Interview: Emily Blunt Talks Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

With Gnomeo & Juliet just a few days away, the creative forces behind the film made themselves available to share their insights on the project. Yesterday, readers were treated to James McAvoy. Today, Emily Blunt – who voices Juliet – spent some time with Working Author to give her interpretation of her character, talk about her experience with gnomes and provide a few tidbits on how she handles her acting career.

Since the film revolves around gnomes, Blunt was eager to confess her irrational fear of their real life counterparts. “I was always scared or skeeved out by anything that resembled people when I was a kid,” Blunt says candidly, “like puppets and things like that. Ventriloquist dolls were the depths of Hell for me. I was a rather anxious child, apparently. But no, so I remember my friend had garden gnomes, and I remember being kind of scared of them when I was very young. I think I know someone who’s got a garden gnome of themselves, which is quite strange. But I wouldn’t mind having one; that could be fun.”

While Blunt may very well run out and buy a garden gnome it’s unlikely that she’ll decorate her garden with the same gusto as an enthusiast. “I’ve never gardened before. But it’s been something I think that would be nice to do. I know that my parents love doing it. It’s kind of a relaxing pastime for them. But I’ve never shoveled mud before, but I should.”

What Blunt does have experience with is playing Juliet, which no doubt allowed her to give her onscreen character more depth than existed in the script. “I actually found it very helpful,” she begins, “and when I did Romeo and Juliet, I was about 19. It was my third professional job, and I was very intimidated by the thought of it because I hadn’t trained and had had no experience actually acting Shakespeare. But I had a really wonderful director who encouraged a different view of Juliet than I had taken from the text, which is actually that she’s not a wilting, delicate flower, that she’s actually hot-tempered just like her dad. She’s decisive and rebellious, and very much not the reactionary role. I felt that she actually drives a lot of the second act through her decisions, reckless as they are.”

She talked at length about her stage experience playing Juliet, calling it an “emotional rollercoaster” and a one of a kind role. “It was crazy to go through that every night. So when I met [Director] Kelly [Asbury] and all these guys, it was really great to hear that they wanted to have like a tough little Juliet and one that I had done on stage. So I was happy that we met in the middle in that way. “

Talking about working with her costar James McAvoy, Blunt joked, “They tried to keep us apart,” referencing one of the themes of the film and then adding, “James is really temperamental, so they didn’t want us in the same room.” On a more serious note, however, the two leads had met socially, but ironically didn’t work together much during the film. “We were kind of thinking when we both got on board for this, ‘It’ll be great and we’ll be in the same room and we’ll riff and we’ll improv.’” Unfortunately, they had to improv separately.

Before she left, Blunt gave a few heartfelt thoughts on her career and the choices she’s made regarding her path. “I think that’s the joy of it is you shouldn’t strategize your career if you’re in the creative realm, but you can’t, either. I think it’s – I love the unknown. I love the element of surprise. I’ve always felt really inspired by it, and I love the spontaneity of the job. I think you can’t really fight against it and you can’t strategize. You can’t take a job because you think it might lead here and here. You have no idea, and it’s better just to do work that you’re really proud of and work that you’ve enjoyed because really all you have are the choices you make, and that’s it. Who knows after that? I think that’s what I love about it.”

Gnomeo & Juliet opens in theaters on February 11.