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As soon as you have chil­dren, you are in a per­pet­ual state of slight dis­trac­tion

The Lon­don ac­tress who took Hol­ly­wood by storm and is now star­ring in two of the year’s big­gest cin­ema re­leases talks to Tif­fanie Darke

Iwasn’t sure I was go­ing to be able to watch Emily Blunt’s new movie. It’s hor­ror, and no mat­ter how ‘hot’ hor­ror is right now, I can’t watch it. It started when I ac­ci­den­tally watched Wolf Creek in the mid­dle of the night while breast­feed­ing. It trau­ma­tised me, and for months my ex­pe­ri­ence of new moth­er­hood was tor­mented by the idea that a psy­chotic tor­turer might be out to mur­der my new fam­ily, which, strangely, is ex­actly the axis Blunt’s new movie fol­lows: ter­ror, par­ent­ing and the ter­ror of par­ent­ing.

“I don’t watch hor­ror films ei­ther,” Blunt cries in her cut-glass vow­els when I con­fess. Bright-eyed and game, she is dressed in clas­sic Brook­lyn hip­ster mum gear as she leans across the sofa at her hus­band’s Tribeca pro­duc­tion com­pany. “I would never be able to go and see It. I’ve not watched most of Get Out be­cause I was too scared, which I apol­o­gised to Daniel for, be­cause he’s my friend.”

Get Out was this year’s sur­prise Os­car hit, Jor­dan Peele’s hor­ror film star­ring Daniel Kalu­uya lift­ing the genre to new ac­claim. Of course Kalu­uya is her friend — she and her hus­band, John Krasin­ski (‘Jim’ in the Amer­i­can ver­sion of The Of­fice), are one of the most pop­u­lar cou­ples in Hol­ly­wood, while man­ag­ing to mostly slip un­der the pa­parazzi radar. James Cor­den, Amy Adams, Jen­nifer and Justin, Ge­orge and Amal — all are close per­sonal friends, and if pic­tures of the in­sanely gor­geous house in the Hol­ly­wood Hills they sold to Ken­dall Jen­ner in 2016 are any­thing to go by, their life there was pretty damn fab­u­lous.

Blunt met Krasin­ski through a friend — “I never talk about it be­cause it was such a spe­cial thing, just for us,” she blushes — but says she knew right away he was The One. “I re­ally did, ac­tu­ally. I re­ally did.” Not long after they were mar­ried, along came Hazel, now four, and Vi­o­let, al­most two. Now de­camped to New York, this week sees the birth of baby num­ber three: the pre­miere of their first film to­gether, A Quiet Place.

So, with such bliss­ful friends and fam­ily… why hor­ror? Blunt shakes her head and laughs. “One of the only hor­ror films I have ac­tu­ally seen is Jaws,” she says, ges­tur­ing to the wall op­po­site on which Krasin­ski has hung a gallery’s worth of movie posters. “Jaws is one of his favourite films, and it’s one of my favourite films. I’m ob­sessed be­cause it’s not es­sen­tially about this shark cre­at­ing blood­filled gore in the ocean. It’s re­ally about the deeper dy­nam­ics be­tween three men who are all hav­ing to over­come some­thing.”

This is how the cou­ple tack­led A Quiet Place. Set in a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic world in which crea­tures prey on hu­mans, it’s about one fam­ily’s at­tempt to sur­vive. The crea­tures hunt down their prey with sound, which sets up the rather un­likely propo­si­tion that the fam­ily has to sur­vive by walk­ing ev­ery­where bare­foot, sign­ing, eat­ing off leaves and — big one for the kids, this — no play­ing with noisy toys. “It’s a sort of deeper metaphor of par­ent­hood,” Blunt ex­plains. “Our re­luc­tance and fear of send­ing our kids out into a bru­tal, fragile world, and here it is in height­ened re­al­ity.” Which is some­thing Krasin­ski and Blunt can draw on in spades.

“The idea of not be­ing able to pro­tect your kids from some­thing, that is so real to me,” she says. “This was more per­sonal than any­thing else I’d done and I was ab­so­lutely wiped out by it. I ac­tu­ally never ap­proach emo­tional scenes like that. My process has never been to go, ‘Well, I’m gonna think about Hazel and Vi­o­let’. But I think any mother would em­pathise so deeply be­cause it would be your worst night­mare.”

