“There is a fragility to our times right now, many people feel disconcerted, and I think Mary Poppins is an enormously healing and unifying character,” says Emily Blunt talking about her reprisal of that iconic character in the new Mary Poppins Returns, for which she has been nominated to the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. It's her sixth GG nomination: she won in 2007 as Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television with Gideon's Daughter.
Since she appeared in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Blunt, 35 (she was born in London on February 23, 1983), has been a Hollywood darling and beauty icon as well as working non-stop as an actress. She was recently on the big screen in the acclaimed A Quiet Place and was The Girl on the Train in the eponymous 2016 movie.
Married to American actor John Krasinski, she's the mother of two girls, Hazel, 4, and Violet, 2. That's another reason, she says, why she wanted to play Mary Poppins even at the risk of a very difficult comparison with the great Julie Andrews, who headlined the 1964 classic. This Rob Marshall-directed sequel has once more shone a light on Blunt, who proved she can play any kind of role, comedy, horror, action-thriller, musical, with equal ease and zest.
When Marshall offered her the role, she hesitated at first: “I think everyone involved had a huge adoration for the first film, which had such an impact on me as a child, and all felt quite protective of the original,” she says. “And yet this is the next chapter, and we had to pay homage while creating something new at the same time.” Blunt wanted this film to be her version of Mary Poppins, and not just to emulate Julie Andrews.
The role also offered the opportunity of a reunion with Meryl Streep, with whom Blunt played in The Devil Wears Prada and Into the Woods (the latter also directed by Marshall). “Emily is an actress with a natural gift for performing,” says Streep of Blunt. “Smart and collaborative, she makes herself totally available to the creative process, she’s not afraid to train hard nor to voice her opinion and vent her feelings. She's a gem of an actress for a director.”
Blunt, who dreamed of being an actress since she remembers (not coincidentally her mother, Joanna Mackie, is a former actress and acting teacher), studied at the Hurtwood House, a top co-ed boarding school where she excelled at sports, cello, and singing. She started taking drama classes at the Hurtwood theatre before landing roles in the West End and the BBC, playing characters in several period dramas on stage and TV such as Foyle's War (2002), Henry VIII (2003) and Empire (2005).
She thinks Mary Poppins Returns is “the most hopeful film in the world: her point of view of infusing people’s lives with childlike wonder and magic and how we should never lose that is just a wonderful thing. I'm so glad to be able to see this film with my little girls. They'll be proud of their mama.”