From fashion flicks to cartel crime-thrillers, proud Brit Emily Blunt has made her home – and name – in Hollywood. Now she’s hoping to use her upcoming role as one of Disney’s strongest women to start making changes in the male-dominated world of the silver screen
Given that Emily Blunt first sashayed onto our screens as the haughty Emily Charlton in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, you could be forgiven for having trouble reconciling the same star with her recent roles in all-action thrillers and murder mysteries. Though there was little hint of it at the time – behind her character’s clipped tones and passion for fashion lay an actress who was made of much sterner stuff.
From 2015’s drug drama Sicario to last year’s emotionally charged Girl on the Train, Blunt has cemented her cinematic credentials with a host of critically acclaimed performances. This recent resurgence as one of Hollywood’s leading ladies is made all the more impressive when you consider that, behind the scenes, the Wandsworth-born star was also dealing with the birth of her first child by US Office star John Krasinski.
“At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to do Sicario because my daughter Hazel was still very young and I felt very emotional and vulnerable,” the 33-year-old explains. “I wasn’t in the kind of mood to play an FBI agent who has a lot of issues in her life!”
But what Blunt quickly realised was that the new skills and sensibilities she had found as a mother could be effectively translated into her artistic career.
“What I’ve observed is that having children makes you more emotionally aware and intense,” she says. “You feel that you see things more closely and with greater awareness and intensity, and that enlightens you both in person and as a performer.”
It wasn’t just the necessary “strength and determination” to take on more nuanced roles that Blunt found in becoming a mother for the first time. Having Hazel, now three, and Violet, born last year, has allowed the actress to reconsider what kinds of films she wants to take up her precious time.
“I know I don’t want to be away from my family for long periods unless I’m very committed to a particular project, so I want to make sure that every film I make is one that is worth my time away and the kind of beautiful time I have being at home,” she remarks. “The most important thing for me is my life with my family and friends.
“It’s a beautiful feeling to be able to look after your children and always have them so present in your life. I love acting and my time working with people on a film set, but I also love my life at home with my husband and daughters. It’s the best of both worlds.”
Her upcoming work, however, suggests that Blunt is looking to combine her career and responsibilities at home. As well as lending her vocal talents to two animated comedies – Animal Crackers, which will also feature Krasinski, and My Little Pony: The Movie, a welcome family-oriented break from the action-packed adventures that have defined her recent career – Blunt is set to star as the iconic lead in Disney’s sequel to 1964’s Mary Poppins, set for release in 2018.
And Blunt’s newfound parental confidence will greatly influence her upcoming turn as everybody’s favourite magical nanny.
“As a mother, you become a teacher from the moment your child is born,” she says. “Having a child changes every cell in your body and it’s a great responsibility. You want your children to be confident and respectful and caring of others. It’s also important to teach your children to be bold and adventurous in life.”
Regardless of this incredible opportunity to step into the legendary Julie Andrews’ shoes, Blunt is secure in the knowledge that in Krasinski, she has a husband who understands the rigours of balancing home life with Hollywood just as well as she.
“We’ve been very organised ever since Hazel was born, and John was the best at washing the bottles and making sure we always had milk ready in the fridge for the next day!” Blunt smiles. “He’s truly the most caring man and father.”
This desire to keep work and home separate also influenced the couple’s move from the bustle of LA to nearby Ojai, a small and relatively pastoral town located in the picturesque Topatopa Mountains.
“I’m more concerned about leaving enough time in between projects so I can enjoy being with my husband and daughters and not feel that our family life is being disrupted constantly,” Blunt explains. “I never want to allow my happiness to be determined by how well my career is doing. If you allow that to happen then you’re lost. That’s why we live outside of LA, because it can be so suffocating to always be talking about work and the business.”
What’s certain is that the qualities of motherhood have transformed Blunt from a talented actress into a superwoman tour-de-force in the relatively shallow surroundings of the industry.
“In the past, I was worried all the time about my work and many other things in life, but being a mum has changed all that,” she nods. “I’ve been avoiding films where the women are simply there to support the male character and don’t really move the story forward. I think we need more stories that present women as serious, complicated characters who can both be determined and vulnerable.” And given her career so far, we can’t wait to see more.