Scrubbed of make-up and in down­town win­ter uni­form of Mon­cler wedge boots and jeans by Frame (“My favourite denim line”), Blunt has man­aged to re­main re­fresh­ingly English, forth­right and down to earth. She’s def­i­nitely fun, crack­ing jokes and burst­ing into reg­u­lar peals of laugh­ter when talk­ing about Brook­lyn be­ing just like north Lon­don, shop­ping for sweat­pants for her hus­band in Lu­l­ule­mon or her four-year-old teach­ing her about the Har­lem re­nais­sance (“I was cry­ing with laugh­ter with John about it. It was like she was pa­tro­n­is­ing me”). A night round the kitchen ta­ble at the Krasin­ski town­house would, one sus­pects, in­volve plenty of wine, stub­bing your toe on a pile of toys and an Uber home much later than in­tended.

But make no mis­take, Blunt is se­ri­ous busi­ness at the box of­fice. Ever since she wowed the world with her turn in The Devil Wears Prada, she has picked up a string of in­ter­est­ing roles, shift­ing be­tween gen­res from ac­tion (Si­cario) to ro­mance (Sal­mon Fish­ing in the Ye­men) to sci-fi (Looper, Edge of To­mor­row op­po­site Tom Cruise), to mu­si­cal (Into the Woods) to last year’s break-out lead in The Girl on the Train. Next Christ­mas, megas­tar­dom beck­ons when she steps up as the new Mary Pop­pins, but in be­tween she and her hus­band elected to do what most mar­ried cou­ples would stay well away from — work on their first joint project. Krasin­ski di­rects and takes the lead, Blunt plays his wife. “We’ve al­ways wanted to work to­gether and when this came along I re­alised the con­cept was so much big­ger than, ‘They’re a mar­ried cou­ple’. We were ner­vous be­cause we’ve al­ways been the sec­ond-hand au­di­ence to the re­hash­ing of what we might have gone through that day on set. And ul­ti­mately we re­ally un­der­stand each other’s worlds be­cause it’s the same world.” They shot the whole film in six weeks, cast and crew camped out in the bu­colic up­state New York coun­try­side. “We drank a lot of whiskey. It was just such an in­tense world to be in, all day, and such an in­ti­mate world be­cause we’re shoot­ing on this glo­ri­ous farm, but ev­ery­thing’s hap­pen­ing in that mo­ment.” There are very few on-screen mo­ments be­tween the two, and yet their re­la­tion­ship is ut­terly con­vinc­ing. “The film was ac­tu­ally go­ing to ben­e­fit from the fact that we were a mar­ried cou­ple, be­cause we had this se­cret lan­guage we could bring.” Which leaves plenty of room for the kids, who be­come the fo­cus — as one sus­pects they are in real life. “As soon as you have chil­dren, you are

in a sort of per­pet­ual state of slight dis­trac­tion,” says Blunt. “Think­ing about your chil­dren, your own life be­comes sec­ondary.” It was chil­dren that prompted her and her hus­band to leave be­hind Tin­sel­town and head back to the gritty re­al­ity of urban life.

“I feel a lot more sup­ported in my quest to cre­ate an ex­cit­ing en­vi­ron­ment for my girls in Brook­lyn. LA, how­ever lovely it was to live in the sunshine — and we have won­der­ful friends there — was com­pletely alien to what I knew. The idea of cre­at­ing a world where my daugh­ters can be in­ter­est­ing and in­ter­ested is giv­ing me a sense of great calm that I don’t know I felt be­fore.”

With her daugh­ter lec­tur­ing her on Ella Fitzger­ald and Josephine Baker, that must feel good. “Brook­lyn’s kind of amaz­ing, I’m not gonna lie,” she coos. “It’s a strange, utopian, fab­u­lous world. John and I have be­come in­sti­tu­tion­alised; we just stay in Brook­lyn now. The peo­ple are cool, we walk ev­ery­where. The restau­rants are fab­u­lous and ev­ery­one has a stroller, so we fit right in.”

They don’t get both­ered in the street, which is a bonus “be­cause I re­ally love the idea of still be­ing able to blend in. There’s a lot of very, very fa­mous peo­ple in Brook­lyn and it’s just a won­der­fully sup­port­ive com­mu­nity. They just let you be who you want to be”.

Blunt was raised near Rich­mond Park, so all this feels com­fort­ably fa­mil­iar. “There’s a tenac­ity and en­ergy here. There’s a har­di­ness you need as well to live in New York, sim­ply be­cause of the con­di­tions alone. You gotta have your wits about you. It’s sim­i­lar to Lon­don and how I grew up.”

