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The Jane Austen Book Club - Emily Blunt interview

The Jane Austen Book Club

Interview by Rob Carnevale

EMILY Blunt talks about the appeal of The Jane Austen Book Club and why a blush landed co-star Kevin Zegers a key role.

She also talks about working with illustrious co-stars such as Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks and why the make-up trailer is a place to avoid!

What appealed to you about The Jane Austen Book Club?
Emily Blunt: Well, I found the script very charming. I really loved the rather offbeat, wacky characters in it. They were very well written. The part of Prudie was a bit of a removal for me, so when they offered it to me I read it and was thinking: “God, this is something I’ve never really done before, to play someone that vulnerable.” Yes, she’s kind of profoundly irritating and uptight but she charmed me. She’s socially so hopeless but I found her quite funny. It’s a real roller-coaster ride that she goes on and I usually look for someone that’s got conflict in them.

Are you a Jane Austen fan?
Emily Blunt: I am now! [Laughs] I’d read a couple of her books at school and then read all of them before the film, so I knew what they [the characters] were talking about. But I think what’s great about the film is that you don’t actually have to be a Jane Austen fan – you don’t even necessarily have to have read any of Jane Austen’s work to go and see it and enjoy it. It’s really about these people, not people sitting around and talking about Jane Austen.

You became very invested in the character of Prudie, even taking part in some of the read-throughs for the audition process with some of your male co-stars?
Emily Blunt: Yes, I did. I read with both of the guys I work with. I hate being on the other side of the audition process – it’s vile because you’re essentially there to put in some kind of input as to who should get the part and who shouldn’t. It’s horrible and you realise how subtle a deciding factor can be… it could be one thing that makes the difference between someone being turned down. But I really wanted to get those relationships right at the end of the day.

I understand that it was a blush from you that helped Kevin Zegers get the part of the student?
Emily Blunt: [Looks aghast] Robin [Swicord, the director] keeps telling people this! It’s so embarrassing and it’s the part of the interview that my boyfriend’s going to love! Kevin just had this remarkable ability to embarrass me when I was reading the lines with him. He’s just the kind of guy that would really have embarrassed Prudie and he really had such a great take on it – slightly predatory and very intense. He just had this absolutely perfect quality.

And you also paid to have your own wig made for the role…
Emily Blunt: I wanted that wig but I didn’t want to cut my hair that way. I wouldn’t have done that for myself! But I think it was right for Prudie – that contrived French look.

Q. How was working among such a great ensemble of actresses like Maria Bello, Amy Brenneman, Kathy Baker and Maggie Grace?
Emily Blunt: It was the easiest, most glorious thing. It was the best shoot I’ve been on, so much fun. You don’t carry that weight of responsibility on your own on something like this. It was a very crammed, fast shoot but it didn’t feel like that. We shot fast but it was fun. This was Robin Swicord’s first film but she was so assured.

You’ve become phenomenally successful in a short space of time. Can you believe it or is it still hard to take in? There must be plenty of “pinch me” moments?
Emily Blunt: Yeah, there are. I think it would be wrong to be modest about it. I think when you do get used to it, that’s when you should worry because this isn’t a normal life, is it?

How do you react when someone like Meryl Streep describes you as possibly the most exciting young actress she’s ever worked with?
Emily Blunt: [Covers her face with embarrassment] I do this! I don’t know… I mean it’s just so flattering. I’m a bit speechless really, because she’s my idol, so it renders me speechless.

Q. How was working with her on The Devil Wears Prada?
Emily Blunt: It really was wonderful and so exciting. It’s like playing against a major tennis player – you raise your game. I think the right word is exhilarating… she serves so many curve balls at you. You’re really kept on your toes and every moment lands truthfully… every moment. It’s a wonder to watch her.

I imagine the same can be said for working with Tom Hanks on your next two films [Charlie Wilson’s War and The Great Buck Howard]?
Emily Blunt: Yeah. I mean he’s just such a pro. He’s been doing it for so many years and he’s so good at what he does. He’s also an impossibly nice guy who the crew all love. So I’ve tried to follow his work ethic as well. Those are the people that stand the test of time, they are the people with versatility and more than anything they’re just really nice. People just won’t work with you [if not]… I’ve learned that word gets around like quick-fire. If someone behaves badly, it gets around. Don’t go into that make-up trailer, it’s gossip-ville. You just have to behave yourself all the time.

b>Read our review of The Jane Austen Book Club