Every British movie star is required by law to take part in a period piece or costume drama at some point in her career. That’s a fact – look it up, gentle readers. Emily Blunt understands this cinematic truth well. “You have to don the bonnet at some point, otherwise you’re simply not a British actress,” she declared to MTV News.
Luckily for us all, her entry in the genre is not some stuffy borefest – all corsets and nose-in-the-air snootiness – but an unsentimental exploration of a young woman’s coming-of-age. The woman in question, it just so happens, is Victoria, the future Queen of England. Titled “The Young Victoria,” the film opened in the UK in March and is set for a limited US release on December 18, before going wide a week later. (check out the trailer premiere above).
Across the pond, Victoria as a historical figure is known as something of a downer. After all, she spent a decade in self-imposed exile, mourning the death of her hubby Albert. “That was my impression of her – that she was repressed and in mourning and never smiled and waddled around with that dour-faced expression and a hanky on her head,” laughed Blunt.
“Young Victoria” follows Blunt’s Victoria in the time before she assumed the throne as an 18-year-old, as she fell in love with Albert, and after her coronation as she struggled to meet the demands of her royal position. It’s a portrait moviegoers on both sides of the Atlantic hadn’t encountered before.
“I loved that no one had seen that side to her – that young, passionate, fiery side,” Blunt explained. “I was very surprised by the love story, which really did happen. When I read her diaries, I realized this wasn’t just Hollywood sensationalizing this woman’s life. It really was a meeting of souls when she met Albert.”
If Blunt was going to accept that requisite costume drama role, it was not going to be in some typical big screen fare. “Victoria” presented the 26-year-old actress a range of uncommon opportunities. It is a film whose focus is strictly on a woman (“That’s really rare,” she said), it is a historical biopic without being a preachy history lesson and it would gave her the chance, as she said, to work on legendary, regal locations that would be nothing short of “transporting.” She sat down with producer Graham King and said she needed to play the Queen.
“I knew that a lot of people are going to lobby for it,” Blunt said. “I tried to bully my way in there.”
And once there, the actress approached Victoria as a woman first and a monarch second. She hopes viewers will do the same. “There are not that many people who know what’s it like to be a queen, but I think everyone knows about falling in love for the first time,” she said. “Everyone knows about a dysfunctional family. It’s a really intimate portrait of her private life and what’s it like for a girl who has a job and she feels in way over her head.”