Close Encounters of the Celebrity Kind...
What Did You Do On Your Summer Vacation?
from the 6/15/05 issue of Windy City Times
by Richard Knight, Jr.
Pawel Pawlikowski directing, My Summer of Love poster, star Emily Blunt with her director
Polish born director Pawel Pawlikowski has found two new stars, Emily Blunt and Nathalie Press, who make their debut in his film of
intense lesbian teenage romance, My Summer of Love. The film opens this Friday at the Landmark Century. WCT recently spoke
with the tiny, gorgeous veddy British and polite Blunt, who was dressed in a green knitted shawl, jeans and sandals and was on her
first U.S. press junket. She was accompanied by her writer-director Pawlikowski, who in typical director fashion, gestured
expressively, and spoke in accented English.
WCT: Can you tell me how the project came about? I know the film was based on a book.
PP: The first spark was the characters. The two girls, especially Mona, because it was primarily told with her voice. I’m very
interested in layered characters with personal dilemmas and intense psychological inner lives and these two certainly qualified. This
was really rich material to work with and would allow for a lot of improvisation. I had another project that I was working on that
collapsed so I went back to this book and decided I wanted to work with it. It had too much other characters and plots—
WCT: So you stripped it down to basically the two girls and the brother.
EB: Pawel added the brother.
PP: Yes. There were just too many rich characters and I simplified the story but I thought the addition of the brother made the
story a bit more complicated and interesting. Then we starting assembling the cast, setting up the financing, trying to find just the
right locations to tell the story in.
WCT: You found some incredible locations.
EB: They’re so hugely important to the movie.
PP: I also looked for actors that could bring a lot of texture to the parts and it was wonderful that Emily could actually play the cello
though I wanted it slightly off.
WCT: Your playing’s beautiful.
EB: Thank you. It’s kind of hard to watch that scene though I find it sort of endearing. I think because I can play that piece (“The
Swan”) note perfect and I used to be quite good and play everyday. As soon as you stop you lose it.
WCT: Well you’ll be compared to Lori Singer in Short Cuts.
EB: That’s it exactly! (laughs)
WCT: I loved the use of the music throughout the movie in general. How did you come into the film, Emily?
EB: Well I knew that it had been casting for awhile and I got the call to go in and meet Pawel (pronounced Pavil) and I was a little
intimidated to audition for him because I wasn’t real comfortable with improvising which I’d heard he was doing in the casting
sessions. I’d been so used to working and auditioning a certain way I was quite nervous about it but when I met him I liked him so
much. I heard that it went okay – I came out shrugging my shoulders, I wasn’t quite sure – but the next day I met Nathalie who’d
already been cast and there was a chemistry there from a very early stage. We’re very, very different people off camera, with
different personalities, and I think Pawel needed that to get that spark, that energy. It was interesting working with her, the scenes
just seemed to sort of “arrive,” seemed to materialize.
WCT: There’s a lot of improvisation in the film, is that correct?
PP: Yes – within the scenes. The scene that I always screen tested actors with was the Edith Piaf dancing scene. It was great to see
what different actors would do with that. It’s a very physical scene and there was some hesitancy at some of the auditions.
EB: It’s very tender and I held her very close and Nathalie said that I was the first person who came in who really held her with
WCT: Well it’s a very erotic scene and you immediately see that mentor-student relationship in the making between the two young
women. I liked that you shaped the scene toward a physical seduction with the wine and the music. It reminded me of Susan
Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve in The Hunger and then you didn’t go exactly in that direction. Many of the scenes seemed to defy
expectations – was that planned or did it just happen as you went through the filming?
PP: That’s the way I work. I try to structure my productions like that. I like to create a little world that suggests a lot of possibilities
and allows the actors to feel comfortable. There’s certainly a narrative structure but it’s kind of like painting with actors – there’s
room for a lot of interesting colors within the framework. As you work certain things come to light that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
WCT: Sort of a Seurat, pointillist approach?
PP: Yes, that’s it exactly. Or like assembling a Taschen book. You have a blank canvas upon which to paint this picture. The
locations help you sometimes as much as the actors. As the work progresses you begin to notice, “Too much red, not enough
pink.” It’s a very nice approach to filmmaking – not always easy to make happen. You certainly collaborate with your actors and
surroundings and utilize what they bring to the work.
WCT: Like using Nathalie’s drawing ability and making it a part of the movie.
EB: She would do it at rehearsal. She’d draw me and she did some really good ones.
PP: It became an interesting component of her character.
WCT: So Emily do you know anyone in real life like Tamsin?
EB: Oh yeah, sure. People I’ve met, people I wanted to be like at school. People that are magnetic and filled with charisma but
also have a lot of mystery about them. Somewhat pretentious but still endearing in a way and anytime those people smile at you or
sort of hold out a hand it’s like, “Oooh,” it’s the moment of your life. I remember feeling like that and waiting for that moment of
acceptance from some people that I’ve known. I think everyone’s also been a Tamsin at one point.
WCT: She’s so evocative, too. Which brings me to my lesbian readership – how did you prepare for The Scene?
EB: (laughs) “The Scene!”
PP: We tried to avoid it.
EB: “We don’t need it, we don’t need it,” he’d say.
PP: Actually, for a long time I went back and forth about actually showing it.
WCT: How funny that you should say that. When I was watching the movie that’s what I was thinking, ‘It’s so obvious what’s going
on I don’t need to see the physicality.’
PP: But in the assembly when it wasn’t there it just felt a little too coy, a little clever. And also combining it with another scene – the
one with the brother arriving to find Mona – added another purpose to it. It wasn’t just about them being together then. There was
more to it.
WCT: Well I literally took it to mean, ‘Here we have born again Christianity outside the window, decrying gay people.’ I was
thinking, ‘Get out of my bedroom’ as usual.
EB: It was actually never meant to be religion against homosexuality. It wasn’t that way.
WCT: Okay. So, did you have any problems or hesitations with the love scene or were you at that point so into the characters that it
EB: I think it’s very hard with those scenes to be completely at ease. You’re standing there with your tits out and of course it’s
embarrassing on one level and it’s one of the most unsexy things you can film – there are so many technical things going on. It’s
always a bit excruciating for everyone and terribly time consuming. Pawel was like, “We’ll talk about that scene later.” (he laughs)
But we had to be brave about it, you have to be to make them work. The main thing about them is there’s nothing very merry
about shooting them.
A lot of the fun of The Devil Wears Prada, the story of nightmare fashion editor Amanda Priestly (Meryl Streep) and her fashion
challenged new assistant, Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) is thanks to the other assistant, the snooty, nasty Emily played by British
newcomer Emily Blunt. Blunt's performance lends the movie a much needed dose of good nasty fun but has been somewhat
overlooked in the reviews -- no surprise in light of Streep's usual consummate work. I had the pleasure of speaking with the
talented Miss Blunt and the director of My Summer of Love, her debut movie, last year and in light of her Prada success, am rerunning
this interview. Blunt was on her first press junket to the states and in person was the opposite of both the insufferable Emily in Prada
and the scheming beauty she played in Summer.
The Devil's Disciple
7/7/06 Knight at the Movies update
by Richard Knight, Jr.