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Emily Blunt’s blazing fast dash through awards season

Emily Blunt’s blazing fast dash through awards season
Entertainment
“Great! Direct sun!” Emily Blunt laughed knowingly as she nudged herself closer to her friend, Olivia Wilde, obliging a shooter who had snuck upon them to take a pic.

We were all standing outside in Palm Springs last week, the harsh light of the late morning playing menace with the photographic arts. The perils of awards season! Emily pressed on. Operation Brunch.

Emily Blunt, Bradley Cooper and Olivia Wilde at the Variety brunch, in Palm Springs, Calif. earlier this month.  (Michael Buckner / courtesy of Palm Springs Film Festival)

Appearing at this, one of many glad-handing moments during a jam-packed kickoff to the year, she showed herself to be the thing I have long thought her to be: a pro. Practically perfect, in the parlance of her all-new Mary Poppins. Wasp-waisted. Poured into a beautiful dress with all the colours of all the Popsicles. That BBC Newsnight brogue. A natural ability to work a room — or in this case, garden, considering this was an annual Variety a.m. do, held on the grounds of the Parker Palm Springs during the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

Who’s hot? Who’s not? Who’s in? Who still has work to do?

Who’s sweating? And who is demonstrating the pull to get other stars to sing their praises?

As a peephole into celebrity hustle, attending this small, dreary brunch — as I have done several times — is endlessly instructive. With money, trophies and career trajectories on the line during this usual lead-up to the Golden Globes and eventually the Oscars, just consider that the night before this brunch Blunt also appeared at the calendar staple that is the Palm Springs fest gala, a kind of dress rehearsal for the Golden Globes that drew, to confirm, Bradley Cooper, Regina King, Melissa McCarthy, Mahershala Ali, Laura Dern, Rami Malek, Spike Lee, Timothée Chalamet. Etc. Blunt appeared onstage literally being pulled by the too-cute kids from Mary Poppins Returns, to accept an ensemble award for the batty new Disney reboot.

Then came this Friday brunch, tucked in a nook in the hotel (famously designed by Jonathan Adler) known for its Lewis Carroll-like flourishes. A seven-foot bronze banana, here; an English-style croquet lawn, there. Chippy chefs flipped omelettes, a ceviche-several-ways station called in one corner and mimosas went around, too. Blunt, who stuck to coffee — smart girl — was there to collect a prize dubbed the Creative Impact in Acting Award.

Right after this brunch? A lunch, as the host from Variety informed the crowd — all the way over in Los Angeles. Why, we were told, this brunch was on speed-dial, so to speak, because Blunt — plus, other attendees at this gathering, including A Star Is Born director Cooper and Black Panther dude Michael B. Jordan — had to literally dash to that hair-down event being held for the 19th annual American Film Institute Awards. Bottom line: Blunt had barely gotten through making her remarks — “I still can’t believe I’m Mary Poppins,” she marvelled — when it was time to vamoose. Betcha she wished she had a flying umbrella then.

Before making her exit, Blunt did thank the two men in her life: one, her supercallifragilisticexpialidocious director Rob Marshall; the other, hubby, John Krasinski, who also directed her in the horror breakout The Quiet Place. Two collaborations yielding two very different roles in tone, but both amounting to a good, very good, year for the 35-year-old actress.

Rushing to L.A., complete with costume change — of course — Blunt made it to the AFI lunch, held at the Four Seasons, where the hobnobbing in celebration of both TV and film had brought out the Who’s Who, including 93-year-old living legend Angela Lansbury. There, Blunt reunited with her John, and spent most of the event flitting between his table and the Mary Poppins table, as even this room of heavies warmed to the power-coupling on display. With a space in the celebrity market for such a contemporary duo, and buoyed by their Nice People image, John & Emily Inc. is nothing if not a blue-chip stock lately. (Though Krasinski did have a pithy answer, when I interviewed him about his Jack Ryan series for Amazon a few months back, and happened to ask what it’s like for Jack Ryan to be married to Mary Poppins. With “two girls, under the age of five, Mary Poppins is the story in our house,” he told me.)

At around the same time the very next day, Blunt was back at the Four Seasons for the annual crumpet-fest that is the BAFTA tea, a rite of January that also brought out the likes of Lupita Nyong’o, Richard Madden, Claire Foy and Rosamund Pike this year. Different frock. Same charm offensive.

All this, leading up to the Big Night itself, where Blunt — now a knockout in champagne-colour lace, courtesy of Alexander McQueen — took her visibility tour to its zenith when she appeared with Dick Van Dyke onstage at the Globes itself, his Old Hollywood stature giving a halo to her growing stardom. Mary Poppins may not have left the telecast with any hardware, and by the night was done, the conventional wisdom may have had the Best Actress Oscar race shaping up to a battle between Glenn Close and Olivia Colman, but the dream goes on. At this point, despite the stacked slate in the potential Best Actress race, the hunt still remains to get in a nomination, which would be Blunt’s first. The nomination itself would be the win, in other words.
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