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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Emily Blunt

Emily Blunt: I didn't recognize Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Looper'

May 2, 2012 | 11:30 am

Emily Blunt stars in Looper
Emily Blunt had a misfire at the box office last weekend with "The Five-Year Engagement," but one of her upcoming films seems destined for a greater fate at the multiplex.

"Looper," Rian Johnson's sci-fi action flick starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman living in the future, has been creating buzz among fanboys for months. In the film, out in September, Gordon-Levitt comes face-to-face with an older version of himself, played by Bruce Willis. Creating a physical resemblance between the two actors meant Gordon-Levitt had to spend three hours daily in a make-up chair -- and the ultimate look was so jarring that Blunt barely recognized her co-star upon first meeting him.

"When I first arrived, everyone asked me if I wanted to go meet Joe in his trailer -- and I go in, and it's kind of dark, and I didn't know he was in prosthetics," recalled the actress, who plays a single mother who gets caught up between the two men in the picture. "So I was talking to him for about a half an hour, and I couldn't work out why I didn't recognize him. He almost looked like he'd been stung by an insect and had some kind of allergic reaction."

Fearing she'd gone into the trailer of the actor's stunt double, Blunt exited the trailer. Shortly afterward, a crew member asked her what she thought of Gordon-Levitt's makeover and she finally understood the situation.

"It is uncanny how much he looks like Bruce. It wasn't just the voice -- it's the facial expressions, with that squinting," she said. "The movie is thrillingly different and weird. I think it's the coolest film I've ever been a part of."

Director Johnson said Blunt underwent physical changes of her own for the movie, dying her hair and tanning her otherwise pale skin.

“Joe’s transformation is much more obvious because he has makeup on his face, but Emily has just as major of a transformation -- from her American accent to the person she’s creating,” Johnson said. “The fact that the marketing is focusing more on the action stuff -- that really excites me, because Emily is in some ways the heart of the movie. The movie really turns on her character and her dilemma.”


Blunt approach to film? Be real

'Looper:' Playing a younger Willis

‘Looper’ trailer: Joseph Gordon-Levitt completes time-travel circle

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Emily Blunt stars in "Looper." Credit: Sony Pictures

Simon Beaufoy talks 'Salmon Fishing,' 'Hunger Games' sequel

March 9, 2012 | 12:37 pm

Simon Beaufoy, left

Simon Beaufoy is consistently drawn to characters in impossible situations. It’s what led the Oscar-winning screenwriter to such films as “The Full Monty,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours.”

Beaufoy’s latest work, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” features the requisite challenging experience with his two protagonists, played by Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, charged with the difficult endeavor of bringing salmon to the arid desert of the Middle East. Yet, what really attracted Beaufoy to the project — based on the novel by Paul Torday — was the mere challenge of adapting it.

“It’s a very strange book,” said Beaufoy in a phone interview from New York on the second leg of his press tour for the film, which opens today. “It’s made up of letters and emails and interviews and Post-it Notes. And it’s many points of view and multiple time frames. It didn’t have a normal novel structure at all.”

On top of that, it’s a novel that combines both satire and romance, two genres rarely compatible on the big screen. “Normally, they are like fire and water. Satire has such a cold edge to it that it kind of kills romance. But the novel had a warmth and generosity despite it being satirical about the politics of the time and the political system,” Beaufoy said. “I just sort of fell in love with the tone of it, really. It’s such an eccentric piece of work with an eccentric tone. I loved the idea of turning it into a movie.”

In the film, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, McGregor plays a stuffy fisheries expert lured into a ridiculous adventure by Blunt’s British investment consultant, whose rich Middle Eastern client wants to bring his favorite sport, fly-fishing, to his native land.

One of the movie's particularly bright spots is Kristin Scott Thomas' turn as the British press secretary. Beaufoy changed the character from a man, as he was in the book, to a woman and for the first time in his career wrote the role with a specific actor in mind.

