In Sunshine Cleaning, Emily Blunt plays Nora Lorkowski, one half of the titular crime scene cleanup crew. Norah's razor-sharp edge and somewhat haunted past make for one intriguing character, and Emily pulls her off flawlessly. She chatted with the Oprah.com Screening Room about her take on the role.
(Spoiler alert! If you haven't seen the movie yet, read at your own risk.)
Q: Norah's such a complex, fascinating character. What initially attracted you to her?
A: I'd never played anyone like her before—that was a big pull. It's an offbeat, down-and-out American part really, and I was drawn to how curious she was. I was very touched by Norah. I understand that inability to move forward if you haven't discovered what happened behind you, and no one's talking about the death of her mother. She's just directionless and stuck, and there was something really heartbreaking about that. The characters seemed very real to me because people don't walk around crying about death. They walk around wisecracking and saying stupid things and deflecting emotions with humor. That's very much what Norah does, so I thought it was a very accurate portrayal of someone who is actually in a lot of pain.
Q: Why do you think Norah is so attached to Lynn (played by Mary Lynn Rajskub)?
A: Well, here's this woman who has a shared understanding of what it's like to lose a mother. Norah's extended her hand to her family, and that's been slapped away, so she's going to do it to this girl. She wants see if she can have some connection and understanding of what that feels like. People have questioned whether Norah has a lesbian intention with Lynn, and I disagree completely. I think that Norah is a very compulsive girl—she's like a butterfly, drawn to anything that's more colorful and distracting than what she's dealing with at the time. I think she's almost baffled by Lynn's intention with her.
Q: You mentioned that this is one of the few times you've played an American.
A: Well, before I did Sunshine I did The Jane Austen Book Club and Buck Howard and Charlie Wilson's War, so I've done it a few times. but I hadn't had any coaching on it in a long time. It's a bit worrying. I like doing it—I like the challenge of not creating an accent but creating a character, so you have to try and forget you're doing an accent. A lot of people try and wrap their mouths around doing an American accent, but, actually, you guys are very laid back and you throw a lot away like we do. I learned all about placing the words in a different part of my mouth. You speak much more at the front of your mouths and your mouths are wider, and we speak right at the back of our throats, and barely move our mouths. So it's weird, there's a lot to take on, but once you've learned the basics you can hopefully try and obliterate that from your memory and create a person rather than be distracted by an accent. But it's not easy, and I don't think I've perfected it.
Q: What was it like working with such an all-star cast?
A: I met Amy very briefly on Charlie Wilson's War, but we didn't actually have any scenes together, since I was in it for maybe 30 seconds, tops. We met and hung out in her trailer and we sussed each other out, whether we could spend three months in the same city. It turned out that I completely fell in love. I just thought that she was so much fun and so bright and vibrant. She's basically one of those singular actresses out there who is so talented it's a bit scary. I was like, "Oh my God, I've got to really up my game with this one." And I don't think anyone has a bad thing to say about Alan Arkin, which is just so...nauseating. It's impossible to not like Alan, absolutely impossible.
Q: So what's up next on your roster?
A: I've got Young Victoria about Queen Victoria, which is out in the UK at the moment and will come out in the U.S. later this year. It's a beautiful period drama about her marriage to Albert in the early years. It's really cool, kind of contemporary take. Even though it's a period drama it's filmed in a very accessible way, and so I loved that. You see the intimate side of being a monarch, and it was a wonderful, rewarding experience for me to be a part of that. Then I've got Wolf Man coming out in the autumn, with Benicio Del Toro and Antony Hopkins, which is a very Gothic, frightening, horror film.
Q: Sounds like you've really run the gamut of the types of films you do.
A: I do want to run the gamut; I very much want to do that. It lands well with me to work like that. Not to be bored or repetitive. That's what lands most truthfully with me.
Q: Is there a specific kind of movie or person you are dying to work on or work with?
A: I think it's really struck me recently how much I want to work with Sean Penn. I love everything he does really, and then when I saw him in Milk I was like, "Oh, you're spooky talented!" I just think he's managed to maintain such a rawness about him. He has similar qualities to Benicio [Del Toro], and I loved working with Ben. He's wonderful to be around—exhilarating actually, because you don't really know where you are with him. It's kind of of exciting to work with someone who's got something very instinctual about him, and I think Sean probably has the same qualities.
Emily reveals her secret passions
Watch the Sunshine Cleaning trailer
Printed from Oprah.com on Monday, March 10, 2014
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