In Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, an Arab sheikh (played by Amr Waked) has a seemingly impossible dream: to transport the pastime of fly fishing to the desert. He believes that this will bring peace to the region, so he spares no expense; his aide, played by Emily Blunt, manages to get the British government onboard. Some of the Brits are more supportive than others — a fisheries expert, for example, played by Ewan McGregor, is dragged into the project against his many objections, but is eventually won over by the Yemini Sheikh and the effervescent Blunt. The actress, who just turned 29, has been hard at work herself, but was taking a week off for her birthday when Vulture chatted her up about forthcoming projects, her odd and possibly passing passion for cookery, and her famous L.A. neighbors.
Happy birthday! What did you do to celebrate?
I went and had sushi with my girlfriends! And I think something’s being planned on Saturday, some surprise — I’m not sure what. I think we’re dedicating the week to celebrating, so if I don’t get a whole week, the shit is going to hit the fan! [Laughs.] The whole week should be all about me.
So I just saw your new film: great movie, bad title. I realize it’s because of the book …
God, that title is so weird! [Laughs.] When I first heard it, I thought, How is that film even getting made? But when I read the script and the book, I fell in love with it. It’s not what you’d expect, and I hope people find it, despite the title. I had such a good time with Ewan making it. We had a blast being really stupid together, telling really stupid jokes, laughing at nothing. He has no self-control.
Were you playing your ukulele on set to entertain him?
No. I know! I’m really bad with hobbies; they come and go for me. I don’t know if I have the tenacity to embark on them for long. Right now, I’m into cooking. I was just watching the Food Network, learning how to make a creamed-corn pudding. I love making pasta with a lot of cheese. Cheese is one of my favorite things, so we’ll have to have some Italian food for my birthday, too.
You’ve done a couple of projects now with Jason Segel, including The Five-Year Engagement. He said he was your neighbor? You borrow sugar from him?
I’ve never done much borrowing from him — I don’t think he’s much of a chef. But he ambushes me to do projects with him, because he’s literally about two minutes away. I’d have to barricade the street to avoid him, but then I’d get blackmail letters or something. Or he’d prank me. He actually wrote the part in the movie with me in mind, or at least that’s what he tells me. He probably told five other girls that! [Laughs.]
Are you doing the movie blog with him, where your two characters post? The IM exchange about STDs was pretty funny.
What? Oh my God! What was that about?
How you’re confusing what you mean by STDs: sexually transmitted diseases versus save-the-dates …
[Sigh of relief.] Okay. I got a knot of anxiety when you first said that. That’s more innocent than I thought it would be. I thought he was sharing all his STDs!
If he has any.
Let’s hope he doesn’t. [Laughs.] Oh, you know who I do borrow sugar from, Jimmy Kimmel. He is my actual neighbor. I do borrow sugar from him.
Which explains how he keeps roping you and John Krasinski into his videos.
The post-Oscar one, the trailer for “Movie: The Movie,” that’s the first time I did anything with my husband onscreen. It’s a little silly, but if you do things together, people start commenting on whether or not you have chemistry together. Your relationship becomes too exposed. I mean, people are going to comment anyway, but they’ll comment even more, so we try to protect it.
What’s the trick to having great chemistry onscreen? Considering you and Ewan are so much fun to watch …
I have the most chemistry with people I genuinely love to hang out with. I find something that I love about them. There’s times you need to cultivate chemistry and invent it, and that’s not as much fun. So it’s great when you have a natural rapport, when you have natural warmth. That’s why I do see the benefit of being open and easy-going and friendly on set, because that translates onscreen. There have been times when I felt I didn’t have chemistry, or I didn’t feel as comfortable with the person, because they weren’t behaving well on the set, and I didn’t like being around them. It’s only been a couple of times, but oof! And this goes for whether it’s a man or a woman. Chemistry doesn’t happen just with a guy.
So for Your Sister’s Sister, with Rosemarie DeWitt, or Five-Year Engagement, with Alison Brie, did you do anything together to feel more like sisters?
Rose was the hero of the day. She stepped into that part at the last moment, after Rachel Weisz pulled out, just two days before shooting. She knew it was mostly being improvised and there was no script to fall back on, and she’d have to kind of invent the backstory. So we stayed up till four in the morning drinking wine, and whether it was subconsciously or not, that made it into the film, that we had a friendship. And that was a day before shooting! Alison, by the way, steals Five-Year Engagement. She asked me, “Would you record your voice and tell me some stories?” So she could do an accent like mine. And I told her all these stupid stories from my childhood, and now she sounds more English than I do! [Laughs.]
Speaking of accents, you and Colin Firth are playing Americans in Arthur Newman, Golf Pro.
Two Limeys came in and stole some very American parts. [Laughs.] We both play social misfits, and Colin is my new favorite person. Don’t tell him that. I just love taking the piss out of him. My character is named Mike, so everyone sees that and goes, “Why are you playing a guy?” But her real name is Mikela.
That one doesn’t need to be shortened quite as much as your Salmon character, whose name is a mouthful: Harriet Chetwode-Talbot. She needs a nickname. Do you have any to spare?
Em. Ems. Amy Adams calls me Meely. I don’t know how that happened. A lot of guys just call me Blunt. Blunty. There are many names.
At one point, you were up for parts in Iron Man 2 and Captain America, but you passed. Would you ever want to do a superhero movie?
Usually the female parts in a superhero film feel thankless: She’s the pill girlfriend while the guys are whizzing around saving the world. I didn’t do the other ones because the part wasn’t very good or the timing wasn’t right, but I’m open to any kind of genre if the part is great and fun and different and a challenge in some way. I would love to do a comic-book movie or a science-fiction film that would scare the bejesus out of me. Maybe I need to be James Bond! I just did Looper, because it’s so original and breathtakingly cool. The time-travel aspect is just a backdrop to visit this heightened world, where you’re atoning for something and attempting to be more than you’ve been.
Since at least one person in that world gets to confront his younger self, what would you say to a younger you, given that you’re now presumably older and wiser on this birthday?
I’d be really cross with my earlier self! I’d give her a good slap, shake her shoulders, and tell her to stop worrying and stop enabling! That’s what I would do. And I think I would listen.