“When I started out writing many years ago, I quickly discovered that Robert De Niro is busy that week and can’t do your film in Yorkshire. It never works out, it just never works out,” he said. “When I decided to make the press secretary a woman, I thought, I really, really want Kristin Scott Thomas to play this role. And she did, which is just a joy to me and she is very funny at it.”

Beaufoy has often been part of small movies that have become Oscar-winning surprises, but his next project sees him tackle what is arguably the most high-profile writing job of his career: adapting the sequel to the dystopian adventure “The Hunger Games.” Although the Lionsgate film isn't due in theaters until March 23, Beaufoy is already fine-tuning the screenplay for "Catching Fire," based on author Suzanne Collins' second novel in the bestselling series.

Beaufoy was reluctant to share many details about the project, but he did say that he's been charmed by Collins and her knowledge of warfare.

“She’s fascinating,” said Beaufoy. “Her dad was a military expert, historian and lecturer and used to be in the forces. It’s fascinating hearing her talk about the thesis for the three novels: The first is about survival, the second is rebellion and the third is about all-out war. She’s very compelling about all of that.”

Beaufoy was impressed by the boldness of Collins’ writing, specifically her treatment of young people. “The books treat teenagers exactly how teenagers want to be treated — with great seriousness. The situations are life and death and we don’t have to sugarcoat that.”

He went on to say that he believes gender matters very little in the “Hunger Games” saga, which, of course, revolves around the experiences of young heroine Katniss Everdeen (played in the film by Jennifer Lawrence).

“What I really love about the books is it isn’t even up for discussion that she’s a girl," Beaufoy said. "There’s no discussion that she shouldn’t be killing people because she’s a girl, and she shouldn’t be killed because she’s a girl. We’ve done gender politics. This is about life and death. It makes the gender politics seem finicky and not terribly interesting.”


Review: "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen"

'Hunger Games': Gary Ross on hunting the job, Jennifer Lawrence

— Nicole Sperling

Photo: Writer Simon Beaufoy with Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor at the premiere of CBS Films' "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" in Los Angeles. Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen': Watch an exclusive clip

February 22, 2012 |  1:29 pm

"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" is one of those films that looks to walk the delicate line between charming comedy romance and pointed satire.

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom ("Dear John") and starring Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, the film centers on a staid British scientist (McGregor) urged to set up a fish hatchery in the Middle East desert at the behest of a ruthless press secretary, played by Kristin Scott Thomas.

Thomas' biting, over-the-top Patricia Maxwell desperately needs a positive story out of the Middle East as her British government is being pummeled in the court of public opinion for its involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

The film premiered at this year's Toronto International Film Festival in September and was quickly scooped up by CBS Films for close to $5 million. While at the festival, Times film critic Betsy Sharkey wrote, "By the time the film is done with us, it’s hard not to feel there is hope for romance, the possibility of peace and even a little patience for politics."

Above is an exclusive clip from the movie, which CBS Films will release on March 9, that illustrates Maxwell's motives for sending McGregor's Fred Jones to Yemen on the wild task of running salmon in the arid desert.


Betsy Sharkey on 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen'

With 'Day of the Dead,' Guillermo del Toro ramps up GDT Inc.

The best picture slump: Is Hollywood stuck in an Oscar bubble?

— Nicole Sperling

Toronto 2011: This time, 'Humpday' director feels sisterly

September 17, 2011 | 10:00 am

Lynn Shelton came to prominence in 2009 when she made a low-budget improvised movie, "Humpday," featuring the hook of two buddies who dare each other to star in a male porn flick.

No one is getting in touch with their inner Ron Jeremy in Shelton's similarly improvised follow-up, the Toronto Film Festival breakout "Your Sister's Sister."  The Seattle writer-director puts women at the center this time -- and actual siblings instead of just bro-dudes -- as it examines a pair of sisters for whom genuine love doesn't always mean complete honesty.

"This is about  healing, grief and forgiveness," Shelton told 24 Frames in an interview Friday afternoon at the festival. "It's a movie about the basic fallibility of human beings, and our need to accept that."

