A toxic Heroine
Actress Emily Blunt says she's done with "likeable" female roles
Emily Blunt has no patience with "likeable" female roles.
So her latest part as an alcoholic depressive whose life is spiralling out of control is right up her alley in The Girl On The Train, the movie adaptation of Paula Hawkins' best-selling 2015 novel of the same name.
In the mystery thriller which opens here tomorrow, divorcee Rachel Watson (Blunt) becomes entangled in a missing persons investigation after witnessing something shocking on her daily train commute.
The 33-year-old English actress tells M: "I thought it was so unusual to have your protagonist be a blackout, raging alcoholic and for her to be a woman in a mainstream film. Women in mainstream Hollywood are usually required to be likeable or pretty or witty.
"Likeable equals bankable in some way. Men don't have those same constraints on them. And so it was such a rarity to read a script like this, and that was a huge draw for me."
We meet at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York City, and the new mum - she gave birth to her second daughter with US actor-husband John Krasinski in July - sports hair that's newly-blonde.
"I popped a kid out and then popped in a hair salon. I think I just fancied a change. I love changing my hair."
Actually, she found out she was pregnant about a week before she started shooting The Girl On The Train and didn't tell anyone.
"You can hide it for a great deal of time, but Justin (Theroux, who plays Rachel's cheating ex-husband) guessed. I was being a bit wussy about some of the stunts, and he was like, 'You did Edge Of Tomorrow, what is wrong with you? Are you pregnant?' I was like, 'Yes, don't tell anybody'," Blunt said with a laugh.
"So he had to be quite aware about what he couldn't do in some scenes."
She didn't even tell director Tate Taylor until she started showing.
"We were doing a scene in the bathtub and I was like, 'You are going to have to shoot this from behind and this is why'. And he was like, 'Oh, my God!' He had no idea. It was the first trimester and I was tired, and maybe in some ways my fragile state helped."
Blunt also found she had to detach herself from her own life in order to play this dark character.
"For me, acting is a form of empathy, and whether or not I agree with Rachel's actions or how she goes about life, or whether or not I go about that life that way myself, is irrelevant.
"I really just have to understand her. And it was a very toxic skin to wear for the duration of the shoot. But I have been around that type of person, and I feel for someone who has taken life's setbacks harder than others would."
So a lot of research went into alcoholic behaviour in order to get a handle on Rachel, "whether it was friends of mine who were recovering alcoholics, books I read, documentaries I watched".
Blunt said: "Because not only was it an emotional sort of capture that I had to get, but physically, how do you portray a drunk? There are many pitfalls to playing an alcoholic, I think, making it look too comedic. She is somebody who is embarrassing to be around. And how do you portray that physically?"
The drunken blackouts were the most interesting for her to learn about.
"The lack of ability in remembering what you have done is very frightening. It also makes you very easy to manipulate.
"To wake up with that kind of shame and panic as to what you might have done is a hard place to be every day. And then it just becomes cyclical, this awful, vicious circle that you drink more to numb out the shame, so it just continues and continues."
England is home and she misses her family, the pubs, "soggy chips from a chip shop", and the people's "irreverence and shoulder-shrugging attitude".
Blunt, Krasinski and their daughters now live in New York City, away from the pressures of Hollywood.
And then she says something that will make everyone who has ever worried about weight gain feel envious.
"I am from a family of like twig people so I feel lucky, and it's a sort of genetic thing. I am not somebody who strives to maintain a certain inch. Thank God."
"It was so unusual to have your protagonist be a blackout, raging alcoholic and for her to be a woman in a mainstream film."
- Emily Blunt on her role in The Girl On The Train