Emily Blunt has a cough. She wouldn't think twice about this, but times have, obviously, changed. Over the phone from London, where she, her actor-director husband John Krasinski, and their two kids have been based since August, she stops herself mid-thought to clear her throat. Then, unprompted, she clears the air. "I don't have COVID," she insists. "It's amazing. When you have a cough now, people look at you like you have leprosy. It's like, 'No, there are other viruses going around.'"
Blunt, 38, has this past year to thank for the fear that every little rasp or wheeze could be a sign of the pandemic. "Everyone has been very cautious to leave their bubbles," the Golden Globe winner explains. "That's the confidence people need to win back. It's so unnatural for the human species to not want a sense of togetherness."
The actress sees the vaccines as a light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel. And with theaters now reopening to the public, it was that "hopeful surge," she says, that made Krasinski want to finally release A Quiet Place Part II, the repeatedly delayed sequel he wrote and directed to his 2018 sci-fi horror hit with Blunt in a starring role. And Blunt, cough or no cough, is coincidentally now the face of this year's box office comeback season, heading both the Quiet Place follow-up and Disney's Jungle Cruise.
"It's like an overload during the summer," Blunt says of the calendar packed with movie releases that were rescheduled because of the pandemic. "I feel in some ways so surrendered to it because I think the road map of how everything went before we experienced what we have has gone. There's no appropriate way of doing things anymore. It's a little fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, which suits me more. I think that feels quite exciting. And they're wildly different films."
Jonny Cournoyer/Paramount Pictures Emily Blunt in 'A Quiet Place Part II.'
Originally slated to hit theaters in March of last year, the highly anticipated A Quiet Place Part II will now finally open on May 28. (It will begin streaming on Paramount+ 45 days later.) And Blunt notes that its story turns out to be unexpectedly timely, since it promotes the idea of breaking out of your bubble and "extending a hand to your neighbor."
"We've all just been encouraged to not do that," she explains. "We've normalized the idea of playing it safe that I think there's that surge towards wanting a sense of unity."
In a world ravaged by vicious monsters that hunt through sound, Evelyn (Blunt) and her children — deaf daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds), son Marcus (Noah Jupe), and a newborn baby — brave the world beyond their secluded home.
"It was a tall order to try to match the first one," Blunt says of the movie that made an impressive $340.9 million for Paramount Pictures. But she found Krasinski's idea for the sequel appealing for its focus on Regan and a new survivor that the family encounters, played by Peaky Blinders' Cillian Murphy — the only actor Krasinski had in mind for the role. "It's really Millie and Cillian's story," Blunt affirms.
The Golden Globe winner says Murphy "blended into this environment" of their make-believe family "so effortlessly," adding, "Some of the themes were so intense and dark, and you're dealing with very physically demanding sequences, and he's just a total dream."
A Quiet Place and A Quiet Place Part II feel like family members at this point to Blunt and Krasinski. The first movie may have been born out of a concept from screenwriters Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, but the star of The Office and Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan has since taken the reins of the franchise and made Blunt a central part of it. She then laughs at the thought of playing "pretend mommy and daddy" to Simmonds and Jupe for as long as they have, but it's true.
"Our little crew, we've experienced so much together," she says. "To not be able to introduce [the film] to the world has been hard, to sit on it, because it's such an incredible movie and I cannot wait for people to see it."
Krasinski is currently developing a spin-off concept to further expand the franchise. Jeff Nichols, the filmmaker behind Midnight Special, is writing and directing the film for a planned 2022 release, though scheduling plans have clearly changed because of COVID-19.
Blunt doesn't know yet if she'll be involved with the project. Returning for Part II was more about wanting Krasinski to direct again. "I was never going to do it if he didn't direct it," she says. "My hands were tied by the brilliance of the ideas and his hands were tied because I said he had to direct me." So when it comes to the spin-off, it's a waiting game at this point. "I think there are quite limitless possibilities as to what you could do with this world," she notes. "I'll just have to wait to see what direction they take."
Disney Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson in 'Jungle Cruise.'
Jungle Cruise, on the other hand, spoke more to Blunt's childhood love of Romancing the Stone and Indiana Jones. (The film will now be released in theaters and simultaneously as a Premier Access title on Disney+ this July 30.) "It was such an ode to these films that pulled on my heartstrings innately," she says.
As explorer Lily Houghton, Blunt sets out on an adventure through the Amazon with a charismatic riverboat captain (Dwayne Johnson) to uncover a mythic healing tree. Like A Quiet Place Part II, Blunt calls Jungle Cruise — which is inspired by the Disneyland theme- park ride — the kind of "big event movie" that's a "tonic" for people who've been cooped up at home for more than a year. "It's the allure of travel, as well. Wouldn't that be nice to go somewhere completely exotic and mad and wild?"
Blunt will be traveling soon herself now that many Hollywood productions are restarting. She'll soon head to Spain to shoot a six-episode Amazon Prime and BBC Western named The English, which she calls "one of the best things I've ever read."
She'll be starring as Cornelia Locke, an 1890s Englishwoman who arrives in the American West to get revenge on the man she sees as responsible for the death of her son. Along her journey, she encounters an ex-cavalry scout, Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer), who's also a member of the Pawnee Nation by birth.
"I've been living with this project for, gosh, a couple of years now," Blunt says. "It was sent to me as a pilot and I honestly read three pages of it and was like, 'I'll be doing this show.' It was just extraordinary."
Horseback riding, which she's had to do to prepare for the role, has been Blunt's "saving grace during lockdowns." ("It's just been so freeing to be able to go outside and ride a horse — or try to ride a horse.") The thought of returning to a set is still somewhat worrisome. It sparks the feelings of "Am I going to know how to act?" But for Blunt, "what people have to reclaim in 2021 is the idea of making confident decisions."
And, yes, also feeling comfortable enough to cough if they need to cough.
A version of this story appears in the June issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands now and available to order with covers featuring Lil Nas X, Mj Rodriguez, Bowen Yang, and Lena Waithe. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.