Which makes "Sister" sound a little dry, like a slice of whole-wheat bread, instead of the comedic shot of rum punch that it is.

Most of the action in "Sister" takes place over a weekend in an island vacation home to which young Iris (Emily Blunt) has sent friend Jack (Mark Duplass) to spend some time in quiet isolation. Jack's brother, who was also Iris' ex-boyfriend, died the year before, and Iris hopes some time away will help Jack heal. Once there, Jack runs into Iris' sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), who has come unexpectedly to help recover from her own trauma, a breakup with her longtime girlfriend.

To describe the film further would be to deprive viewers of some enjoyable secrets and revelations, but suffice to say that what follows is both a drama and a romp involving love, sex, pregnancy and sibling loyalty. (Filmgoers will get a chance to see it for themselves when IFC, which acquired the movie at the festival, releases it next summer.)

SheltonSibling rivalry is on the minds of independent filmmakers at this festival. Duplass' own directorial effort, "Jeff, Who Lives at Home," sees Jason Segel and Ed Helms as estranged brothers who must come together under surreal circumstances; Duplass wrote and directed the movie with ... his brother.

Shelton, 45, said she was inspired by the oft-cited "Bridesmaids" (et tu, indie filmmakers?), not so much for the Kristen Wiig film's raunch as for its realism. "You've seen big studio comedies where you think, 'That's how men really talk,'" Shelton said. "But you don't really see any where you think 'That's how women really talk.' It was hugely inspiring."

Actors in most Shelton films come into her movies with only the loosest outline in place and instead work out scenes and dialogue on set in the hope of capturing a spontaneous moment. "I'm compelled by improvisation," Shelton said. "So many times I'm watching a movie and I think, 'It's so well-written but you can see the writing on the page.' And I want the purest, realest form of interaction."

Although it comes from a filmmaker who gained acclaim for so-called mumblecore films earlier in the 2000's (Shelton's movie immediately before "Humpday," "My Effortless Brilliance," used a similar improvisational technique to create a real-life vibe), the look of this film is more polished and the dialogue delivered more fluidly than other expressions of the genre.

Continue reading »

Toronto: Film Critic Betsy Sharkey on 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen'

September 13, 2011 |  6:38 am

At every film festival, a movie comes along that just lifts your spirits, leaves you feeling good about life and even better about the movies. At Day 5 in this year's Toronto International Film Festival, for me it’s Lasse Hallstrom’s charmer, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.”

The film has a grand cast, with Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas and Amr Waked at the center of this very clever tale of modern eco-issues intertwined with old-style political intrigues and New Age romance. But let's start with Simon Beaufoy’s script.

Beaufoy co-wrote (with director Danny Boyle) the film that occupied this slot for me last year, “127 Hours.” In case you've been under a rock, James Franco starred as a hiker trapped by one, then driven to extreme measure to survive, so you know Beaufoy’s got a real feel for stories that are a testament to the human spirit, which comes in handy here. He’s also the writer responsible for that classic bump-and-grind on the British class system, “The Full Monty,” so he’s good at exposing the truth of things when it comes to people and politics.

With “Salmon Fishing,” adapted from the novel by Paul Torday, he’s working with Hallstrom, who has a knack for romance and gives this new film a wonderful quirky side the way he did with “Chocolat” so winningly some years back.

Everything is set in motion by a flare-up in Afghanistan, British politicians' desire for a good news story they can use as distraction and a wealthy sheik’s love of salmon fishing, philosophy and his country (Waked is terrific). An improbable project involving fish and a desert is undertaken to fulfill one of his dreams and by the time the film is done with us, it’s hard not to feel there is hope for romance, the possibility of peace and even a little patience for politics.


