Butching Out: Emily Blunt on Looper and All You Need is Kill

Why you have to see Looper more than once and transitioning to action movies with Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


When we talked to Emily Blunt at Comic Con, we had not seen Looper yet. Now that we’ve seen it we have a whole batch of new questions for her. Ms. Blunt made time for another interview by phone from a break in production on her next sci-fi film, All You Need Is Kill. In Looper, Blunt plays Sara, a farmer whose son just may grow up to be the deadliest mobster in the future. We’re also glad she laughed at our time travel questions.


CraveOnline: At Comic-Con you told us you read the script to Looper three times. I understand now because I’ll watch it over again. What did you get out of reading the script three times?

Emily Blunt: Well, I think I wanted to read it three times just to fully grasp its complexity before I sat down with the director and pitched Rian [Johnson] on why I thought he should let me play the part. More than anything I think I was just so stunned by it so I wanted to read it again to just truly try and figure out how someone had managed to write something like this. I mean, it just wasn’t derivative of anything, it wasn’t generic in any way. It was just so breathtakingly original and so I think it’s rich in complexity in many ways. In the emotional sense and also in the aesthetic sense so I think it just takes a couple of reads and probably a couple of watches of the movie to fully admire how ambitious it is.


Did any part of you think, “Just kill that kid!”?

Nooo. Of course not, no. Absolutely not. He’s a little boy. That was the point of making him so young and vulnerable. That’s the theory of nature versus nurture.


What were your suggestions for the character?

Well, really it was all there on the page to be honest. I think that I really loved the tough exterior with the inner guilt that she sort of torments herself with. I love that unraveling of the character that you don’t know why she’s so tough, you don’t know why she’s so protective. Gradually it unfolds throughout the course of the third act. So really what I said to Rian was that we’ve got to make this whole sequence in the third act like that movie Witness. It’s got to have that sort of pastoral tension to it and the feeling of someone coming in that’s alien to your world and disrupting everything and how frightening that must be for her. So I think really I wanted to make sure we maintain the mystique of the character as long as we could.


Witness is a good reference. It made me remember times in my life where I’ve had a visitor, male or female, and then once they’re gone, you’re back to normal and they’re just some memory you have. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Yeah, I wonder because I think what’s nice is the end of the film is left kind of open ended as to what will happen for those two characters. I think you know when those people come into your lives and they make an impact. You know how much they impact you but yet I think that influence coming into her life is so new to her, it’s so alien, it’s not something she’s used to.


Was the blonde hair your idea?

I think Rian and I talked about it. I said, “How did you envision her?” And he said, “Fair. Fair-haired.” I think that I wanted her to feel weather beaten. She’s someone who’s outside all the time and I’m tanned in the movie as opposed to my usual Casper the Friendly Ghost skin color which I wanted to get away from to play this tough Midwestern girl. So I think we wanted that sort of oppressive hot feel to the farm, and it felt right physically for the character to be weather beaten and fair-haired.


Was the tan a lot of makeup every day?

No, I actually lay in the sun a lot around the time of the movie and leading up to it. I had to resort to going to those dreadful sun beds and then we’d add a little makeup on top of it and that kind of thing. But it takes me a really long time to get a tan. I tan really slowly. Once I’m dark I go pretty dark but it was a slow process to get me that color.


So you didn’t spray tan?

No, I hate the smell.


Was the accent no problem for you?

You tell me. [Laughs] You tell me. I had a dialect coach who I worked with before I started. She wasn’t on set with me but she’s great and we decided on a Kansas sound. The person I listened to a lot was Chris Cooper who’s from Kansas and grew up on a farm. I loved his voice and it sounded very grounded. I found it more helpful to listen to guys than girls because of the toughness of the character.


Which Chris Cooper movies did you watch?

I watched American Beauty and I watched Adaptation but I mainly listened to his interviews, him giving interviews and stuff.


Are you getting into an action phase of your career now with Looper and All You Need Is Kill?

Apparently so. Apparently so. I don’t know what possessed me but I’m loving it.


How did the action of Looper compare to even Wild Target?

Oh gosh. [Laughs] Wild Target there was a bit of running about in high heels. Looper, if I’m swinging an axe and wielding a big gun, that’s slightly more action packed.


Didn’t you have a gun in Wild Target?

I did briefly but I don’t think I handled it very well.


How much more intense is All You Need Is Kill?

I’m literally right now stretching on a rubber ball as I talk to you because I screwed my back up today. It is the most intense thing I’ve ever done. I’ll absolutely say that but it’s really fun and I’m in the hands of a big action star in Tom Cruise that he knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s being very helpful at pointing me in the right direction.


Both Tom Cruise and Bruce Willis each have such unique impact in the action genre. What do you get out of being in a Bruce movie versus a Tom movie?

I think both actors bring so much gravitas to the movies that they’re in simply by their reputation but also by the charisma. It’s a heavy load to carry an action movie and to still make the character rich and likable and watchable. So I think that it’s actually easier said than done and I think those guys bring such gravitas to everything. That’s what I love most about their action movies.


Do you play a soldier in All You Need is Kill?

I do. I play a highly decorated soldier.


How did you get into that character?

Sort of swaggering around in Doc Martin boots and cool gear, but I’ve also been training like a lunatic for it. It’s been martial arts, fight skills, stunt training, wirework, weight lifting. I’m definitely butching out on this one.


You know, they’re talking about doing a female Expendables. After these two movies, would you be up for that?

Oh my goodness, are they really? Who would it be? It could be Sigourney Weaver.


Geena Davis, Linda Hamilton.

Geena Davis, Linda Hamilton would have to do it, Angelina, we’d have to get her roped in, Charlize.


Jennifer Garner.

Jennifer Garner for sure.


Did you feel like you made it in your career when you got to do a voice on “The Simpsons?”

I was really honored actually. I was really surprised that they even knew who I was because that was a while back that I did that. It was thrilling, it really was.


When you’re on the set of movies like Looper and All You Need Is Kill, what sort of philosophical time travel or ethical conversations do you have on the set?

Oh God, what are you talking about? [Laughs] We don’t talk about stuff like that. We talk about what we’re having for lunch. We have enough on our plate.


Well, I can tell you that’s what I think about when I see the movies, so they’ve made an impact.

Oh, good, I’m glad. That’s the point. All the work’s going on when the camera’s rolling and the rest of the time, we’re wondering when we can eat next. [Laughs]