation may be charming, but Yves Saint Laurent didn’t hire Blunt to be the face of its Opium fragrance campaign—smoldering a leopard into submission for the television spot—due to her humility. It’s more likely that they recognize the A-list presence Blunt has become in Hollywood after career-changing roles in The Devil Wears Prada and The Young Victoria. In the last few months she’s appeared in another screen adaptation (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen with Ewan McGregor), a Judd Apatow-produced comedy opposite Jason Segel (The Five-Year Engagement), and this month, a hilariously poignant indie, Your Sister’s Sister. You’re about to see a lot more of Emily Blunt—and she hopes you’re OK with that.
With a defense lawyer for a father and a mother who was a former actor, Blunt’s childhood in the London suburb of Roehampton was spent indulging in an early flair for the dramatic. “I loved the make-believe aspect of life,” remarks Blunt. “I was that really annoying friend you didn’t want to stay over because I’d be waking you up at 5 in the morning to pretend that the room was on fire.” The Blunt household was a raucous but supportive environment as she remembers it, and the actress remains close with her older sister Felicity (a literary agent in New York), younger brother Sebastian (a budding actor) and her sister Susannah (a vet in training). Despite the theatrics, Blunt’s introduction to the stage wasn’t a foregone conclusion; in fact, it was a terrifying prospect for a chronic stutterer.
Blunt says her parents tried everything to alleviate the stuttering that tormented her from ages 7 to 13, but it was a sympathetic teacher at the Ibstock Place School who suggested she try using a character’s accented speech to overcome her own difficulties. “It was quite miraculous how effective that was, and I spoke fairly fluently for the first time in a while,” says Blunt. Since then, she’s never once stuttered onstage (although it can come back during times of stress) and she now advocates for others via The American Institute for Stuttering.
“I really fell into the business, which is a story actors hate, because they’re like, ‘F—k you! I’ve been struggling for years!’” says Blunt with another laugh. An appearance at the annual Edinburgh International Festival during high school led to a role in the West End production of The Royal Family at London’s iconic Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2001, where a green, 18-year-old Blunt says she was hit with a revelatory “lightning bolt” about her destiny. She recalls that her co-star, none other than Dame Judi Dench, advised her, “Listen, darling, you’re going to be great. And if anyone gives you any trouble, you come straight to me.”
Blunt segued into TV and film roles, which were often the period dramas seemingly required of up-and-coming English actresses. (“Everyone has to learn to ride sidesaddle and wear a gusset,” she jokes.) Across the pond, Blunt was still a relative unknown until 2006, when The Devil Wears Prada opened stateside. Next she tackled romantic comedies, biographies, and even The Simpsons, but it was 2009’s The Young Victoria that firmly established Blunt’s rising star—by putting her back in a corset. The actress played Queen Victoria as she ascended to the throne with depth and purpose in what otherwise might have been just another airless period piece. “I was so taken by the spirit and the passion of this girl. So strong at such a young age,” she remembers. “I went in there and said, ‘You have to let me do it!’”
Married to actor John Krasinski of The Office since 2010, Blunt visibly squirms in her chair when asked about life at home. She remarks, “This is what I find difficult about talking about my marriage: It’s hard to sum up something that’s so vital and means everything to you in a sound bite. Do you know what I mean? All I can say is that it’s an effing blast. It’s just great, and I’m so happy.” Blunt emphasizes that she and Krasinski lead a normal life—as normal as it can be living in the Hollywood Hills next to late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, who, she says, they’re “really lucky” to have around, especially for his enviously well-equipped kitchen and pizza-making skills.
She also says that a family is on the horizon, one of these days. “We want to have children, I just don’t know when yet. I’m just not sure about the timing of all of that,” says Blunt. “We’re both from big families so I think it’s something we want.” There’s certainly enough work to keep her busy in the interim. When Blunt returns to indie cinema with Your Sister’s Sister, opposite Mark Duplass (The League) and Rosemarie DeWitt (Mad Men, United States of Tara). Blunt plays Iris, the concerned friend and secret admirer of Duplass’s grieving Jack. Blunt’s character sends him to recover at her family’s cabin near Seattle, but the gesture is complicated by the unexpected presence of Iris’s sister Hannah (DeWitt), who arrives with her own agenda.
Duplass, who brought the idea for the film to director Lynn Shelton, says that casting Blunt was a “pipe dream.” “I thought it was so cool that she said ‘yes,’” he says. Shot over the course of 10 days on an island off Washington state, with mostly improvised dialogue, Duplass says he was struck by Blunt’s ability to “create chemistry with almost anyone… She has a way of within five minutes feeling like your best friend.” Shelton, who says she was a “huge admirer [of Blunt] to the point of being slightly obsessed with her,” observed that her performance “never, ever feels cookie-cutter… nobody else could ever do it the way she does it. I love watching her on-screen September, Blunt will appear in Looper, a crime thriller set against the backdrop of time travel in a not-so-distant future. Blunt describes n.”
I the project (also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis) as the “coolest movie,” partially because it demanded that she learn to chop wood in her backyard (“I find it quite relaxing,” she notes). With a celluloid omnipresence approaching Ryan Gosling-type levels, Blunt hopes all these appearances aren’t perceived as too much of a good thing, or as she puts it, “people [will be] like, ‘Oh, her again.’” Inconceivable as a Blunt backlash may be, she does have a plan B if the accolades turn to pitchforks: She’ll become a chef. “Yeah, I’d really like to do it,” she proclaims, citing Mario Batali and Ina Garten as Food Network favorites. “I love to cook. It really is the most peaceful, happy experience for me.” But with her talent and roster of upcoming projects, time for toques will have to wait.