New York — Though she is poised to break out onto American cinematic screens with roles in the upcoming “The Devil Wears Prada” and “Irresistible” with Susan Sarandon, British actress Emily Blunt is far from a starry-eyed ingenue.
“I was going to go and do something sensible in university, but it sort of landed in my lap, this job, this occupation, and it was a golden opportunity,” she explains via telephone from London. “You don’t turn your back on it, and I’m very glad I didn’t because what the hell would I do right now? I’d be completely unemployable.”
Clearly she made the right career choice given her busy schedule, including Stephen Poliakoff’s BBC film “Gideon’s Daughter,” which had a special screening at the Museum of Television and Radio Thursday night.
Set in late-Nineties Britain on the brink of Princess Diana’s death, the film follows publicist Gideon Warner (Bill Nighy) as he becomes increasingly aloof from his high-gloss world. The 22-year-old Blunt plays his daughter, Natasha, whose impending high school graduation brings to the fore the seemingly insurmountable riff that has grown between the two since the childhood loss of her mother.
The actress was drawn to the project by Poliakoff’s nuanced take on the troubled parent-adolescent interactions. Indeed, as Natasha, Blunt spends much of “Gideon” exuding an impenetrable cool toward her concerned, but equally reticent, father. It is a performance that might not endear her to audiences.
“My boyfriend was like, ‘I hated you in that because you were so mean!’” laughs Blunt of musician boyfriend Michael Bublé’s reaction.
It’s not the first time the actress’ performance has elicited such a heated reaction. As Tamsin in last year’s “My Summer of Love,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s exploration of two teenaged girls’ mutual infatuation, Blunt was seen by many as evil-mindedly manipulating the object of her affection.
“I don’t know why that’s kind of happened,” she exclaims of playing unlikable roles. “And it’s weird because I’m actually quite an open person and I’m not really mysterious. But I like those kinds of characters when they seem a bit more unreadable.”
This story first appeared in the June 9, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The trend will continue with “The Devils Wears Prada,” in which Blunt plays to perfection Miranda Priestly’s (Meryl Streep) fashion-obsessed senior assistant Emily, a character she describes as “your worst nightmare for a blind date — just excruciating to be around.”
But while Blunt acts the ideal fashion obsessive in the film, she’s only reluctantly learning to play the fashion game herself in real life.
“I guess you have to become somebody who’s good at doing the red carpet,” she says. “That’s what I’m gonna have to do,” she says with a sigh. “Because my idea of a great night out is a game of Scrabble and a glass of red wine. But I’m gonna have to get over myself.”