The Young Victoria - Emily Blunt interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
EMILY Blunt shot to fame in British hit My Summer of Love and has since emerged as one of the UK’s most sought after actresses both here and in Hollywood following roles in The Devil Wears Prada, Charlie Wilson’s War and Dan In Real Life.
She is now playing The Young Victoria in a new movie written by Julian Fellowes and talks to us about getting to grips with corsets and gloves, wearing a crown and having Liz Hurley visit a film set while they were filming a key scene.
Q. How did Julian Fellowes’ obvious enthusiasm for this part of Queen Victoria’s life transmit to you?
Emily Blunt: Well, I think I had a similar perception of Queen Victoria. I had the opinion she was old, in mourning and sour faced and repressed. So, when I started to read about her, mainly from tip-offs that Julian gave me, I fell in love with her. I think when I started to see the very intimate side of Victoria, and the intimate portrait of her through Julian’s script and the books that I read, I could then see she was the polar opposite to what I’d initially imagined her to be like and I saw her as this young girl who was feisty and rebellious and passionate.
he was in a job where she was way over her head and I saw that must have been an incredibly pressured and difficult environment to be in, particularly after reading about this childhood that was lonely and oppressive. So, I was amazed and full of admiration at her resilience… to have the knowledge that she would be so absolute and that she would be great and deserved this position. I just thought she was a remarkable girl and wanted to play her very, very much.
Q. What did French director Jean Marc Vallée bring to the material having not been someone who grew up with the same knowledge and appreciation of Queen Victoria that we may have?
Emily Blunt: Well, he did bring a very fresh approach to British history. I mean, he actually shoots very emotionally and he had wonderful tactics that fell into the story. He would shoot through mirrors, so it wasn’t just pretty, it helped to get the feeling that all eyes were on her, and that she was being watched all the time by everyone, and from every single angle. So, I thought he had very interesting ideas and he also created very atmospheric sets for us to work on. He’d play music such as Sigur Ros that was very atmospheric and rewarding. He also shot so quickly… it was relentless. It moved very fast and never felt stuffy or boring to any of us working on it.
Q. Did you get a private tour of some of the mansions and historical venues you shot in?
Emily Blunt: We tried to sneak off but were kept under close watch by the people who monitor, look after and manage those homes and palaces. I remember we were filming at Ham House and someone put hairspray on me, and this woman started to flap immediately, saying: “The hairspray’s going all over the Van Dyke’s!” We literally were kept under close watch and even if we leant on a table, we were rushed away. So, we didn’t get much of a chance to look around.
Q, What aspect of the clothing proved the most uncomfortable for you?
Emily Blunt: [Smiles] What do you think? Actually, I don’t like gloves. I don’t why but I don’t like them and I have a weird thing about them. I knew I had to be wearing gloves when we had the waltz and it was awful. It’s a very silly thing. But the corset is not fun to wear. And [costume designer] Sandy Powell was quite merciless with my corset because I think she thought I’d been a wuss and wore it too loose. So, she insisted the shape wouldn’t be right if I didn’t winch it in really tight… at which point I said: “F**k the shape, I want to be able to breathe!” So, we had to come to a compromise.
Q. What about the crown?
Emily Blunt: The crown was really heavy actually! It dented my forehead when they took it off. I had to move very slowly with it on.
Q. What was it like following in Queen Victoria’s footsteps? And didn’t you film in the bed that she’d slept in? Was that weird?
Emily Blunt: It was a bit weird, but what was weirder was that as we were filming that scene Liz Hurley was looking around the castle and popped her head in the door. I was like: “What’s Liz Hurley doing here?”
Q. How easy was it to separate playing a monarch from just being a girl in love?
Emily Blunt: I think that’s what’s clever about the script. You see the situations she’s in, where she has to perform, and where he has to perform, and there’s a protocol to maintain, but you also have the private moments where all of that gets left at the door and it’s just them, and they’re very young, in love and frightened. So, wanted to find that balance between the performance and how they were a couple of awkward teenagers at the same time.
Q. What was it like having Princess Beatrice on set?
Emily Blunt: I get asked about this a lot and I think people think she’s in it a lot. Princess Beatrice came in and was incredibly friendly and carried my train, which was very nice and ironic!
Q. By playing a queen you’re following in the footsteps of actresses like Helen Mirren, Cate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench who have all been recognised with awards for their performances. Did that cross your mind?
Emily Blunt: I think that to follow in their footsteps is something tricky anyway because they’re all people that I admire. But I don’t know if playing the Queen of England means it could lead to an award. And I do think that we have made a very different film from others before us. I think certain royals have been portrayed in a much more kind of Hollywood-ized light, and I feel we’ve made a much more authentic film here. So, I don’t know if it will be regarded necessarily in the same light as them… it’s such a meat market all of that and I don’t even want to begin to go into it.
Q. Did you ever dream as a little girl of being a princess?
Emily Blunt: Definitely not! I was never a girl that dreamt of being a princess and I never dreamt about my wedding day. I hated pink and I hated fairies. I only liked hanging out with boys. I remember throwing a tantrum if my mum put me in pink. I wasn’t a particularly girly girl.
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Emily Blunt interview
- Rupert Friend interview
- Julian Fellowes interview
- The Young Victoria photo gallery