‘Devil’s’ assistant

Special to The Times

ACTRESS Emily Blunt had her breakout role in last year’s British film “My Summer of Love,” but this past summer the love was super-sized. As Meryl Streep’s high-strung minion in “The Devil Wears Prada,” Blunt delighted critics and audiences alike with her arch one-liners and eye shadow for miles. The icily coiffed Streep may have stolen the movie, but Blunt drove the getaway car.

Originally from London, Blunt, 23, now lives in Vancouver with her boyfriend, singer Michael Buble. In town to film “The Jane Austen Book Club,” Blunt took a moment to talk about life with “Prada.”


How many times have you been asked what it’s like to work with Meryl Streep?


At pretty much every interview, inevitably. At the press junket, you do 60 interviews a day, and at one point I went into her room and said, ‘Guess what bloody question I’ve been asked all day,’ and she knew right away. And she said “Oh, God, what have you been saying?” and I was like, “All bad.” But I don’t care; I could talk about that woman all day. I’ll never get bored talking about Meryl Streep.

Were you intimidated at the prospect of working with her?

Totally. When I first met her, I had that sweaty palms syndrome. It’s Meryl Streep. I was aware of saying really stupid things around her, trying to sound smart. Annie [Hathaway] and I would call each other and say, “Oh, my God, I just said the most embarrassing thing, put a pillow over my head, Meryl thinks I’m an idiot.” Once you get to know her a bit more, she’s very warm and gregarious. Actually, I don’t think she had that much fun playing the character. We were all off having a party on the other side of the set, and she couldn’t quite join in, because she wanted us to be intimidated by her. Which we were, because she’s Meryl Streep, don’t worry about that. Don’t worry about me quaking in my Manolos, really.

What was the “Prada” audition like?


I was actually auditioning at Fox for something else at the time, and they said, ‘Do you want to read for “Prada”?’ And I was like, ‘Er, OK.’ I hadn’t really read the lines, and I was kind of struggling through it. I guess it worked, because I was pretty frantic, and that seemed to ring kind of true for this character, this neurotic nightmare.

Were you surprised by the strong response to your performance?

I was, because I was just doing an impersonation of a few people I’d met, so I felt like I cheaped out on it a bit. And I just had so much fun, so I never expected the reaction to be like this. Not just for me but for the whole film -- people just loved it, and it moved people in a way that we didn’t really expect.

The film was a surprisingly massive hit, now on its way to grossing $300 million worldwide. What do you think people are responding to?


I think the film created a spectacle for people to be transported into. I know that a lot of people in the fashion world have said it’s not real, but if you want reality, watch the History Channel. The characters are very vibrant and human. There were so many moments that were golden in it, among this mass of frivolity, so that’s why people would go back again and again.

Just about every woman who saw the film will want to know: Did you get to keep the clothes?

No! Meryl had this idea to auction them all off to charity, so we all had to swallow down our rage and go, “Great idea!” as they wrestled my Fendi shoes out of my hands.

What have you been up to since then?


After Prada, I did a thriller called “Wind Chill.” We were shooting four hours north of Vancouver and it was ... cold. Then I had a break to try to get a life. I went on tour with my boyfriend, which was fun. It really opened up my eyes to men. There were seven guys on the bus. I’m unshockable now. I played a lot of poker and drank a lot of Scotch and became a man. And then I had to find my feminine side again to do the film “The Great Buck Howard” with John Malkovich and Tom and Colin Hanks.

What’s your role in “The Jane Austen Book Club”?

I’m playing a wallflower. I’ve done a lot of the acerbic, bitchy, fast-talking characters and it’s very good for me to be restrained again.