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Emily Blunt showed up to the Tribeca Film Festival in April with two very different comedies. She opened the fest with the romantic comedy "The Five-Year Engagement" co-starring with Jason Segel, and then there was the festival favorite "Your Sister's Sister," which after scoring high marks at Toronto and Sundance made a stop at TFF before opening on June 15.
Both films show Blunt's acting range and improvisational talents, which were much needed for "Sister" -- a charming indie about a young woman (Blunt) who doesn't take kindly to her best friend (Mark Duplass) hopping into the sack with her sibling (Rosemarie DeWitt) -- as director Lynn Shelton creates her film heavily from the input of her actors.
We talked to Blunt about the differences in improvising in both films and an embarrassing moment that came from it.
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Were you familiar with Lynn Shelton's style of making movies before signing onto "Your Sister's Sister"?
Yeah. I had seen [her previous film] "Humpday" and my agent called me and said Lynn Shelton wants to give you a call ... and I was so excited to speak to her. I could see in "Humpday" how incredibly fresh and spontaneous it felt and how true to life it was. I felt so connected to what was happening. And I had been crying out to work like that for a while.
Compare this to working on a comedy like "The Five-Year Engagement." Is it completely different?
To be honest it's not because "Five-Year" had a lot of improv as well. The script was much more structured and the scenes were really juicy and really funny and sometimes we'd play a scene out completely scripted. Other times there would be a couple of lines we'd improv and others we'd go completely off into another area and that in itself felt familiar to this. I remember when I signed on it was in its embryonic stages and [director] Nick [Stoller] called me and said, "Don't base the movie on this, it's going to change and evolve." And as soon as I signed on they invited me to a writer's meeting and I just brought all of my notes and all of my ideas and they did a complete rewrite for my character and that's why the characters are so juicy and real.
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Can improvisation become draining when you work on projects like this?
It was a shape-shifting process and you didn't really know what to expect from each scene, and there's something really exhilarating working like that. But it's quite daunting initially because you do feel such a great responsibility as an actor because you are writing it. It's falling out of your mouth as it occurs to you so the immediacy of it you can capture golden moments and you can also feel like you're watching paint dry with some of it.
And with "Your Sister's Sister," it's really the entire movie you have to do that, so that must get overwhelming.
But we had the safety net of Lynn being so intuitive and knowing, as an editor, what worked and taking the good bits and letting us feel safe enough to let us just throw everything we had against the wall and she was going to find the stuff that would stick.
One of the memorable moments in "Your Sister's Sister" is when Rosemarie DeWitt tells your character to share a story about a guy who told her once to trim your pubic hair. Did that really happen to you?
The story actually happened to a friend of Rose's. Lynn told Rose before a take to try to embarrass me, so she remembered the story as soon as Lynn said that. It worked. [laughs] But I feel so embarrassed for whoever that girl is.
Originally published April 23, 2012 as part of NextMovie's 2012 Tribeca Film Festival coverage.