EMILY Blunt might not be a proud American, in view of her recent controversial comments after getting her citizenship, but the British actress has come a long way in her career. From being a stutterer as a child to playing a mean assistant in The Devil Wears Prada to fighting the big bad aliens in the Edge of Tomorrow, Blunt, 32, is back as an FBI agent in Sicario. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the movie sees her setting out on a mission to assist the drug-war operation on the US-Mexico border. More from the actress.
The character you play is a dark one. What attracted you to it?
I liked that I was playing a character with a big moral dilemma. She knows that doing things by the book is the right way—but is it actually making a difference? So you have a character who’s caught up in this rather incoherent world of the CIA and the cartel, and their way of doing things, which is totally out of bounds and illegal. Yet she knows she’s not scratching the surface doing what she’s doing.
You’ve played a lot of women who are very good with guns recently — Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods. Do you enjoy it?
I’ve always been drawn to strong female roles, but I think people make the mistake of thinking that the strong ones are the ones with a gun. The character I played in Into the Woods is someone who’s a bit scatty and a bit crazed, but she is somebody who ultimately is desperate for a child and she’ll do anything in her power to get what she wants.
Do you think there’s a shift in Hollywood in terms of roles that are typically more male but are now played by women, like action heroes?
I do feel that there’s a turn happening. Hollywood seems to be a more positive place for women than it was five years ago. Movies like Bridesmaids made a gazillion dollars and it was all women—and the men went to see it, too. But you still have to sift through a lot to find a great female character and they’re often in independent movies, which is why I’ve ended up doing a lot of those.
Did you spend any time with the FBI to research your role?
I spoke to a lot of FBI girls and they’re very matter-of-fact. None of them, out of the five I spoke to, have relationships, which I thought was really interesting. I asked if it worked that way for the men as well. And they said no, because they have wives who stay at home usually and take care of the kids. But the women either had bad relationships or tried to be with someone in law enforcement. I asked what they did to decompress, what they did after they raided a house or someone’s been shot or a kid has died. And a lot of them said they just go home or go for a drink with a friend who’s not in the industry. One woman said she goes home and watches Game of Thrones and The Office. I said I’ll tell my husband (John Krasinski); he’ll be really happy to know that he’s your outlet.
Has it given you a new respect for law enforcement?
Definitely. The FBI girls said the most frightening thing they deal with is the moment before they walk through the door because they don’t know what’s on the other side. That takes a huge amount of courage.
Did Tom Cruise ever give you any advice for your action roles?
He was incredibly encouraging when it came to the stunts in Edge of Tomorrow. I did learn a few moves on this one as well. I could probably take a person down.
Sicario releases today.