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Gulliver's Travels - Emily Blunt interview

Gulliver's Travels

Interview by Rob Carnevale

EMILY Blunt talks about some getting to play a ‘girly princess’ in Gulliver’s Travels and improvising with Chris O’Dowd.

She also talks about getting to grips with green screen, mixing up her roles to balance drama with comedy, and working with Jack Black on Gulliver and Matt Damon on her next movie, The Adjustment Bureau.

Q. What was the appeal of Gulliver’s Travels for you?
Emily Blunt: It was really working with Jack Black and then I loved the script. I thought it was really charming and witty and definitely a more light-hearted version of the Jonathan Swift novel. So, I think that was an interesting take on it. I hadn’t really been a part of a family movie before and I hadn’t played anyone as girly as that before, so for those reasons I also wanted to do it.

Q. How was playing girly?
Emily Blunt: It’s funny because I had to channel it in a princess! I probably don’t usually do that because I’m a real tomboy, so it was interesting and fun. I liked it because it’s nice to play someone who is naive. She’s a bit two steps behind the joke every time!

Q. How was hanging with such comedic company, such as Jack Black, Chris O’Dowd, Billy Connolly and Jason Segel [to name but a few]…?
Emily Blunt: Awesome!

Q. Do you have to be on your game all the time?
Emily Blunt: You do actually. You try and partake but actually it’s probably better to be a cheerleader sometimes [laughs]. They’re always trying to out-funny each other and the stories were just heaven! It was a really joyous set to be on… I loved it.

Q. Rob Letterman [the director] has also mentioned that it got pretty risqué at times?
Emily Blunt: Yeah, it got pretty dark and weird some days!

Q. So, how was going toe to toe with Chris O’Dowd as I gather he does quite a lot of improv?
Emily Blunt: Oh, his jokes were dark and weird for sure! It was very tough for me to get through a scene with him because he’s so funny in this role and he’d change it every time to the point where I was like: “Please just tell me what you’re doing to do this time and I’ll be able to handle it.” But then he’d be like: “This is what I’m going to do…” And then he’d still change it [laughs]. I really had trouble getting through scenes with him because he was so, so funny.

Q. How do you find working with the green screen?
Emily Blunt: It’s OK [laughs]. It’s a weird technique to learn. I mean, you’re screaming emotionally at a tennis ball on a crane. It’s so strange. Jack’s over there, so you’re kind of tempted to… I mean the normal thing is to look someone in the eye and interact with them face to face. So, it’s an acquired taste.

Q. Would you do it again?
Emily Blunt: I would… I would. I might give it more of a breather before I do it again though.

Q. But I gather Jack was really good about making it easier for the cast, by making himself available to read with them even when he didn’t need to be on set?
Emily Blunt: God, he’s so generous! He was there every day for us… whether it was night shoots, where we’d be up all night until 4am and he’d be there, reading us off lines. Actually, because there was so much improv we needed him there just to feel the scene and make the scene work, so that was really nice.

Q. So what, for you, was the most difficult scene to play?
Emily Blunt: Let me think… the Cyrano de Bergerac scene was quite tricky because there was Jack and there was a day when we were doing the dual camera technique, so it felt like a long day because I was up on a tower and it was freezing. That was tricky.

Q. It was filmed in locations such as Blenheim Palace. Does that help when informing the character to be surrounded by such an environment?
Emily Blunt: I find it does. I shot at Blenheim before when I did Young Victoria and when you’re surrounded by the paintings and the opulence of a place like that there’s something really transporting about it. So, I do find it helps… and the costumes and the hair. It just limits how much you can feel like yourself, because it’s so alien to you – everything about doing a period drama. So, it’s nice and I like it.

Q. With this and Wild Target you seem to have gone for a more comedic tone in your film choices. Is that something you’ve deliberately chosen to spend some time around?
Emily Blunt: I did Devil Wears Prada quite a long time ago and then I did a couple more funny roles… I mean Sunshine Cleaning, I guess, was a comedy but I’ve done quite a bit of drama too. So, I like to mix it up because I don’t just want to do sob stories [laughs]. I like the candy part of this business as well and I find both interesting.

Q. Is that easy to do? A lot of actresses talk about how hard it is to find well written roles…
Emily Blunt: Well, there’s a lot of sifting through. It’s not that easy, to be honest. I think you look back at some of those ‘70s films that Meryl [Streep] was doing, Jane Fonda, Sissy Spacek… all those female roles that were just so fantastic and rich. They’re not really around that much anymore. There’s a lot of superhero movies and a lot of female parts that are the reactionary part to the male role, so I think that – as much as I can – I try and find the roles, particularly in comedy, where the girl is funny too. I think there have been changes recently, though… I think all the Judd Apatow movies have encouraged funnier parts for women, which I think is really good.

Q. Finally, what can we expect from your next film, The Adjustment Bureau?
Emily Blunt: It’s really, really good. I think it’s a wonderful film because it’s unusual and you can’t quite pin it down. It’s got sci-fi elements but they’re done very realistically. Essentially, it’s a sort of romance thriller and that hasn’t been done for a while.

Q. And how was working with Matt Damon?
Emily Blunt: He’s wonderful. He’s my buddy. It was lovely. That was also a lot of fun working with him. I think it helps, actually, when you need the love story to be the route of the movie and what grounds everything and believe in these two together… it helps that you actually like the person you’re doing it with and you have a natural sort of chemistry!

Read our review of Gulliver’s Travels

Read our interview with Billy Connolly