Britain’s Blunt is in full blossom

March 8

Emily Blunt had just arrived at her London apartment after an adventurous plane ride from Los Angeles.

“There was horrible turbulence. I nearly got ill. I swear that the plane was on its side at one time. I was like `a-a-a-h,”‘ said the 26-year-old Brit, sounding unflappable, as if she were describing having popped down to the local shop.

But those who have seen Blunt in any of her scene-stealing roles – Meryl Streep’s put-upon assistant in “The Devil Wears Prada,” her sexy turn with Tom Hanks in “Charlie Wilson’s War” or her Golden Globe-winning performance as a politician’s neglected daughter in the TV drama “Gideon’s Daughter” – know she is one cool customer.

This year you’ll be able to see the actress in four films. Her latest, “Sunshine Cleaning” (opening Friday), finds Blunt – whom Streep calls one of the finest young actresses she’s ever work with – playing the directionless Norah, the younger sister to recent Oscar nominee Amy Adams’ Rose. The pair, haunted by the death of their mother, have started a business of cleaning up bloody crime scenes.

“Sunshine Cleaning” isn’t the downer it sounds like, though. It’s about family and has offbeat charm and laughs that are helped along by Blunt’s and Adams’ sisterly comfort level. Oscar winner Alan Arkin plays their father.

“We both have sisters,” said Blunt, whose older sister, a literary agent, lives nearby. “So I think that we both understood the dynamic of that bond and how delicate it could be and how close it could be and how much your sister could be the one that could destroy you at the same time and break your heart.”Blunt and Adams, who met while doing “Charlie Wilson’s War,” spent a lot time in Albuquerque, N.M., rehearsing for “Sunshine,” hanging out and eating “a ton of Mexican food.”

“She became my partner in crime,” Adams has said of the experience.

Blunt calls Adams “a great playmate. She was just so much fun and brave with the choices she made. She’s not afraid to look like a complete (expletive).”

A bit of a stoner, Norah is “suffering,” said Blunt, “from a lack of connection with her family because of what happened to her mother.”

Blunt was cast not to be glum but for the humor she could add to the role.

“She was naturally funny without pushing it,” said “Sunshine” producer Glenn Williamson.

Added Blunt: “Depressed is boring to watch.”

As for a lack of connection with her family, that is clearly not the case with the actress. In the middle of talking about her family . . .

“Oh, my God, my grandma’s on the other line,” she said.

For the record, Blunt is the second of four children and has a 19-year-old brother who is a film student and a 17-year-old sister.

“My mom used to be an actress,” she said, picking up the subject after a moment. “She had four kids and a busy husband, which makes it virtually impossible to have a career. So she decided to stop and become a teacher. She taught English as a foreign language.

“My father is a lawyer – he’s a queen’s counsel, a defense criminal lawyer. I think I probably get a bit of (my acting ability) from both of them because my father is biggest actor of all of us.”

A week after “Sunshine,” Blunt can be seen in “The Great Buck Howard” – a quirky comedy staring John Malkovich as a mentalist on the downside of his career and looking for a comeback. Blunt plays an aggressive publicist – something she is well familiar with as a film actress. But when asked what she may have learned, she is very diplomatic.

“I see a lot of them (P.R. people) at photo shoots and the red-carpet events where they are flapping around their clients. Mine, Rupert, certainly is never like that. But I’ve been witness to that . . . So I did, I guess, steal from a few situations I’ve been in or been witness to.”

For her part, Blunt has kept her private life private. She doesn’t talk about her three-year relationship with with Canadian crooner Michael Bubl , whom she first met in 2004, nor John Krasinski of “The Office,” with whom she is currently linked.

In the past, Blunt says, she let too much out publicly and won’t do so again.

“I don’t really have the entourage,” she said. “I have my agent and my publicist. I don’t have a personal assistant. I don’t have anything like that. I do get a weird joy about getting to go out to buy my own toilet roll, if you can believe it. So I don’t get driven crazy by it.”

Blunt sounds so grounded that it’s hard to believe it was only five years ago when she opened filmgoers’ eyes as a seductive young woman in “My Summer of Love.” Acting was never anything she intended to do, but an agent spotted her in a musical when she was 16, and one thing led to another.

Certainly, Blunt’s eclectic choice of roles gives you the sense she’s not worried about major stardom.

“I usually try to choose roles that are a bit left of center and different from the one I played previously,” she said. “I think I’d probably bore myself if I did the same role over and over again.

“I was very drawn to Norah because I’ve never played anyone like her. It’s a very, very American down-and-out role. She’s physically very different from anything I’ve done. I’ve tended to play characters that were more highly strung.”

Highly strung sounds the opposite of Blunt – and then . . .

“My mom just walked in and realized I was doing the interview,” Blunt says, laughing. “I’ll just give her a hug.”

The actress’s other two films this year are “The Wolf Man” and “The Young Victoria,” which opened Friday in England. It’s the story of the British monarch’s love of Prince Albert, who is played by Rupert Friend, Kiera Knightley’s current flame.

“`Victoria’ was probably one of the most rewarding films I’ve worked on – a real challenge,” Blunt said. “I just hope I did her justice because she was a remarkable girl.”

As for the “The Wolf Man,” a remake of the the classic horror film, Blunt had fun working with with “a couple of great actors” in Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins.

“I did a lot of running and screaming,” she said. “But I’m not a great screamer, so they’ll have to dub me for that.”

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