Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
March 5, 2012
Emily Blunt wants to jump off a building.
Don’t worry; she’s just talking about taking on an action role, which she hasn’t had a chance to do yet. “Something where I have to wear a wire,” the English actress says with a laugh. “That could be good.”
For now, Blunt (“The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Adjustment Bureau”) is working on a smaller scale. In the low-budget romantic dramedy “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” opening March 9, she plays Harriet, who works with a fish expert (Ewan McGregor) to help a Sheikh (Amr Waked) introduce salmon to the desert.
Adapted by writer Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”) from the novel by Paul Torday, the movie’s contrivances never get in the way of Blunt’s ever-present charm.
From Boston, the 29-year-old actress (and wife of “The Office” star John Krasinski) talked about getting seasick, filming the “Movie: The Movie” trailer for Jimmy Kimmel and if her “Muppets” and “The Five-Year Engagement” co-star Jason Segel is man or Muppet.
Tell me about the fishing knowledge you brought to “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.” For example, for how long have you subscribed to Bass Mania?
Oh my God. I know nothing about fishing. I was a bad fisherwoman when I was a kid. My dad would try and persuade my sister and I to go fishing with him, ‘cause he loves it. He’s gone deep-sea fishing and loves it. And luckily then my brother came along and so he’s my dad’s fishing partner. But my older sister and I were dragged to go fishing with him in Scotland, where the swell is just so huge and you just vomit the entire time. I obviously didn’t have the stomach for deep-sea fishing. So I knew nothing about fishing when I started this film.
Was it that you’re bad at fishing or you just can’t handle the water?
I just can’t handle the waves I think. [Laughs.] I get seasick quite easily.
You mentioned that you feel like your character, Harriet, is very British. You’ve played a number of characters that, while different, could be put in a category of classy and uptight. How much do you feel like Americans unfairly assume this of the English?
I don’t know, maybe the accent sounds a bit imperious or something. I have no idea. Actually what I liked about this character Harriet is that she’s really bubbly and tenacious and really good at her job and I didn’t find the character uptight. I think I really liked her sense of humor. What I liked about playing her is there was a sense of conflict because her boyfriend’s lost in Afghanistan, he’s a soldier, for most of the film, and yet she’s trying to embark on this huge aspiration of introducing salmon to the desert. So I liked her spirit. There was something persevering about her, which I liked.
Do you have an interest in playing edgier characters? How frustrating is it that maybe a more regal sounding voice could prevent you from playing, say, Hot Girl at Party?
Oh, God, I don’t know if anyone really wants to play that part. That’s not a part that you campaign for. I don’t know, I’ve played a lot of different kinds of roles. I don’t tend to play just one thing.
You’ve worked with Jason Segel a couple times now, in “The Five-Year Engagement" and “The Muppets.” Percentage-wise, how much is he man or Muppet?
I think he’s Muppet. I’d say 85 percent Muppet. [Laughs.]
And he’s only a man when he has to be?
You know, he would rather live with Muppets than people. [In] his house he has puppets everywhere. He’s happier amongst Muppets. He would prefer to hang out with them than most people.
I’ve enjoyed the American version of “The Office.” What of Jim Halpert have you seen appear in John, or vice-versa?
I think they’re quite different actually. I think Jim Halpert’s a rather subdued version of John. He’s larger than life than that, you know?
Are there moments when you’re watching the show and see something that you recognize as a personality trait?
I think everyone brings a lot of themselves to a part. I think there’s a lot of all of us in the parts we play.
What roles of yours have the most of you?
I’ve been told that “Adjustment Bureau” is quite like me, just personality-wise. And I’ve been told that “Five-Year Engagement” is quite like me.
Do you know why people say that?
I’m not really self-aware enough to, but people say it’s the closest to me that they’ve seen on screen.
I liked “Movie: The Movie,” the clip you filmed for Jimmy Kimmel. How long would that movie have to be to cover all those plots?
[Laughs.] I would say about 10 hours.
Tell me about the process of participating in it.
Oh God. It was just a funny bit that Jimmy asked us to do. He’s our neighbor so he asked us if we’d do it. Yeah, it was great. He said it would be a medieval romance, and I was like, “I’m in.”
On Chicago: “I don’t know Chicago at all. I have been to the theater once to see my friend Joey WHO? in a play about the Marx brothers. I can’t remember what the theater is called now, which is terrible. What’s the big theater you have there?” [Me: “Steppenwolf?”] “Steppenwolf, exactly. Apart from that I’ve been in Chicago for one night, and that’s it, I’ve never been really.”
On meeting a significant other in a bathroom, like in “The Adjustment Bureau”: “I think anything surprising in romance is a good thing, isn’t it? I think that’s great. That makes for good stories, those stories, you know?”
What she planned to do on Leap Day, if there are no consequences: “Oh my God! I’ll probably eat all day. That would make me really happy. And I’d pretend that didn’t happen. I’d eat junk food all day … Tacos. Pizza. Ice cream. Macaroni and cheese. That kind of thing.”
Guilty pleasure movie: “Dirty Dancing”
Band: “I love Coldplay and everyone says they’re bored of Coldplay, but I love them.”
A song you sing when no one’s around: “You Don’t Know Me” by Ray Charles
When we can expect an album? “Never. ‘Cause I can’t sing that well.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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