EMILY BLUNT STARS AS THE BAKER'S WIFE IN NEW DISNEY FAIRYTALE INTO THE WOODS
Though initially trepidatious about making a musical – “Singing in front of anyone is like showing them your underwear,” she says – Emily Blunt wouldn’t change her Into the Woods experience for anything.
“Musicals, I have to say, are joyous. You just wanna run to work,” says the English actor.
With the musical – as well as three singing lessons a week for two months prior to shooting – under her belt, Blunt is now a far more confident warbler. A nomination for Best Actress at this weekend’s Golden Globes wouldn’t have dented that confidence, either.
“But I don’t know about taking on a Broadway musical,” she adds quickly, “that would be just terrifying.”
Into the Woods is Chicago director Rob Marshall’s lush movie adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s fairytale musical mashup, putting a modern twist on characters including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack of the Beanstalk fame.
The film’s all-star cast includes Meryl Streep as the witch, Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Chris Pine as her prince, Johnny Depp as the wolf and James Corden as the baker.
Blunt found it the “ultimate irony” to be playing the baker’s wife, a woman cursed to never bear children, while she was pregnant with her first.
“It was bizarre and yet poignant for me,” says Blunt, 31, who with actor/writer husband John Krasinski welcomed a daughter, Hazel, last February.
“I felt incredibly lucky because it is just a wonderful thing. But I understood the baker’s wife so much, this woman blinded by desperation. There are a lot of women like that who are either unable to have kids or have been trying for years and it’s all they think about, it’s all they see.”
As filming on Into the Woods progressed, Blunt grew bigger and bigger.
“They hid me behind trees and cows and scarfs and other characters,” she laughs. “But the objects just got progressively bigger. By the end of the film, the cow was my pregnancy cow, specifically for hiding me.”
It didn’t slow her down, however. Blunt even claims to have saved the life of Streep – her old The Devil Wears Prada sparring partner – when the veteran tripped on her witch’s cape and was tumbling headfirst from a tabletop towards a concrete floor.
While Corden and Marshall froze, Blunt leapt into action and rescued Streep – “The pregnant woman caught her!” as she told David Letterman.
That’s just the kind of modern, independent, can-do woman Blunt is. And that’s why Into the Woods is her kind of fairytale, one where Cinderella doesn’t need a man to have a happily ever after.
“I like this Cinderella – she decides the Prince is a bit of a douche,” Blunt laughs, “and that she wants more. She feels OK saying, ‘I want something different, this is not what I thought it would be’.
“That’s a much more honest portrayal and definitely one I want my daughter to see. Not only is that a man doesn’t necessarily lead to a better life, but to also see women making smart decisions for themselves and their future happiness. That’s what I love about this movie, it’s not so much about fantasy, but more about reality.”
Since giving birth to Hazel, Blunt has made just one film – Sicario, a crime thriller by Prisoners director Denis Villeneuve in which she plays a green FBI agent pushed to her limits in taking down a drug cartel.
“It was a pretty heavy and meaty role. She’s thrown into the lawless world of the war on drugs, so her moral standpoint is being questioned at every turn,” says Blunt, who co-stars with Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin.
Blunt has crushed physically-tough roles before – see Looper and Edge of Tomorrow – but the mentallytough Sicario posed a new kind of challenge.
“I usually I have a pretty good ability to detach and leave work at work,” she says. “But there was a specific scene in Sicario that I had trouble sleeping ’cos it was really intense.
“I’ll talk to you about when you see it, ’cos I don’t want to ruin it.”
Into The Woods opens today.
James Corden, as the baker, and Emily Blunt, his Into the Woods wife, meet the witch (Meryl Streep).