After portraying Queen Victoria in The Young Victoria, Emily Blunt finds herself back in Victorian England in a very different role in The Wolfman. As Gwen Conliffe, the fiancée to Ben Talbot, she pleads for his brother, Lawrence (Benicio del Toro), to return home when Ben mysteriously disappears. When they discover that Ben has died, Gwen begins to fall in love with Lawrence, unaware of the shocking curse he carries with him.

With doing The Young Victoria and this movie, people might think you have a new found fondness on Victorian things – is it easier now working with all the corsets?

Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) hides from the creature © Universal
Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) hides from the creature © Universal

I don’t know why I managed to go from one corset to another, it was not my intention. I actually love the physical elements of creating a part, and once you’ve got the costumes on they are so ethereal and feel so strange, that you almost don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to worry about moving differently or standing differently, because it does everything for you.

How was it working with Benicio del Toro?

It was intense. He’s awesome to work with. He’s such a rare actor in that he has a really unique approach to a scene. He’s exciting to work with because he’s quite raw and instinctual. You don’t really know what he’ll do in the scene and the scene can really take shape and it can dance in some way. I love working like that because there’s a real openness, and you need a co-star who is going to play with you in that way.

He’s a great guy, we had a laugh on the movie; he’s a lot of fun. He’s a big teddy bear, if you don’t know that.

Can you talk about working with Sir Anthony Hopkins? Did you have to call him Sir?

Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) © Universal
Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) © Universal

No, you call him Tony and he’s very cool, and I was riveted by him. I would sit around talking to him between takes and he’d tell us wonderful stories, he’s a great mimic.

When you’re acting with him he’s got such a simplicity to what he does, he’s quite an economical actor in a way, but the layer upon layer upon layer that is simmering beneath the surface is masterful to watch. It’s distracting, I’d watch him in the scene and I’d forget my line.

What about working in the Horror genre. Is it something you’re familiar with, are you a fan of it?

It’s funny because I’ve never really done the Horror genre, certainly not the monster movie genre, and I love doing something I’ve never done before, so that was cool. Benicio is the freak about Horror movies, he’s so well researched; he’s seen every one of them 20 times. But I was a really nervous child, so I never wanted to go and watch Horror movies.

I remember the first one that stands out to me that I watched was The Exorcist and I didn’t sleep for weeks. And then Jaws as well, which is kind of a Horror movie in some ways. I’m still a victim of Spielberg; I have a real problem with the ocean and with the depths of the unknown.

Maybe that’s what’s so fascinating about monster movies, you’re dealing with a supernatural element, unknown forces, maybe that’s why people are so fascinated by whether ghosts exist, or where do we go when we die? I think that’s why these movies will always be so relevant and of interest to people, because we don’t know.

How much do you think Gwen is attracted to Lawrence as a man and how much is it the primal beast that’s inside of him?

Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) falls for Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) © Universal
Gwen Conliffe (Emily Blunt) falls for Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro) © Universal

I don’t think she recognizes the primal beast. I think she’s quite a scientific girl, so when village gossip ruled the world, as it did in Victorian times, she was probably the one studying Darwin. She always saw the man; you can’t help who you are attracted to, you either are or you’re not.

I think because she was so helpless in not being able to save her fiancé, it became her mission to do something for this man who was in hell. She could see he was in hell and he was in torment. He was actually quite a soft man, and a quiet man and I think she was more attracted to how enigmatic he was rather than this darkness dwelling within him. I don’t think she really chose to recognize that side of him.

Did you feel like you had enough time to explore the characters with all the effects around you?

Yeah I did, because it was a very collaborative process with Joe [Johnston, the director] with Benicio and Anthony. If I’d simply been there to run and scream, I wouldn’t have done the movie. I thought the relationships were really tensely written.

We collaboratively cut a lot of the dialogue, particularly the scenes between Benicio and I, to try and capture that forbidden love essence in a more subtle way, so it was not so on-the-nose. I never wanted it to be that she callously leapt from one brother to the other with the greatest of ease. That would be bad, people would be like, ‘She’s a slut.’

When you’re doing a monster movie you take second place to [the effects], and you react to that, it’s not acting, you’re reacting the whole way through a movie like this. But I was lucky enough to work with people who were willing to make changes that were beneficial to my character. I wanted to make her more pro-active, less passive and Joe was very cool in that way and allowed for that to happen.

And it was a very atmospheric set as well, the sets were incredible, and we had plenty of time. I never felt overwhelmed by the werewolf!


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.