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Edgy Emily

You remember her as Emily, Miranda Priestly’s (played by Meryl Streep) assistant in The Devil Wears Prada and the gutsy Sara in Looper. This Friday, Emily Blunt stars in her big Holly film Edge of Tomorrow, alongside Tom Cruise. A chat.

What was it about Edge of Tomorrow that resonated with you and made you want to be a part of this film?

Well, there were two things that drew me to the project and those two things are Tom Cruise and Doug Liman (the film’s director). I just thought that was a pretty epic combination. I’ve admired Doug’s work (The Bourne Identity, Fair Game) for so long and I think he’s sort of carved out new space within a genre, which is very appealing to me when it comes to a sci-fi movie especially. And Tom ... there’s no one better than Tom Cruise! (Laughs) In my first foray into the action world, it was very cool to have him as a support system showing me the way because this movie and this type of role is new for me.

But I loved the story. I thought it was the most unusual love story I’ve ever come across, if you can even call it that. And I was really drawn to playing that character, because she’s such a badass, so lethal and emotionally shut down. It was just exciting for me to play someone who might be the toughest person I’ve ever come across.

What can you tell us about Rita Vratasky and some of the qualities of this character that you enjoyed bringing out?

Well, she is a lethal weapon and that really is because she also contracted, if you can call it that, Tom’s character’s ability to reset the day. She no longer has this power, but at one point she did, so she’s become this lethal fighting weapon because she’s had years and years of experience. But what’s happened is that in the process of having to relive each battle, she’s become very hardened. She’s pretty much lost everyone that she’s ever cared about, and has probably had to lose them over and over and over and over again. She’s pretty inaccessible when it comes to someone wanting to have some kind of relationship or friendship.

What was it like working with Tom and what qualities do you think he brings to the film?

Well, Tom Cruise is one of the best humans you could ever meet. He’s the most generous person and he’s cool as hell and really fun. We managed to laugh through the teeth-gritting pain that we had to withstand, because it was very challenging wearing these incredibly heavy armoured Exosuits (a powered exoskeleton). And I think that the only way we could get through a lot of the days was just simply to be upbeat and feel lucky to be there and lucky to be a part of this experience, because the movie was so unusual.

Tom has this boundless enthusiasm and he actually never lets that dwindle, which is pretty much an achievement when you’re shooting in November, outside in the pouring rain in these 85 pound suits. It was remarkable how upbeat he remained. And we just got on really well. He took care of me and he made sure that I was looked after. He has this team of people that he works with, so there’s always a chiropractor on set. There was a medic. I think that he’s had so much experience with these films that he doesn’t underestimate how quickly things can go wrong.

And getting to play these scenes with him was so exciting, because some of my favourite roles that Tom has ever done is when he’s playing someone who is in a job where he’s in way over his head. And he’s so funny in this role. He’s not playing the average action stuff. He’s playing a guy who’s terrified at the sight of blood and now he’s having to take on the role of saving the entire world. It’s just a really fun role for him to play and he nails it.

It’s obviously a very serious premise, but you’ve got such comic timing and he can be very funny. Were there some moments of levity?

Oh, there were so many moments, because the premise sounds quite serious, but the tone of this film is different, and this is why Doug’s amazing. There is such levity within the film, I think, because the stakes are so high. The humour that comes out has been really fun to watch. I think you’re really rooting for this guy who’s just useless at the beginning. He couldn’t fight if his life depended on it. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, and you really root for him as he relives this hellish day over and over again. Your heart sinks for him. And that’s really funny. You’re laughing over the pain that he has to go through! (Laughs) Yeah, you are laughing at his suffering, which is a really funny thing.

Can you talk about what training was like for this role, especially given how much fighting you do and also operating these Exosuits?

Well, basically, I had a three-month training period before the film even began. I had two months in Los Angeles with my trainer Jason Walsh and we did everything. Krav Maga is that lethal Israeli martial art in which you use everything, including your teeth, to annihilate somebody as quickly as possible. And that was to apparently unleash my aggression, which I think it probably did, as I learnt to just knee someone repeatedly.

And then I did gymnastics, yoga, weight training, track running, all of that stuff with stamina. I did a lot of training with a weight vest on, just to start to feel what it would be like to run with extra weight. I don’t think a weight vest did the suit any justice. So, when I showed up and actually put the Exosuit on, it almost made me cry. It’s just something you need to get used to.

Then I had a month of stunt training. Our fighting style is very aerial-based, so I had to learn a lot of stuff on the wires, which I’d never done before. There were definitely days where you’re over it, of course, but it was ultimately really exciting to see each day how you could improve and learn these moves. When your stunt double first shows you the move and says, ‘Okay, now you’ve got to try it’, you’re like, ‘There’s no way. What the hell are you talking about? I’ll never be able to do that’. And then you end up being able to do it.

Was there anything else that was particularly memorable about this film and this experience?

The thing that I really took away as a gift from this film was that it’s the biggest movie I have ever been a part of. It overwhelmed me, the scope of it, looking at those sets everyday. But yet, it is the most collaborative project I have ever been on. I was so involved and welcomed into the creative process by Doug and Tom and the producers and the writers. And I really am grateful for that, because I learnt a huge amount on this and I felt very heard. And I think that sometimes being the only girl in very much a boys’ club, which is often the case in these films, can be a challenge. But they were so welcoming and encouraging for any ideas, any notes, anything I could think of. And that was awesome to be a part of something so big, yet so collaboratively intimate. It was really cool.

EDGE OF TOMORROW BY NUMBERS

1Year of research and development to design and create the Exosuit armour worn by the actors and stunt performers in the film.

2+Hours Emily Blunt spent training each day for three months before the start of filming to move and fight in the heavy metal Exosuit.

5Months of principal photography on Edge of Tomorrow.

6Weeks of training by the cast just to be able to walk in the Exosuits.

10 Minutes for each actor to suit up into an Exosuit. By the end of production, they’d streamlined it to under a minute.

11 Cameras shooting simultaneously from high vantage points and the ground to capture Tom Cruise as Bill Cage landing in a helicopter in the middle of London’s Trafalgar Square.

36 Hours in which the whole of Edge of Tomorrow’s story takes place.

47 Sets built or adapted for the film at Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, divided into 27 exteriors and 20 interiors.

71Police officers necessary to help “lock down” Trafalgar Square to film a helicopter landing scene.

133Total running time of the film in minutes.

220 Pages in Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s original novel All You Need is Kill, on which the film is based.

250 People in Edge of Tomorrow’s massive art department.

1,300 Tons of sand shipped in to create the beach set for the film.

4,700 Total concept illustrations created by artists to help visualise the world of Edge of Tomorrow.

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