Toronto 2011: Clooney's 'Descendants' is fall's big wild card

Toronto 2011: Francis Ford Coppola's 'Twixt' not wowing the critics

Toronto 2011: Woody Harrelson and Oren Moverman build a rampart

-- Betsy Sharkey in Toronto

Photo: Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor, who star in "Salmon Fishing in the Yemen," on the red carpet in Toronto for the film's premiere here. Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Preview review: Matt Damon fights for love and free will in 'The Adjustment Bureau'

May 13, 2010 |  4:00 pm

Ab1 There hasn’t been too much hype for Matt Damon’s upcoming film “The Adjustment Bureau,” but after the trailer was released Thursday, it seems the Internet is abuzz over it, with bloggers and critics asking, "Why haven’t we heard more about this one?”

The movie, based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, will hit theaters in September after Universal pushed back its end-of-summer release date. The trailer begins with ballerina Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) and Senate candidate David Norris (Matt Damon) meeting each other seemingly for the first time, and it’s evident that immediately there's strong chemistry between them. Their shared glance triggers strong emotions within David — but are those feelings genuine or are they a part of some greater scheme controlled by a group of fedora-wearing men called the Adjustment Bureau?

David’s meeting with Elise was apparently not a part of that plan, and now David has to choose if he wants true love — which would mean sacrificing his political ambitions and apparently her dancing career — or to put his life back on the track it had been on.

The movie, directed by “The Bourne Ultimatum” scribe George Nolfi, seems to strike that rare but perfect balance that makes it appealing to both women and men — there’s a real, interesting romantic relationship at the center of everything that’s shrouded by a science-fiction mystery. We like the mix of flirty vignettes of the couple interspersed with the intense moments between David and the Adjustment Bureau. It also seems to have an “Inception”-esque vibe to it without getting crazily confusing.

That being said, our main qualm with the trailer is that it may give too much away — “just remember, we tried to reason with you,” one member of the bureau warns David. As the couple walks toward a blinding white light and David declares his love for Elise, it seems he opts for free will over fate.

Still, even if we have an idea of where the film is going, we’re intrigued enough to see what will happen once it gets there.


— Amy Kaufman (Twitter.com/AmyKinLA)

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Marvel makes Emily Blunt an offer for 'Captain America,' but British actress probably will say no - UPDATED

April 2, 2010 | 11:36 am

EXCLUSIVE: With Chris Evans now locked and loaded as Captain America, momentum is building to cast the property's female lead.

Marvel has been heavily courting Emily Blunt to play the main character's girlfriend, reported previously as Peggy Carter. The studio, sources say, has made an offer to Blunt and wants her for the part -- but expect someone else to wind up in the role in the end.

Blunt, the Golden Globe winner and star of this award season's "The Young Victoria," brings with her a British and European following -- key if you're trying to convince global audiences to see a patriotic hero named Captain America (if only Marion Cotillard was available). She's also seen as someone who can give the franchise a prestige gloss. Casting her would be a move not unlike Marvel's coup in setting Robert Downey Jr. in "Iron Man," lending some serious acting cachet to a superhero franchise (and lord knows Chris Evans isn't going to achieve that here).

But according to sources, Blunt is close to signing on to other projects and will turn down Marvel's offer. That leaves the studio to decide between several other people on its short list, including Keira Knightley and Alice Eve -- both of whom, not coincidentally given the film's global designs, also come with British bona fides. [UPDATED, 1:24 PM -- Sources now confirm that Blunt has officially passed. There will be no Victorian charm amid the dueling WWII-era superheroes.]

Casting a female lead in most superhero films is in many ways harder than nabbing the male one. You have the luxury (or necessity) of using the part to expand the prospective audience. But you also have the tough job of convincing the person who can provide the expansion that playing the girlfriend in an effects-heavy blockbuster is something that's worth their time.

It might be wiser to go the Bond Girl route and cast, say, a lesser-known but still rising star (Gemma Arterton, also British, comes to mind) and create a buzz that way, instead of going with a widely known quantity ... although we have to admit that watching an award-winning prestige actress play the part would  be interesting, to say the least.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Follow me on Twitter.

Photo: Emily Blunt in "The Young Victoria." Credit: Apparition


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