Izumi Hasegawa: We heard you knocked on the producer’s door and you were like, “Let me play this character!” Why were you so passionate?
Emily Blunt: I don’t know. I think I really felt that it was a rare find, and I loved her spirit. I loved that she was a fighter, I loved that she was a modern thinker and that, against all odds, calculation and manipulation went on, and the oppressive lonely childhood, and she survived it. I thought there was a quality in her that you couldn’t quite pin down, and I thought that was really interesting.
IH: Can you talk about how you developed the chemistry with your co-star, Rupert Friend?
EB: It’s weird. We were just talking about this before, because I think chemistry is a pretty hard thing to work out why it happens and why it doesn’t. I think it helps if you like the person. We actually got on like a house on fire anyway, but we were more like siblings by the end of it. [Laughs] We were so infantile together, so I don’t know really. I think we had a similar approach to the characters and he really knew who Albert was, and I think I really understood who Victoria was, so we tried not to have those contrived moments when you think ‘this is how two people connect.’ I think we really understood how these two connected with each other, so he was just very easy to work with as well. Rupert had all the qualities you needed for Albert, but also the qualities you need as an actor to work with, because it was just a joy, it was so much fun.
IH: Could you talk about the corset experience? Is this the first time?
EB: I’ve done it before. I did it on stage and I did it for a TV thing. It’s not awesome, [laughs], I can say that. It’s okay for the first half hour, and you look in the mirror and you go, “My God, look at this dress. I look so glamorous and opulent.” And then, after about half an hour, your inner organs are like, “Get me out of it!” Like, “Please loosen me off!” So it’s tough. It can be quite a workout, wearing a corset.
IH: Did you try to not eat so much before this production?
EB: No, I ate a lot because she was supposed to be a bit chubby, so I ate more than I usually do, so I put on a bit of weight and at lunchtime, I would have pasta or a burger. Really stupid move in a corset, cause they loosen you up for lunch, you eat the cheeseburger, and then they do you back up again, and honestly it feels like the cheeseburger is sitting right here. It’s almost like they dislodged it all the way up — it’s not a good move. Rupert was smart — he’d only do chicken and salad. I was like, “But she’s supposed to be chubby — I’ve got to keep eating.” [Laughs]
IH: Can you describe when you first met Rupert? How did you know you guys would be good together in the movie?
EB: It’s a funny story, which I loved that I can tell now, ’cause it makes him look like such a dickhead. It was my 21st birthday party, and we have a mutual friend called Tom, and Tom showed up and he brought Rupert with him, and [laughs] he stayed for one drink, and then turned his nose up at my party and left. Now I just said to him today, “I’ve been telling that story of you dissing my party, basically, and leaving.” He said, “No, what people don’t know about me is that I look like I’m really pissed off, but actually I’m terrified ’cause I’m in a room full of people I don’t know.” So Rupert is actually very shy with people he doesn’t know, so when I first met him, I thought he was very shy, but when we read the scene, he was just awesome, and he quickly became funnier and sillier, and we had such a good time. We learned how to waltz together, which breaks down a lot of boundaries ’cause you both feel like such idiots trying to do that. I was definitely better than him [laughs], but we did all right.
EB: I think it got more and more infantile as we went on, but it was great. We’re all together all the time — Paul Bettany and Miranda [Richardson] and all of us would just hang out in the pubs along the countryside of England, ’cause we were filming in all the locations around the country, and it was such a community that you really get the camaraderie when you film on location. When everyone’s filming in London, everyone goes home to their houses, and on location, it demands that you go out and explore that area that you’re in. We would go on hikes, all of us, and visit the local little art galleries, and that was really fun. I think it was a really joyful shoot for everyone. We had a blast.
IH: How was it working with [Jean-Marc] Vallee as a director? Did he give you a lot of room to get into the environment before you did a scene?
EB: Yeah, he did. He really created an atmospheric set for us. There was an ambiance on set that was, I found, very helpful. I would ask him to play certain songs that would help me, but he would play a lot of contemporary music, like a load of Sigur Ros, an incredible Icelandic band, and The Rolling Stones he put on right before we did the fight scene. I remember him playing “Street Fighting Man” [laughs] to get us in the mood. So he understands what actors need, and I appreciate that ’cause he’s actually very dynamic in how aesthetic he is as well, yet he understands what we need so it wasn’t always about the look of the film. At the end of the day, I don’t give a crap about what it looks like. I’m only here to do my job, so you need to work with directors who really understand that and understand what you need.
