Emily Blunt: 'I Want to Be a Gay Icon'

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Whether she’s bringing the heat to lesbian romances like My Summer of Love, kicking ass as a super soldier alongside Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, or stealing scenes as Meryl Streep’s cube of cheese–eating assistant in The Devil Wears Prada, Emily Blunt has a filmography generously seasoned with roles that have earned the actress a large LGBT following. It’s a fact she’s lovingly aware of as we sit down to discuss her latest film, Disney’s big-screen adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods.

“I know that’s my demographic. That’s been made clear to me by my fans,” she says with a laugh, noting that she’s often stopped by gay admirers of her work when she’s out in public. “I love it. I think it’s so cool, because one day I hope to be a gay icon.”  

When I joke with her that starring in a Sondheim musical alongside Meryl Streep wearing a wig worthy of a legendary drag queen automatically earns her the title, she gleefully giggles and exclaims, “Oh, thank God! Now I just need to go to more gay clubs so I can really have a good time.”  

Still, it’s many of her LGBT fans who will be having a good time when they pile into theaters on Christmas Day to watch the actress charm audiences as the Baker’s Wife — a role that has earned Blunt her fifth Golden Globe Awards nomination. But while her performance has garnered high praise from critics, the 31-year-old actress admits she was initially terrified by the idea of singing in a high-profile musical. “When I went in to audition for this part my knees were knocking together because, prior to working on this film, I found it difficult to sing in front of people. It can be embarrassing. That’s why I think everyone needs to be drunk for karaoke,” she admits. “But [director] Rob Marshall told me in a very emboldening way that he wanted actors who could kind of sing, not the other way around, because the material is emotionally dense.”

She adds, “I think when I look back that’s going to be one of my fondest memories from working on this film — getting over my fear of singing in front of people and finding the joy in that.”

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Despite worries about her vocal chops, Blunt says she knew Into the Woods would be “pure glee” the moment she learned the film would reunite her with her Devil Wears Prada costar Meryl Streep. “I’m tormented by her yet again in another film,” she says, laughing. “I think we’ve established that dynamic now and it would be weird if we played lovers or something else at this point. No one would want to see it.”

Blunt also received another pleasant surprise after learning she and husband John Krasinski were expecting their first child shortly before filming began. “Thankfully the Baker’s Wife is probably one of the only female roles that Hollywood would allow you to play pregnant, because it doesn’t matter if she’s gained a few pounds,” she jokes. “I mean, she must eat bread all day. She’s on a constant carb diet. So I think it worked for the role in some ways. My boobs got huge and I just became a more rotund version of my prior self. It was great.”

She says being an expectant mother also helped give her sympathy for the character she played — a woman who embarks on a quest to reverse a witch's curse that left her unable to conceive a child.

“Because I was pregnant, I felt like I understood this Baker’s Wife even more so,” she says. “Of course, she does things that are morally questionable and screws over all these poor fairy-tale characters to get what she wants. But she’s desperate for a child, and I’ve had friends like that. People who’ve had such a horrific time trying to get pregnant and they can’t function because they live, breathe, and sleep the desire to be a parent. With the little one on the way, the world started to look a little bit different, and I better understood where those motives come from.”

While Blunt admits becoming a parent has softened some of the ways in which she views the world, she says it’s increased her irritation with those who battle the rights of families with same-sex parents.

“I’m shocked and appalled this is still an issue,” she says. “I have friends who are with partners of the same sex. They have children and they are amazing parents. They’re far better than some 16-year-old who gets knocked up by her boyfriend. Why should she get more rights than they do? I just find that sickening.”

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“There’s not enough support out there for [same-sex parents],” she continues. “Everybody should have equal rights and everyone has the right to be a parent.”

With an ensemble cast that not only includes Blunt and Streep, but Anna Kendrick as Cinderella, Johnny Depp as the Wolf, Chris Pine as preening Prince Charming, and James Corden as the Baker, the aspiring gay icon hopes families from all walks of life will have as much fun watching the film as she did making it, and confesses helping her overcome her fear of singing in front of others isn’t the only way the experience helped her hone her craft.

“I love courageous shape-shifting actors, both the men and women I’ve worked with, and that’s what I aspire to be. So I steal from them all when I’m around them,” she says with a sly smile. “I try to be a sponge and soak them all up, and of course Meryl is the ultimate shape-shifter. It’s inspiring to watch her work, and she’d roll her eyes if she heard me say this, but it’s true. She keeps surprising people, and I always try to challenge myself with something new every time in hopes that I can do the same.”

Into the Woods opens Christmas Day. Watch the trailer for the film below.

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