Ac­tress Emily Blunt plays a trou­bled al­co­holic in grip­ping ‘The Girl on the Train’

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Amy Longs­dorf For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

Be­fore she landed the star­ring role in the adap­ta­tion of Paula Hawkins’ best­seller “The Girl on the Train,” Emily Blunt re­mem­bers see­ing the book ev­ery­where. But she was de­ter­mined not to jump on­board.

“I saw ev­ery­one read­ing it,” says Blunt. “It was just a ti­tle you saw ab­so­lutely ev­ery­where. But I was a bit con­trary be­cause I thought, ‘Well I’m not go­ing to read the book ev­ery­one’s read­ing. I don’t want to be in the book club for ‘The Girl on the Train.’ ”

Blunt quickly changed her tune when she heard that a movie adap­ta­tion was in the works and that direc­tor Tate Tay­lor (“The Help”) wanted her for the role of Rachel Wat­son, a woman reel­ing from her re­cent di­vorce from hus­band Tom (Justin Th­er­oux). Af­ter hit­ting the bot­tle a bit too hard, Rachel loses her job and be­gins stalk­ing Tom and his new wife (Rebecca Fer­gu­son).

Rachel also grows ob­sessed with one of Tom’s neigh­bors, a woman named Me­gan (Ha­ley Ben­nett) whom she be­lieves has the per­fect mar­riage. Then one day Me­gan van­ishes and Rachel be­gins to ques­tion her own role in Me­gan’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

Once Blunt fi­nally sat down to read “The Girl On the Train,” she be­came a be­liever.

“It’s easy to see why it be­came this run­away sen­sa­tion,” says the ac­tress. “It grips you in the most jar­ring way and it’s sus­pense­ful and confusing, and has these in­ter­weav­ing nar­ra­tives and an un­re­li­able nar­ra­tor.

“I think also these do­mes­tic thrillers are tan­ta­liz­ing au­di­ences be­cause they feel close to home. They feel re­lat­able. The height­ened re­al­i­ties you see in the su­per­hero movies and big sci-fi movies some­times anes­thetize you to ac­tu­ally feel­ing any­thing be­cause you don’t re­late.

“But this book is so hu­man. And it’s a de­pic­tion of the un­der­belly of do­mes­tic life, which a lot of peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s also [about] the strive for per­fec­tion, the [no­tion] that the grass is greener on the other side, and the voyeuris­tic ten­den­cies in all of us. There were so many themes that felt so ac­ces­si­ble to me.”

Af­ter break­ing through with Amer­i­can au­di­ences in “The Devil Wears Prada,” the British ac­tress has been putting to­gether a di­verse ca­reer that ranges from ac­tion fare (“Si­cario,” “Edge of To­mor­row”) to ro­man­tic come­dies (“Five-Year En­gage­ment,” “Your Sis­ter’s Sis­ter”) to mu­si­cals (“Into the Woods”).

Blunt knew that “The Girl on the Train” would rank as one of the tough­est and po­ten­tially ful­fill­ing as­sign­ments of her ca­reer

“It’s a thriller and it’s got to move like a thriller but [the main char­ac­ter] suf­fers from [al­co­holism],” say Blunt, 33. “So the film is less about her be­ing a sort of Nancy Drew char­ac­ter try­ing to work out who­dunit than it is about her try­ing to make sure she didn’t do it.

“I thought, ‘How fan­tas­tic for a fe­male lead and your fe­male pro­tag­o­nist, your hero­ine, to be a black-out drunk?’ ”

Since al­co­holism is one of Rachel’s defin­ing traits, Blunt was de­ter­mined to de­pict the disease ac­cu­rately.

So, how did she pre­pare?

“Well, num­ber one, that’s just me on a Fri­day night, usu­ally,” she teases.

“No, here’s the thing. I think there’s a lot of pit­falls to play­ing an al­co­holic . ... I just wanted it to be as au­then­tic and raw and ugly as pos­si­ble. It’s an ugly disease.

“Once it has its claws in you, the idea of a bet­ter life is im­pos­si­ble. Her in­fat­u­a­tion with al­co­hol has be­come the only re­la­tion­ship that is on­go­ing in her life. How fright­en­ing that is!

“It’s an ugly thing when you’re around a drunk. It’s not funny, and I think one of the pit­falls is that it’s a bit com­i­cal to watch ... and I was ner­vous of it seem­ing funny. I watched a lot of doc­u­men­taries on al­co­holism be­cause rather than watch­ing ac­tors play­ing al­co­holics, I just needed to watch the re­al­ity of what it was.

“The TV show ‘In­ter­ven­tion’ was a fan­tas­tic source which I watched on a loop . ... I read books on de­pres­sion and drink­ing. And I know some al­co­holics and I spoke to some of them . ... So, all those sources were ev­ery­thing to me when it came to por­tray­ing this part.”

In an ironic twist, Blunt wound up dis­cov­er­ing she was preg­nant with her sec­ond child with ac­tor/ hus­band John Krasin­ski af­ter land­ing the role. In the movie, Rachel be­gins her down­ward spi­ral par­tially be­cause she can’t have chil­dren.

Blunt be­lieves her own con­di­tion made her even more in tune with Rachel.

“I had such em­pa­thy for this char­ac­ter,” says the ac­tress who gave birth to Vi­o­let in June. Her other daugh­ter, Hazel, is 2 years old. “I know a cou­ple of friends who have tried des­per­ately [to have kids] and all they think about is be­ing a mother and be­ing un­able to be a mother.

“When you be­come a mother, cer­tainly for me, my heart has been just com­pletely cracked open and any­thing to do with be­ing a mother or chil­dren, I weep in­stantly. So it was a strange thing to be preg­nant while play­ing this part but I’m some­one who tries not to tor­ture my­self with any part I’m play­ing, par­tic­u­larly.

“I couldn’t be in that mind­set all the time so I’d just find ways to un­wind, like the long car ride home, which was very help­ful. But I also had a tod­dler at home who didn’t care whether I was re­ally good in the scene.

“It’s an in­ter­est­ing thing: You don’t of­ten hear about women be­ing method, or moth­ers be­ing method. We’re not given much of an op­por­tu­nity, I think.”

For her next movie, Blunt steps into Julie An­drews’ shoes for “Mary Pop­pins Re­turns,” a mu­si­cal re­boot of the classic fam­ily film which will co-star “Hamil­ton’s’ LinManuel Mi­randa and Meryl Streep.

Af­ter “Girl on the Train,” Blunt is happy for the change of pace.

“You need both [dra­mas and come­dies],” says the ac­tress. “I need both. I love the ex­tremes. I love to fluc­tu­ate be­tween the ex­tremes of what’s out there and what’s on of­fer.

“I do like to mix it up for my own en­joy­ment, and my own need for a chal­lenge, I guess. I don’t have a pref­er­ence, re­ally, but I have done a cou­ple of dark films re­cently so I think it will be nice to go to­wards the light for a lit­tle bit.”


In this im­age re­leased by Univer­sal Pic­tures, Emily Blunt ap­pears in a scene from, “The Girl on the Train.”


In this im­age re­leased by Univer­sal Pic­tures, Al­li­son Jan­ney, left, and Emily Blunt ap­pear in a scene from, “The Girl on the Train.”

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