Comic-Con 2012 Interview: Emily Blunt Talks 'Looper'

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Kevin Winter, Getty Images

One of the films that most impressed the crowds at Comic-Con 2012 was the upcoming sci-fi-action-thriller 'Looper' starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. We sat down with Ms. Blunt right before she went on stage at Hall H to talk shooting shotguns, learning to love sci-fi and her upcoming film with Tom Cruise.

We’ve seen a bit of you in the trailers, but just a little taste. So what can you tell me about Sarah?

Well, I can’t tell you much really because my character’s plot line hinges on all of the big reveals and surprises of the movie and the twists. So I think that really the most I can say is that she’s an incredibly… She’s kind of a badass.

She’s living on a farm in the middle of nowhere and somehow myself and my family get embroiled in all of this craziness when Joe Gordon-Levitt allows his future self to run. And then when they are battling each other. So my family is somehow involved in all of this and the reasons why they’re battling.

Well, we do see a little bit of a gun…

Yes.

Did you do some weaponry training?

Oh they just taught me how to shoot a shot gun, which is pretty fun actually -- really fun -- and I also had to learn how to chop wood really convincingly.

Johnson seems to create this space where actors can really bring forth very different characters. To do something that maybe they wouldn’t normally do. That’s a specialty of his. So, are we going to see something different from you?

Yes, definitely it’s something I haven’t done before. I mean everything from the fact that I’m playing someone from the midwest [to] I look different -- I’m really tanned, I’m really blond, I’m really like bedraggled looking. I mean it’s definitely not a glamorous role, this one.

But more than that, I mean, his work and the way his writing has such a unique voice. You know it’s such a singular voice -- it’s not derivative of anything else you’ve seen -- so it’s endlessly surprising, but yet it’s acutely human what he writes. He’s one of these guys that has seen every movie under the sun, yet he hasn’t copied anything, you know? He’s extraordinary that guy.

He has the ability to sort of take a genre and then really bring something new to it, but not in a kitschy way, in a really very organic way.

Oh yeah.

How do you think he’s done that with sci-fi?

I’d heard he’d been wanting to do a sci-fi for a while, but the thing that Rian does is that he takes a genre -- and he's a huge genre fan. You know he's seen all of these movies and I think he’s inspired by them, but what he does is he takes them, and his point of view is so clear and his ideas, and the story and the characterization, it all lines up -- like tonally -- it all lines up so perfectly. It’s so clear the way he writes that you know exactly what you want to do to turn this genre on its head and kind of carve out some kind of new space for this genre. That’s why he’s so brilliant, and I think it comes down to the clarity in which he writes.

That’s what I’m looking forward to seeing with this, I’m a sci-fi fan and I’m also a Rian Johnson fan.

Huge. I mean everyone should be.

Were you familiar with his work?

I’d seen 'Brick' and I really enjoyed it, and then obviously when I got this movie I watched 'The Brother's Bloom' and everything. With both of those movies you just know that you’re going to be in someone’s sure hands, and that’s all you want to know.

And I liked him immensely personally. When I met him, I just thought “Wow, he’s so collaborative. He’s so interested," you know? You want a director to be interesting and interested; you want both those things so that you’ve got a really nice collaborative space to work in, and even though he wrote it, he was never precious about anything. I mean the dialogue or anything. You weren’t limited or straight-jacketed to his own personal take of how he thought the scene should go. He was genuinely interested in what you thought you could bring to the table.

One of the things that I’ve been interested in watching some of the footage is the effects look really strong. Have you seen any of it?

I’ve seen the whole thing.

Have you seen the whole thing?

Oh yeah.

Jealous!

I know. I know. Dude, just wait. It’s so good.

Is that something that we can look forward to as well, as sort of like an upping the ante in terms of the visual landscape of the film?

Well, yeah. I mean, I think he’s done -- with the budget and everything we had -- he’s done an extraordinary job with it, and I think what I like about the effects is that they aren’t so overwhelming and in your face that they get in the way of the story. He’s really about telling the story, and there’s a sort of Spielberg-esque feel to some of those effects. There’s something kind of timeless about them, and he really hardly used any computer-generated stuff. Hardly anything.

It’s primarily practical?

