Emily Blunt on Exploring the ‘Depth of Hell’ Through ‘A Quiet Place’
She’s been the assistant to a high-powered fashionista, fought her way through a time loop to save the world, gone head-to-head with corrupt government officials and so much more. But Emily Blunt’s latest role may have been her most demanding — and meaningful — yet. Directed by and co-starring her husband, John Krasinski, A Quiet Place is an intense monster thriller punctuated with the fierce, determined Blunt we’ve come to know and love, but it’s also unlike anything else she’s ever done — which made us eager to speak with her about it.
In the film, Blunt and Krasinski play parents struggling to protect their children from horrific creatures that are attracted to sound. Following the tragic death of their youngest child (which occurs in the opening scene), Blunt’s character gets pregnant. As the baby inside her grows, so too does the sense of fatal urgency that hangs over the precarious life they’ve carved out for their family, resulting in a terrifying yet poignant film.
I recently spoke with Blunt — who is every bit as pleasant as you’d expect, and then some — about A Quiet Place, the most challenging scene to shoot, and some of the classic films that inspired Krasinski’s thriller.
In the film, your hearing-impaired daughter is played by Millicent Simmonds, a fantastic actress who’s hearing-impaired in real life. What would have been considered a handicap before these monsters arrived sort of gives your family an advantage because you’re all used to speaking in sign.
Right, it’s really compelling.
Did you actually learn a lot of sign language, or just your lines?
Mostly my lines. Millie is a real inspiration to work with, in every way. But then I did sort of pick up other phrases so I could converse a little bit with Millie here and there — words to tell her she’d done a great job or anything like that. Noah Jupe, who played the boy in it, was just incredible. He learned sign language pretty well by the end. He just made it his mission to try and be able to speak to Millie as much as possible in sign language. He’s such a doll.
The kids are also super great. They blew me away.
As a parent yourself, I imagine you related to this particular story in a completely different way than someone who doesn’t have children would.
This was so personal to me, and I think it was a very personal character for me, and a sort of intimate experience doing this film because it was so close to home, understanding this woman and what she’s going through, and the desire she has to just, amidst this brutal world, want to inject into her children’s lives some kind of warmth and ability to thrive. And, I’m someone who’s probably worried, unnecessarily, all the time about my children. So this character’s experience would be the depth of hell for me. But I understood her plight and understood everything about her, so it was an intimate thing, playing this part.
I don’t have children, so when I walked out of it I had some questions. Like, wouldn’t you try to avoid getting pregnant in this scenario?!
[Laughs] I don’t know if that was necessarily her desire. It’s probably what happened and it’s just one of those things. But I think in some ways, maybe in a subconscious way, it’s a way of her dealing with the grief of losing her child, and it’s also her defiance. It’s in her character’s nature — to sort of defiantly want to live and create life amidst the hell.
Although there’s nothing funny about this in the movie, really, there is something inherently humorous to the idea that your husband cast you as a woman who walks around barefoot and pregnant.
[Laughs] I mean, people are laughing, saying “Oh my god, John really put you through the ringer.” And still, the character just gets put through hell. I would say that sure, when he first pitched me the idea, it wasn’t really in the cards that I was going to be in it. And then I read the script and I was like “Would you want me to be in the movie?” He was thrilled and really sweet about it. Then it just sort of happened. But I think it sort of lent itself to the material that we were married and that we have this sort of secret language that was great for the characters but was also great for working together because we can collaborate really well, and really efficiently.
Did you film this before or after Mary Poppins Returns?
After. So I did Mary Poppins and then I had four months off and then I did this.
We’re talking about two very different kinds of family movies here. Was there any whiplash?
Yeah, but four months is a long time. It’s okay. I’m okay!
Still, it seems like a pretty demanding role — physically and mentally. What were some of the bigger challenges for you, personally?
I think the giving birth sequence was probably the most challenging of the whole film. It was just so physically demanding and I really had to make sure that I was playing so many different things — like agony, fear for your life, babies arriving. Oh my god! It was just so many different things to play and we shot it over a week. I said to John, just shoot it all in one go so I can have a through line for it, so we can figure out the sort of progression of labor so it feels real.
By the end of that week, I was like, I need to check myself into an institution. [Laughs] Like a spa or rehab, I mean, something. It was crazy.
That whole portion of the film is terrifying. The scene in the water —
That was awful! So scary.
I’m sure shooting in all that water was not fun either.
I mean, they said they heated it but it wasn’t really that warm, to be honest. It was warm in the beginning of the day and by the end of the day I was like, did the heating break? Did we run out of money to heat this thing?
It’s definitely intense, but there’s also this old-fashioned quality about it that I really enjoyed. Like a real classic monster movie.
Yeah, I think we really wanted it to feel sort of timeless and epic.
Were there any particular films that served as inspiration while you were filming A Quiet Place?
I know that John was really inspired by the classics — I guess you can call them horror or sci-fi thrillers that he loved. Like, Jaws and Alien were big inspirations for him. I mean, Jaws is one of my favorite films even though I hate horror films. But I love Jaws because it’s not necessarily about the shark. It’s about these three men and the dynamic between them and their need to overcome something, whether it’s the need for vengeance or they have a deep fear of water or whatever it is. So I love that about Jaws.
Then, I think he was really inspired by these big-scope films that deal with quiet brilliantly. Like There Will Be Blood, No Country For Old Men — so I know he and the cinematographer, Charlotte Bruus Christensen, would sit down and discuss those types of big, almost western-style films for the look of it.
So we spoke with you about Captain Marvel a few years ago, back before they had officially cast the role…
Who is Captain Marvel?
Ohhh, Brie is playing her. Awesome.
All those rumors obviously never panned out…
Oh, no, nobody ever called me about it. [Laughs] It was all untrue!
Back then you were down to play a big superhero role after Edge of Tomorrow. Is that something you’d still be interested in even though Marvel never called?
I mean, I think Mary Poppins is a superhero, so I’ll just say that she’s my superhero.
That’s a pretty good answer.
Yeah, I think I’ve fulfilled that. I’ll say it’s her. Listen, she can fly, she has superpowers, she’s magical. I’ll just go with Mary Poppins.
Okay, so we can check superhero off the list. Is there anything else you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
Not really. I mean, I always like to be surprised by something. You never know what’s around the corner. I love the unknown of it all, you know?
A Quiet Place hits theaters on April 6.