Emily Blunt, the actress who plays Queen Victoria in the movie “The Young Victoria,” recently attended a showing of the film in Los Angeles and stayed afterward to answer some questions. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
What makes this film’s portrayal of the queen unique?
When I was first reading up about this film, I had no idea that there was this feisty, remarkable girl beneath the black, dour, sour-faced exterior that I’d become aware of in history class at school. So I think I was as surprised as everyone else. I think that everyone knows about the mourning and the grief and the unhappiness, but no one knows about the love and the passion [of Victoria]. Hopefully this film, if it does anything, will help people understand why she mourned [Prince Albert] so ferociously.
What was the biggest challenge in portraying this character?
As much as I could, I tried to approach her as the girl rather than the queen because she’s a teenage girl, who is in love and in a job where she’s in way over her head. And, at the end of the day, that’s at least a starting point that I can understand. But subconsciously, the more I read about her, the more I absorbed about her, I think I understood Victoria more than any other character I’ve played.
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Sarah Ferguson (Duchess of York) is a producer for this film. Did you meet her while you were making the movie?
She came along when we were doing the coronation scene. We were filming it in Lincoln Cathedral, and she came and made tea for everyone; which was very nice, you know. I think she’s so thrilled that this film got made because she had the initial idea. But I think once it started snowballing she very much took a backseat and she said, “I don’t know anything about filmmaking, so you go make it. I’ll come and say hi once in awhile.” And then she’s been pushing it so hard since we’re now opening the movie. She’s been very supportive.
But it’s [also] interesting to talk to her because I got to know more since. She sympathizes — or empathizes, rather — more with Albert being the guest of the house, the outsider. And it was interesting talking to her about that.
What was the most difficult scene to film for you?
I found the very young stuff the trickiest, partly because of the hairstyle. (laughs) I remember looking in the mirror and being like, “I literally look like a spaniel.” I mean, to what dogs looking like their owners, I was right on there. But I think it’s quite tricky to find that balance because it was a longer time ago when I was 17, 18. So I wanted to recollect what being at that age actually was. So that was quite tricky.
I think the other scene that I found hard but that I loved — it was one of my favorites to do — was the scene where I meet the Privy counsel for the first time. I’d read so much about that day in [Victoria’s] life where she was so nervous; she’d lost her uncle, she knew they were all going to judge her, she knew that they thought that she was just a little girl who couldn’t handle it. It was the first time really where she’d have to speak publicly like that, so that scene for me was really interesting. There was all this emotion going on and she was so desperate to do a good job, and then I just had to sort of suppress it all, and try and act like I was composed. So I really enjoyed that scene because as an actor there was so much to play with.
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As an actor, what was it like to balance the public and private sides of Victoria?
She definitely lived a jeweled existence. And that’s what I appreciated about the script, that it gave room for that. You get to see what a performance it was for her to be out in the public and the composure that she needed to rally every time something awful was happening; she had to just submarine it. So that was interesting to play as well; that was really fun. The ambiguity of that that you get to play with, [where you had to] suppress all of that that’s going on. And I think, also, that you get to see the private side where she’s slamming doors and having a hissy fit, as we say in the UK.
(Thank you to promoter Brian Gross for providing the transcript and videos!)