She’s best known for playing a fabulously fashionable assistant in The Devil Wears Prada, but audiences at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival are seeing a decidedly less glamorous side of Emily Blunt. In director Christine Jeffs’ Sunshine Cleaning, which was produced by the team behind the 2006 Sundance fave Little Miss Sunshine and had its festival premiere Friday night, Blunt and Amy Adams play sisters who run a crime-scene cleanup service. We caught up with Blunt to talk about the movie and what else she’s working on.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So what drew you to the movie?
EMILY BLUNT: Well, Amy Adams was attached, and I’m a big fan — she blew my mind in Junebug. And I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had read, ever. These characters were so yearning and complicated and funny and off-the-wall and real, like people really are. I hadn’t played a character like Norah. She was kind of heartbreaking but such a nut job, and very much like a friend of mine. I hadn’t ever played someone that eccentric. For all those reasons I wanted to do it.
To me the movie felt so much about parents’ effects on their children and how they hurt them, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Did that connect with you at all?
Well, no, because I have great parents. But I understood that. I think a lot of kids have a lot to move past. They have to be very resilient, and what I liked about these characters is they are very resilient in the face of losing their mother in the most awful way, in a very selfish way. Then they had to live with it for the rest of their lives.
I also loved your character’s relationship with her nephew Oscar [played by Jason Spevack].
He is such a little doll. We really hung out — we did lots of acting games together; we did trust games and weird and wacky role-play games where we played different characters, just to get him loosened up and comfortable with me. We did a lot of physical stuff because I wanted physically for him to feel that he could hug me, sit on my lap, put my arm around me, and not feel weird because he doesn’t know me. This is his first big role. He’s pretty new to the business.
How much time did you and Amy rehearse with each other?
We spent a couple of weeks in rehearsals. Amy and I would hang out. We first met on Charlie Wilson’s War, and we got on like a house on fire. She really still feels like my sister. I love her. And I’m so sad she’s not here [at Sundance]. It was just easy and I really wanted that ease with someone. It was effortless to be around. I have two sisters and she has lots of siblings as well, and we both really understood profoundly that sisterly relationship: how you can be each other’s worst enemy, how you can drive each other up the wall and break each other’s hearts like no one else. We really wanted to capture that.
How was it working with both a female director (Christine Jeffs) and female screenwriter (Megan Holley)?
Great — I loved it. I loved the female sensibility and female understanding. Christine has done a lot of drama, and she was great for those kinds of scenes. She would give you notes that would take you to a whole new place — she understands how girls work, and you really needed that for this film.
How has your Sundance been so far?
I have two films here [her other movie, The Great Buck Howard, premiered in Salt Lake City Friday night], so it’s been nuts. A friend of mine has a film here and I haven’t had a chance to see it: Stanley Tucci’s film Blind Date. I would love to see it. I’ve let him down. He said to me, ”Come and see it, you could learn a lot about acting.”