Leading Lady Emily Blunt talks to us exclusively about her new movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, as well as love, relationships, and a potential future as a Hollywood director.
You just appeared in a campaign for Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium fragrance. How was that experience?
That fragrance is quite nostalgic for a lot of people. I loved doing it, because there was an air of taboo about that whole time when the perfume came out. It was even banned in countries. There is such a kind of mystique about it. It was quite fun.
Are you into such campaigns per se?
I had never done one before, so it was very new and exciting. I hadn’t wanted to until it was the right project, and I think that YSL is prestigious, eclectic, and elegant. I loved that there was a story and a character to play. I didn’t feel like I was selling a perfume. I got to play this woman, this predatory woman, who is on the prowl. It was like a characterization. It was fun.
Do you like the fashion world?
Yeah, to a point. I don’t know a huge amount about it. I think you can dip in and out of it. I enjoy it; I like clothes, I love how they make people feel. I understand the artistry of it. It’s an incredibly artistic world. But I don’t live in it.
Are you more of a dreamer or a rational person?
A dreamer I would say.
Are there moments when you can be rational?
Yes. I am probably a bit of both. I can be very rational about things. It’s quite hard to upset me or throw me or shock me. I don’t tend to over-emotionalize things. That’s the rational side. But I also am a really hopeful person and I enjoy dreaming big. I am in a profession where it’s all about your gut and your imagination. Most actors are dreamers in some way. But you have to dream something and put it into action. People can dream and sit there in their living room and never get out and do it.
Your character and Ewan McGregor’s character in your new movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, are opposites that finally wind up with each other. Is this realistic?
That’s what I liked about the relationship. It felt real and complex. They had these outside influences. She is grieving for Robert and he is in an unhappy marriage. During the course of this far-fetched idea of introducing salmon fishing to Yemen, which requires great tenacity and hope, they shift and change. There is something really slow-burning about this friendship that grows into more. That does happen. Two people come together in ways that you don’t expect and they can be very different. I often see couples who have been together for years, who are incredibly different. That’s sometimes really nice.
So friendship is a good basis for a relationship?
It happens a lot. There are a huge amount of people it happens to.
And would you call this feeling growing out of this friendship love?
Love is love. It’s very hard to sum up. You know when you are in love with someone. It might be a friendship that grows into something more and it might be fairly immediate. Love is something you know quite instantly. There is an attraction, but love is very complex.
Have you achieved anything in your life that seemed absolutely unlikely at first?
Probably being an actress. So many people want to be actors. It’s a very hard business. I remember going into it with no expectations. So the fact that I am able to do this job feels very lucky and unlikely.
Did you study acting?
No, I didn’t train to be an actress. I went to regular school. But it’s a very competitive job, and it’s a very overcrowded world and 95 per cent of actors are out of work. Those are the stats.
This movie combines political satire with romance. Which genre do you like more?
I don’t approach movies thinking about a genre. I fall in love with stories and characters. It’s not that I want to be seen in this genre or that genre. And most of the time, films are a mixture of many different genres. This one is very hard to pin down. A lot of the Oscar movies that a lot of people love are hard to put into a certain category. I don’t think you should categorize stories. Stories should be allowed to be stories, even though journalists and Hollywood like to put them into boxes.
You once said that you find it awful that two people that are married are making a movie together…
I didn’t say it was awful, but you have to be very careful about what kind of movie it is. And how you expose your relationship. It very much depends on the movie. But it’s not something I’m running to do right now. I would, but I haven’t found something that is the right fit.
But if the parts were right…
Yeah, it would depend. You’d have to feel very sure of the script.
So you don’t plan your career step by step, in a way that you need to make one specific movie after the next?
No. I don’t want to strategize anything. You never know what’s going to work and what people are going to like. So it’s better to not have too much of a strategy. Because it’s so unpredictable how movies turn out and who is going to see it. I just like good stories; I don’t want to base it on: “I need to be seen in this light.” That seems a bit gross.
Do you have directors that you would like to work with?
I love Soderbergh, and all of Fincher’s movies. There are so many great directors.
Is there any kind of story you’d like to be a part of?
I don’t. I’d like to be surprised. I don’t necessarily have anything in mind. You read a script and you like it or not. I can’t dream up a script or an idea. I just have to wait until it feels like the right fit.
Have you pondered directing or writing yourself?
I have thought about it. It’s something I have to do in my own time. I have great admiration for actors who want to write and direct. It’s a wholly different avenue.
Could it be more interesting than acting?
I think so. But I’d only do it if I really believed in it and felt confident and passionate enough to do it.
How difficult is it for you to trust a director?
You go on character. You go on personality. You have to be quite open as an actor in general and have to find a really good rapport with people you are working with. It’s essential to be collaborative. So you have to allow yourself to be open and hope that others are going to be the same.
If you were to direct a movie, is there something you would avoid?
I would not be closed-off. It’s bad if you are too opinionated. You have to be open to everyone’s ideas.
Photos: Courtesy of TRUNK ARCHIVE