NPR logo

Emily Blunt Says 'The Tides Are Turning' For Women In Action Films

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/441458991/441530843" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Emily Blunt Says 'The Tides Are Turning' For Women In Action Films

Movie Interviews

Emily Blunt Says 'The Tides Are Turning' For Women In Action Films

Emily Blunt Says 'The Tides Are Turning' For Women In Action Films

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/441458991/441530843" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Emily Blunt stars as Kate Macer in Sicario. She says the film raises questions about the definition of strength: "Is it somebody who has a gun and does bad things? Or is strength actually strength of character and strength of maintaining your ideals?" Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP/Lionsgate hide caption

toggle caption
Richard Foreman, Jr. SMPSP/Lionsgate

There have been a number of movies about the War on Drugs and the latest, Sicario, takes the "war" part of that phrase very seriously.

Emily Blunt stars as an FBI agent recruited into a U.S. anti-drug operation. The operation works with Mexican security forces to take down drug cartel kingpins — and crosses physical and moral borders in the process.

Blunt says her character, Kate Macer, is the closest thing to a moral center in the film. "I think she's also the audience's surrogate in many ways," Blunt tells NPR's Audie Cornish, "because she's dragged into this incoherent world. Even though she's a highly skilled FBI agent ... it's daunting and incoherent to her."


Interview Highlights

On her understanding of the drug war

I think I was fairly naïve about it to be very honest with you. You know, we hear about ISIS every day of the week and yet we don't hear about this war right at the border. And it's exponentially bigger and it's just as brutal and yet we don't hear about it. So as soon as I started to research it, to Google it, to speak to people who understand that part of the world — including our screenwriter who has a brother who is a journalist in that part of the world — it was shocking and definitely a revelation.

On the moral complexity of the film

I think this is really capturing the reality of the situation which is that it is a war; it is an all-out war. You see the gray matter of the situation. I think that you see that America has some complicity in it, as does the rest of the world. That it's coming from both sides; it's not just them and us, who's the good guy, who's the bad guy. I think it's a film that asks a lot of questions.

On the many different sides of her character

I think it's important to show different layers. Nobody is just tough, nobody is just vulnerable. And so you try and peel back the layers, try and make it interesting, but also play the reality: Which is that really even though she's highly skilled at running a kidnap response team, she's limited to that. She's never really done any investigative work. And she also is pulled into a world that is completely alien to her that she disagrees with, that she resents and tries to rage against.

On playing invincible characters

I think there are a few films — and I've been in one — where you play an action heroine who could take down any guy and she's always got the perfect thing to say. I did this film called Edge of Tomorrow where that was the part. You're playing a hardened warrior. And yet, in this case, she does take some hits. She does throw a punch ... but I wouldn't say she bounces back as quickly.

On the paucity of lead roles for women in action films

I think that what happens often in Hollywood, in the business, is that they crunch numbers on a film that has previously brought in a lot of money. And so you've got art versus commerce here. And usually a film is geared toward the opening weekend and it's decided whether it's a good or bad film based on its opening weekend — which I think is also a terrible thing. ...

A film, when it's being made, is usually geared towards teenage boys as they are the ones who seem to be going out and — according to the numbers — buying tickets. But as my mother would say: Well, I'm not a teenage boy and I don't want to see a film about robots and aliens. So I think there's a huge majority of people who are not in that age group or that gender group. ...

I just believe that we've got to keep writing fantastic roles for women and keep forwarding this fight because I think the tides are turning.

On recently becoming an American citizen, and making a joke about realizing that this was "a terrible mistake" after watching the first Republican presidential debate

I obviously offended some people. It was definitely not intended that way, it was very much a joke. ... Actually becoming an American was such a meaningful day for me.

I was thrown a "MURICAN" party by my husband. ... I made Sloppy Joes which I'd never made before, which were really fun, and some mac and cheese which he made which was fantastic.