TORONTO—Emily Blunt lived in Vancouver for several years before moving away in 2008, but because those years were spent with her ex, CanCon crooner and die-hard Canucks fan Michael Bublé, she’s not keen to share any Vancouver memories.
Watch the trailer for The Young Victoria.
In an interview with the Georgia Straight in a downtown hotel room during the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, the 26-year-old British actor—best known for her role in The Devil Wears Prada—explains, “I think when you move on from a chapter of your life, you just move on to the next one, so I’ve never been one to reminisce that much.”
In The Young Victoria, which opens Friday (December 18) in Vancouver, Blunt plays the title character in a story that begins just before Victoria became a teen queen at age 18. The film, a mix of love story, political intrigue, and family drama, was scripted by Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and produced by the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. It seems like the perfect BBC–sponsored costume drama—but the director was Quebec’s Jean-Marc Vallée, making for a totally out-of-left-field follow-up to his smash hit C.R.A.Z.Y.
“Jean-Marc created an atmospheric set that was really transporting,” Blunt says. “Just the way he had the set: he’d have music playing, but modern music”¦ I think he wanted this to be a relatable film, and I think often period films can distance people, as they’re quite stuffy. So he was wonderful in that way.”
Blunt says the spark for the film came from Ferguson. “I think she had very much been within that world, so [she] understood it and understood the pressures of it—feeling like an outsider. I think she very much had a certain sympathy with [Prince] Albert, or empathy with Albert and what Albert went through by not being entitled. He was never allowed to be king and was constantly being usurped by his wife. But I think she [Ferguson] was really excited to have the idea and then hand it over to us.”
For Blunt, the excitement came from having the chance to play a character who not only ruled but defined her country. “I really was intrigued by seeing this side of Victoria which I’d never heard about, and I’d had no knowledge of. I was expecting the younger version to be similar to the older, which was sour-faced and po. But when I started reading about her, I was surprised by the joie de vivre that she had and the rebellious quality of her, and that she was strong and vivacious and loved to dance and party, loved to laugh and to eat. Obviously, I was really surprised, and hoped I could surprise other people.”
The fact that the young Victoria is virtually unknown allowed Blunt to create a role, as opposed to trying to mimic an icon. “I did feel, to a certain extent, that I had a free rein to create somebody who people didn’t know that much about, because at the end of the day, you don’t know that much about her. We don’t have records of her voice; we don’t have any video footage of her. We have photographs—but mainly when she was older. We have paintings of her when she was younger. I did feel I had a responsibility to be very true to what I read in her diary entries and all of that.”
The diaries, says Blunt, are “very detailed. Very revealing. And emotionally revealing. She would be very open to talking about how someone made her feel, and she would speak adamantly or ferociously against someone or for them, very passionately for them. She talked about [Lord] Melbourne and Albert in incredibly passionate terms. So that was great, because while I didn’t actually hear her voice, she was very emphatic about how she wrote, you know, underlined words, and you could hear this sort of feistiness in her.”
Victoria’s diaries were so intimate, in fact, that they were heavily revised by her youngest daughter, Beatrice. “Beatrice was the one who actually released them, but she did edit them,” Blunt says. “Because there were things that were too revealing. Like the wedding night with Albert. Beatrice was like, ”˜No. They are not going to know about that.’ And I remember reading that entry. And she says, ”˜You know, he was so wonderful. I’m so nervous.’ And she talks about how frightened she was when he came in. ”˜We were both trembling and laughing awkwardly.’ You could just see everything. It was really beautiful. And then she talked about ”˜the way he held me, the way he touched me’. And then it was like dot dot dot dot. It was really extraordinary.”