Emily Blunt didn’t know whether to be flattered or insulted when she was approached to play the bloated, alcoholic star of The Girl on the Train.
After spending three months shooting the film wearing a shapeless suit and ratty overcoat over her growing baby bump, when STACK meets with the mother-of-two in New York she is back to her svelte self, wearing killer Louboutin heels adorned with gold spikes.
“I didn’t even audition. They approached me about it. I was very complimented but at the same time, slightly concerned. Were they thinking: ‘Nothing says Emily Blunt like a blackout drunk‘?” laughs the actress, who wore pink full-cover contact lenses to make her eyes look bloodshot and had prosthetic blotches and bags applied to her face to play flawed heroine Rachel Watson.
“We’ll see how people react to it, but there’s a reason why women loved the book – it doesn’t shy away from the underbelly of domestic life; it doesn’t shy away from brutality; it doesn’t shy away from the fact that these are pretty unlikable women in many ways,” she says. “I also believe the reason why this book was such a huge success was because people could see aspects of themselves in these women to varying degrees.”
A publishing phenomenon, Paula Hawkins’ whodunit thriller has sold more than 15 million copies since its release in January 2015, and every actress in Hollywood had their eye on the lead role.
When Blunt was first offered the part, she devoured the book within 48 hours and was equally impressed by the script. “What I loved about the book and the script is that they articulately depict broken, damaged women. You don’t see that in cinema very often, as women are often held in a male ideal. Both the book and the film strive away from that.
“I loved that Rachel is written as a delusional Nancy Drew character, and the fact that it is told in a sort of blurry sense because the lead character is an alcoholic and the most unreliable witness to a crime,” she notes. “I was fascinated by how they were going to capture that sense of addiction and voyeurism [on film]; what we think we see and don’t, what we think we remember and don’t…and the blurry lines between all of those aspects.
“All you want is to try and understand the people you play. As the onion unravels with Rachel, you quickly realise she has a drinking problem and is incredibly untethered and unstable. She is riddled with guilt, loneliness and desperation, as well as the need for love and connection, and she finds a great deal of comfort and solace in the people she obsesses over who all seem to have a love in their lives that she no longer has in her own life. I have huge empathy for her.”
Blunt professes to her own fascination with people watching on trains and buses, just like her screen alter ego. “I remember taking the bus to school every day. I probably was somebody with an overactive imagination. I used to look at the other passengers and wonder about their lives and where they came from and why they looked the way that they did, and imagined them as children. So I understand those voyeuristic tendencies, hopefully not to the unhealthy degree that Rachel vicariously lives through these people. But I think that we all have that desire to see behind closed doors and to see what we shouldn’t be seeing.”