By Gill Pringle

“You should see the movie before you worry about whether I’m too pretty for the role,” Emily Blunt laughs when posed with the assertion put forward by Paula Hawkins, the author of the bestselling novel, The Girl On The Train. In Tate Taylor’s highly anticipated adaptation, Blunt plays Rachel Watson, a boozy, fragile divorcee who becomes entangled in a murder investigation that is soon revealed to be disturbingly close to home. “I would come into work with no make-up, and they would make me look even worse,” Blunt smiles. “They would add rosacea and bags. I had full contact lenses that covered my whole eye for the really drunken stuff that gave the whites of my eye a bloodshot effect. They had different levels, like pink was a bit buzzed, and then raging drunk was a really red eye. But I love the contact lenses because it gives such a strange glassiness. People look scary. When they’re really drunk, there’s something in their eyes that is really crazy. And the rosacea. I had the most incredible make-up artist who pulled up mugshots of famous people to draw inspiration from.”

Emily Blunt in The Girl On The Train
Emily Blunt in The Girl On The Train

Usually talked about in terms of her fine features and subtle brand of sultriness, Blunt goes strikingly against type in The Girl On The Train, which represents a powerful one-two punch after her superb work as a compromised FBI agent in the acclaimed thriller, Sicario. “I didn’t audition for it,” Blunt says of The Girl On The Train. “They approached me about it. I was complimented but also slightly concerned – nothing says Emily Blunt like black-out drunk! Oh, perfect! They were like [in American accent], ‘Oh, she’s going to be great!’ I think that quote from Paula Hawkins has been taken out of context a bit, and I think she’s probably a bit annoyed and wouldn’t want it out there. She made a joke before she saw the film saying, ‘Maybe Emily Blunt is a bit too pretty for it.’ And now it’s become this whole sort of thing… which is annoying. But when people see the film, they will not have any concern that I look pretty.”

After a string of less challenging roles, Emily Blunt’s acting talents finally took centre stage when she squeezed herself into a corset and displayed true regal bearing in her perfectly judged performance as the youthfully vibrant Queen Victoria in the acclaimed 2009 period drama, The Young Victoria. With one role, the British actress promoted a major shift in her career, and has been grabbing at far more interesting film roles ever since, with the likes of Your Sister’s Sister, Looper, and the aforementioned Sicario. Blunt, however, is still uncomfortable when it comes to watching herself on screen. “It’s unsettling to watch yourself anyway, but particularly in a role as dark and tormented as this,” the actress says. “It’s almost like watching somebody else… it’s a strange feeling. It’s funny because when I watch it, I just think, ‘That looks so tiring.’ But it was so satisfying to feel so challenged, and so stretched, by a role. Yes, it was tiring and it was all of those things, along with juggling the fact that I was pregnant at the same time. But I ultimately saw it as a very positive experience, because I discovered that I could do things that I hadn’t done before. That’s always a very satisfying feeling.”

Emily Blunt in The Girl On The Train
Emily Blunt in The Girl On The Train

Also satisfying for the actress was the film’s unconventional depiction of its female characters. “It’s a great thing to see women presented in a flawed light,” Blunt says. “They’re not held in some feminine idyll. They’re not necessarily likeable or witty or pretty or supportive. They are flawed. They are doing things that are wrong. They are going about things the wrong way. That’s life, and that’s a much more human portrayal of women. You don’t see it very often in cinema. I like that message.”

Blunt’s Rachel is literally cleaved apart from flaws. She’s scared of herself and what she’s capable of, but slowly starts to trust herself. Is Blunt ever plagued by self-doubt? “I have that feeling every time that I start a film,” she replies. “I have that feeling right before I arrive on a film set on the very first day. ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it. Oh god, am I doing this the right way?’ And then you just do it. The longer that I’ve done this job, the more that I’m really learning to trust my first instinct; that is the way to play it.”

With The Girl On The Train pretty much, ahem, on track to be a major hit, Emily Blunt’s cache as a box office draw is becoming ever more pronounced. “I don’t think about it,” she sighs. “Arrrggh. But it’s a nice feeling when it is mentioned to me. I try not to think of myself on those terms. But I’m obviously thrilled that if I fall in love with a little independent movie, I can get it made based on me, which I never could before. That’s a nice feeling.”

The Girl On The Train is released in cinemas on October 6.


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