She must miss Lon­don — her mum (an ac­tress), dad (a bar­ris­ter) and three sib­lings still live there. Born in Wandsworth, Blunt was dis­cov­ered and signed by an agent while she was a pupil at Hurt­wood House in Dork­ing, Sur­rey. She made her pro­fes­sional de­but in 2001 op­po­site Dame Judi Dench in Sir Peter Hall’s pro­duc­tion of The Royal Fam­ily. More the­atre work fol­lowed, along with film and — her big break­through — a role op­po­site Bill Nighy and Mi­randa Richardson in TV drama Gideon’s Daugh­ter, writ­ten and di­rected by Stephen Po­li­akoff. Her turn as the daugh­ter of the New Labour spin doc­tor Gideon Warner won her a Golden Globe for Best Sup­port­ing Ac­tress.

How did her fam­ily feel when she an­nounced she was get­ting hitched to an Amer­i­can? “He’s from Bos­ton. They’re quite Bri­tish, the Bos­to­ni­ans, you know?” she grins. Maybe with her suc­cess they had al­ready re­signed them­selves to her liv­ing abroad?

“You know, they hadn’t. I had bought a flat in Not­ting Hill, so I think they were hop­ing that I was go­ing to just stay there.” Still, Blunt is back fre­quently, and all film­ing of Mary Pop­pins took place in the UK. Her mum must have been sad to say good­bye. “But, she’s got my three other sib­lings over there. She’s fine. She’s got ... other grand­kids,” she laughs. Her un­cle is Crispin Blunt, the Brexit-sup­port­ing Tory MP whose po­lit­i­cal view­point Blunt does not share. “I think it’s re­ally sad,” she says. “I’m re­ally bummed about it. I think that ‘Glob­al­i­sa­tion is here guys, come on!’ It is an in­ter­est­ing time in the world be­cause it’s fragile, be­cause it feels un­safe. It’s be­come this sort of ‘each to their own’ men­tal­ity. You feel peo­ple be­com­ing more guarded, and more in the need to pro­tect. It’s sad.”

Blunt won’t be drawn on the cur­rent Brexit lead­er­ship, re­count­ing one of the only times she put a foot wrong. An off­hand re­mark about Trump and re­gret­ting her US cit­i­zen­ship led to a me­dia back­lash. “It was a fairly in­nocu­ous joke be­cause, you know, where I’m from we poke fun at our pub­lic fig­ures.” But Amer­i­cans did not see it that way and Blunt was forced to apol­o­gise. “I think I wasn’t quite Amer­i­can enough to be able to say that.” She cringes at the mem­ory. “I have to be re­ally care­ful now. Cer­tain sub­jects, I just can’t. Be­cause I’m also some­one who loathes get­ting in trou­ble. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loathed get­ting in trou­ble.”

No doubt. Blunt is head girl ma­te­rial, likes to play by the rules and, in an­other world, with her nice, mid­dle-class up­bring­ing, would maybe have been a mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive at L’Oréal, or per­haps a school-gate mum with a solid char­ity side­line. She ac­tu­ally seems the most un­likely girl to have hit the high life , but her act­ing is very good. Quite what she draws on to get into char­ac­ter is a mys­tery. My guess is she’s a lis­tener; she suf­fered from a stut­ter as a child and per­haps her nerves have made her an ob­server. The hour we sat on the sofa was highly en­ter­tain­ing, but all the time I could feel her watch­ing me, try­ing to get a mea­sure. In the end, I did make it through the film, dig­ging my fin­ger­nails into my palms dur­ing the ter­ri­fy­ing bits, but held in my seat as much by her act­ing as the deep fears of my own fam­ily life played out in front of me. The mother who Blunt plays is warm and lov­ing, but at the same time tough and un­yield­ing. That har­di­ness — that may be it. “I’m the will to live,” she says of her part. “To cre­ate that sort of life in their world, how­ever fright­en­ing it is, she’s gonna f***ing do it. I will live against all odds.” And with that it’s time to exit back into the late win­ter bliz­zards and the mean streets of Park Slope, Brook­lyn.

A Quiet Place is in cin­e­mas from April 5 with na­tion­wide pre­views on April 2

ENGLISH ROSE: Emily Blunt at the Os­cars and (be­low) in new movies A Quiet Place and Mary Pop­pins. Right, in The Girl on the Train

POWER COU­PLE: Emily Blunt with hus­band John Krasin­ski

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