Oh yeah, literally nearly all of it. Yeah.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has obviously talked a lot about how the physical aspect of the character informed his performance, but you gave mention that you also have a transformation. Did you find that that really informed your performance?

I always have to start that way. Initially I sort of start with, “How does she feel in my skin? How does this person feel? Why does she act the way she does?” And then I kind of go outwards, you know, and it happens kind of subconsciously. How does she move? How does she speak? How does she look? I think it all sort of happens naturally, and I can’t really say that I have a kind of bullet-point way of doing things. I usually go with an early instinct and try and stick with it.

What was it like for you to watch Bruce Willis and Joe play off of each other?

Well, I saw them do one scene and it was really cool 'cause I was watching from the side and they were facing each other like you and me in profile. It was kind of extraordinary. And um… I don’t know, it was just really cool. I don’t really know how Joe managed to embody Bruce Willis in the way that he did, but he did. And it wasn’t an impersonation. It wasn’t like a cheap impersonation. It was more of his kind of essence that was just so, so cool. He got that New Jersey accent, but also the way he speaks, the way he moves – really well observed.

The fundamental question in the film is a little bit like, "How would you literally face yourself, if you had to do that?" We all do that metaphorically, but literally what would you say, what would you do? So for you, what do you think that would be? What would your advice be? What would your questions be?

I just don’t know. I think everyone should be baffled by that. If you knew, I think you’d probably be in trouble. How do you know? How do you know how that would be? I think that’s part of the film that he’s caught in this brain-melting dilemma of having to find his future self who’s gone running, having to kill his future self. Um… I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t know.

We’re here at Comic-Con. You said you are or are not a fan of the sci-fi genre?

Well, I just hadn’t really… I didn’t grow up being a sci-fi fan, but this kind of sci-fi to me is so fascinating 'cause there’s something frighteningly familiar about it and human. That this, it could be where we’re going, this post-apocalypto, it could be where we’re heading. So I always react well to sci-fi films that are not necessarily about people floating around in silver space suits. I don’t have any interest in that.

In what way do you think we could be heading in this direction?

Oh no, I’m just saying that the world that Rian creates is a kind of dog-eat-dog world, and it’s each to their own, and everyone’s just trying to survive. And I think already, I mean, my whole theory on technology is that everyone’s so busy doing that. No one’s connecting anymore and experiencing. Everyone’s just documenting, and so I think the way Rian was going was everyone’s just slowly being disconnected from reality and from connection -- a human behavior, a human connection.

It’s amazing. I was waiting for an elevator today and I had this tableau of 10 people, all of them on their phones, none of them even looking at each other.

No, I know. And you see people on a romantic dinner on their phones, and I’m just like, “How sad.” I find it really sad.

I also went to Bruce Springsteen recently, I went to a concert in Madison Square Garden, and all he must see is a sea of machines, a sea of iPhones and not faces. And that’s what I see, like if you go outside, or fans will come and watch you shoot a movie, you don’t see faces anymore; you see that. It’s strange, it’s like a strange thing.

And listen, I’m like a dinosaur about these kinds of things. I’m so not a technological person, but I think there’s something to be said about putting your phone down.

I didn’t know that that was actually a part of the film thematically.

Well, it’s not really. It’s sort of my perception from watching it. I was like, “Isn’t it interesting. The characters seem kind of disconnected and everyone’s just trying to survive, and no one’s really wanting to engage," you know? And I think that’s what I get scared about with the future.

Well, you’re working on another sci-fi project as well, 'All You Need Is Kill.' What about that project attracted you to it.

I mean to be honest I love the director, Doug Liman. I definitely wanted to work with Tom Cruise and if you want to work with an action star -- like you want to work with Tom Cruise, he’s done it so much. And the part is kick-ass. She’s just so cool. So that was a big pull for me, that character.

Well with a name like Valkyrie One, I mean, she’s got to be just a warrior.

She’s like a warrior. She’s like one of the most accomplished soldiers you could ever meet. It’s pretty cool.

Are you doing some crazy training?

I am. I just started it, so I do it all summer and all September, and I start [the film] in October.

Is it weapons or martial arts?

I’m doing martial arts... We’re gonna get gunned out. Look they’re comin’ in though.

Oh, they're there.

Look for 'Looper' in theaters on September 28th.

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