IH: I like this character with you and Oliver exchanging letters. You feel something in between but cannot express so much because of that period. Have you ever had this kind of exchange of letters and cannot expose your feelings to someone else?
EB: I feel that letters are sadly such a thing of the past now, and I think there’s something really romantic about getting a hand-written letter. I literally can’t remember the last time I got a handwritten letter, but I think there’s something wonderful in that. I like the distance and the waiting, the nervous anticipation of the next letter to come. There’s something so exciting and romantic and giddy about that whole thing, so I think that’s what we were trying to capture in the film. For her, it’s the first time she’s been courted, I guess, or pursued in this way, and it’s much harder for him to reveal his feelings because it has to be her to ask him to marry her — she has to initialize things — so he was in the tougher spot. He was the one who was slightly walking on thin ice around the situation.
IH: Did you do any research for the character?
EB: I read books and diaries, letters… The diaries were the most helpful because they were very extensive, and she was so expressive in them and open, and would go on for pages and pages about the details of Albert’s face. She was so open and they were very revealing, ’cause you could start to hear her voice. I always felt like she was a rather extreme person and would deal in absolutes. She loved intensity, she hated intensity. If she hated someone, she’d, again, go on for pages about what she loathed about this person. She had a horrible temper, which we lessened a bit for the film, but believe me, there were stories in those diaries and those biographies. Servants would hear them fighting upstairs. She had no qualms about letting it rip in the castle, and she would chase him around the castle, and he’d keep shutting doors behind him [laughs] and she’d keep going through and going through… So I think to read about all of that, you see the humanity in that person who is so other-worldly, in a way, if they’re a monarch. It’s kind of hard to access and get in, but once you start reading the diaries, it gave me a new-found respect for people in that position. It was really interesting.
IH: You researched so much, but Sarah [Fergusson] has experience in the Royal family. How much did she help you?
EB: She didn’t really because she came up with the initial idea and then turned up on set a couple of times. I think she very much wanted us to go on and make the film, ’cause she said, “I don’t know what’s it’s like, making a film. I don’t know how to make a film, so it’s nothing to do with me,” so I’ve only gotten to know her a bit during the press, which was interesting talking to her, to hear how she relates, more than anything, to Albert, ’cause he was the guest and the outsider, and that’s certainly how she felt for awhile, so that was very interesting to hear about that.
EB: Yeah, I think it’s wonderful to work in England and to work with your co-stars. The Brits are great, and I always have a good time ’cause it’s almost quite an incestuous group ’cause everyone knows each other and it’s a smaller community in England. It was wonderful, but really to film on those locations, I was very humbled ’cause I don’t know any other opportunity where I would have ever gotten to do anything like that. To walk down those hallways that the Royals had walked down — it was really interesting to work there on a film like this, ’cause Victoria and Albert are so emblematic of our country really, so you just try to do them justice as much as you can.
IH: Are you based in L.A.?
EB: I am now, yeah. I’m working in New York, so I have to leave tonight to go back to work. I’ve got two more weeks.
IH: What’s the project?
EB: I’m doing a movie with Matt Damon called The Adjustment Bureau.
IH: What’s your character?
EB: I play a contemporary ballerina [laughs], so I had to do four months of boot camp of dancing and workout training, and it was intense. I just filmed my dance scenes, which went all right, so now I’ve got two more weeks and then I can hit the cheeseburgers, so I’m thrilled. [Laughs]
IH: Who’s directing it?
EB: George Nolfi, who wrote the last Bourne movie and wrote Ocean’s Twelve, so it’s his first directing job. He’s doing a good job.
IH: What are your holiday plans? Are you hoping to get home?
EB: I’m going to London to see my folks, and my older sister and I are planning to cook Christmas Eve and let mom off the hook. She normally does a three-day affair and it exhausts her, so we said we’d do Christmas Eve. It will be good. I haven’t seen them since June, so I’m really excited.
'The Young Victoria' is in theaters now