Emily Blunt Plays a Woman Battling Alcoholism in ‘The Girl on the Train’

By Dorri Olds 10/04/16

Blunt prepped for her role by interviewing people that she knew had battled with addiction.

Emily Blunt Plays a Woman Battling Alcoholism in ‘The Girl on the Train’
Photo via YouTube

In the upcoming thriller The Girl on the Train, Emily Blunt plays Rachel Watson, a lonely, tormented alcoholic who pines for everything she lost and doesn’t have. One day, Rachel wakes up with a brutal hangover covered with cuts and bruises, unable to piece together the events of the day before. Because she can’t account for her time during the blackout, along with a connection to a murder victim, Rachel becomes a suspect. 

Recently divorced, Rachel was not able to have children and has become obsessed with other people’s lives. Every day on her commute to work in New York City, she stares out the train window as she passes by her old house, where her ex-husband Tom (Justin Theroux) now lives with his new wife Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and their baby. She also becomes fascinated by a couple that lives a few doors down from them and imagines their perfect life with everything she craves for herself.

The movie is based on the runaway bestseller by Paula Hawkins and is reminiscent of Hitchcock stories. But, Blunt told Time magazine, “It’s less about the thriller of whodunit. It’s the idea of your blackout drunk protagonist making sure she didn’t do it.”

Blunt was determined to depict her character realistically and told the New York Daily News, “I think there are pitfalls with it; that you can appear comical, lurching around like a drunk uncle. I think she needed to be frightening. It’s a very real disease and its claws are in her.”

She added, “I think a drunk is uncomfortable to be around, a drunk is unsettling to be around. Nobody wants to breathe the same air as a drunk.”

Blunt prepped for her role with the help of documentaries and books, and interviewing people she knew had struggled with addiction. “For me, it was a process of trying to really understand that state of mind," said Blunt. "It is a world I've never delved into. It is a world I've witnessed firsthand but I don't personally have that experience. So I watched a lot of documentaries for the emotional depth of what these people go through."

She told Time, “We added makeup to make me look even more like I had no makeup.” She wore prosthetics to create bags under her eyes and makeup artists added rosacea and varicose veins. The actress also wore different contact lenses to show various stages of drunkenness.

“I was really protective of the addict and her emotions," said director Tate Taylor (The Help, Get On Up). "I’ve been touched by it—everybody has at some point. I didn’t want to make a film where it was not treated properly.”

Blunt keeps her private life private. She told Time, “People can make assumptions based on what they see on the red carpet, but that’s not my life. There’s nothing real about it.” That’s a great reminder—and so is the movie—not to compare your insides to other people’s outsides.

The Girl on the Train opens this Friday.

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Dorri Olds is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day and several book anthologies. Find Dorri on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.