THE GIRL WHO IS SEE­ING

Emily Blunt says she was ter­ri­fied by the un­like­able role of Rachel Wat­son in The Girl on the Train – but she de­cided to take it any­way

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES - TIF­FANY BAKKER

IF Emily Blunt thought that play­ing an emo­tion­ally shat­tered, self-loathing al­co­holic in the thriller The Girl on the Train might be a dif­fi­cult skin to shed at the end of each day, her two-year-old daugh­ter, Hazel, swiftly brought things back into fo­cus.

“I re­mem­ber it had been a re­ally long day and the scenes had been quite drain­ing,” says the 33-year-old Bri­tish ac­tor while sit­ting in a ho­tel room over­look­ing New York’s Cen­tral Park. “And I got home and Hazel had a hor­ri­ble stom­ach bug. She got into bed with me be­cause she was so ill and I just re­mem­ber wak­ing up to her pro­jec­tile vom­it­ing into my face. So, that im­me­di­ately brings you back to re­al­ity.”

In the film adap­ta­tion of exjour­nal­ist Paula Hawkins’ phe­nom­e­nally suc­cess­ful thriller, The Girl on the Train (think this year’s Gone Girl), Blunt plays Rachel, a re­cently di­vorced woman tee­ter­ing on the edge of an emo­tional abyss. Tak­ing the train from her subur­ban New York home (the set­ting has moved from the novel’s Lon­don lo­ca­tion) each day to a city job we never see her in, Rachel watches out the win­dow, peer­ing into the home and life of what she per­ceives as a per­fect cou­ple.

But the sub­urbs have se­crets and Rachel, who is prone to al­co­hol-in­duced black­outs, thinks she might have done some­thing ter­ri­ble when the woman whose life she cov­ets goes miss­ing.

“I was just ter­ri­fied of play­ing her. That’s usu­ally a good in­di­ca­tor of why I want to do some­thing, if it seems so out of reach to me,” Blunt says. “And I loved that your fe­male pro­tag­o­nist is a rag­ing al­co­holic in a main­stream film. It’s a very un­usual thing to see on screen.”

Blunt says the fact that Rachel is not overly “like­able” is some­thing of a break­through for women in film.

“Women are held to this ideal of be­ing like­able and pretty and witty and sup­port­ive. It drives me crazy,” she says, adding that it’s good to see a woman painted in a “more truth­ful, flawed and hu­man light”.

Still, some things never change, and much of the com­men­tary sur­round­ing the film, an­noy­ingly, has cen­tred on the fact Blunt is ap­par­ently “too pretty” to play the trou­bled Rachel, a nar­ra­tive that also drives Blunt to dis­trac­tion.

“I think it’s easy to talk about it in a su­per­fi­cial way. And I un­der­stand why peo­ple are men­tion­ing it, but I think it’s an easy thing to say,” she says. “I mean, it’s pretty ap­par­ent I look like s**t in the movie. But it’s not about me hav­ing some sort of make­un­der. This char­ac­ter is very sad. I had a lot of em­pa­thy for her.”

And as Rachel yearns for a more pic­ture-per­fect life, Blunt gets why so­ci­ety seems to grow ever more celebrity-ob­sessed with each pass­ing gossip story.

“We do ide­alise peo­ple’s lives,” she says. “We do have that de­sire to see be­hind closed doors. And I think, specif­i­cally, if you are in the public eye nowa­days, the public is only pre­sented with im­ages of per­fec­tion, and the red car­pet, and your per­fect life. No­body ever posts a pic­ture of their tod­dler hav­ing a tantrum, or them­selves look­ing like s**t, or fight­ing with their hus­band.”

For Blunt, it’s all about the work. In a var­ied ca­reer she’s played a scene-steal­ing, acer­bic fash­ion mag­a­zine as­sis­tant in The Devil Wears Prada, an FBI agent fight­ing Mex­i­can drug car­tels in the ex­cel­lent Si­cario, and a kick-butt spe­cial forces war­rior up against an alien in­va­sion in Edge of To­mor­row.

These days, she says, she’s “more spe­cific” about what she’s putting out into the world.

“But I’m very for­tu­nate that I’m in a po­si­tion where I’ve been af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to be choosy,” she says. “And that’s not some­thing I take lightly.”

As for favourite co-stars, one fa­mous name abounds.

“I love Meryl Streep,” she grins. “Com­pletely.”

Blunt says she un­der­stands why Streep, with whom she starred in The Devil Wears Prada and Into the Woods, is so uni­ver­sally adored. Streep ap­par­ently not so much.

“Meryl is so beloved,” she says. “She’s like: ‘Oh, please.’ She’s sick of be­ing beloved. I think she wants some haters. But if I ever needed ad­vice on how to nav­i­gate some­thing in this busi­ness, I would go to her.

“I would also go to her to nav­i­gate some­thing about be­ing a mother. She’s just one of those peo­ple that’s done it right.” opens to­day

Emily Blunt in a scene from The Girl on the Train, which is di­rected by Tate Tay­lor.

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