"It's not a fairy tale. It's not happily ever after — not in a Sondheim musical!" Emily Blunt said, laughing.
Playing the Baker's Wife in the anticipated movie musical "Into the Woods," Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's examination of the "ever after" in fairy tales, Blunt has become fluent in the bittersweet and somber themes of the prolific composer's work.
Co-starring with Blunt ("The Devil Wears Prada," "The Five-Year Engagement") as the Baker is Tony Award winner James Corden (One Man, Two Guv'nors; The History Boys). Together, the two embark on a quest into an ominous forest, hoping to obtain magical items demanded by their next-door neighbor, who happens to be a witch. These items, she tells them, will lift the curse on their family that has left the couple childless.
The journey takes the pair into unexpected places, both physical and emotional.
"I do think that they are the 'normal people' in the film," Blunt said of the couple. "They're the audience's eyes in many ways."
"What's great is that their relationship in the first half of the film is so sort of cantankerous, but there's so much humor in it," Corden added. "Those were the bits that I really loved — those days when we would find a groove, a short-hand almost of finding those humorous moments."
The impatience and frustration the couple felt with each other was relatable to Blunt, who said, "I know that there is a deep love there, but they're bored, and they can't stand the sight of each other, and it feels stagnant. You enjoy seeing that because it's sort of a real couple. You recognize these couples. You've had dinner with them, and you want to leave. They're just thankless to be around."
While the Baker considers the spell to be on his house, his wife informs him it is on "our house." As the story progresses and he invites her to help him, they perform the sweet and playful duet "It Takes Two."
"I think when they go on this incredibly challenging journey, they have to reunite," Blunt said. "They have to come together, and I think that's what's beautiful — that something challenging and frightening and ultimately doesn't end well is the thing that reunites them. And, I think everybody needs something new sometimes."
The duo became very attached during the filming, and they even developed their own shorthand way of communicating, Corden said, adding that he missed Blunt when he had to shoot scenes without her.
"We spent this very condensed time in the film together, the two of us, and then we really did separate. I didn't see Emily for a few weeks," he said. "That's what makes it so unique when you find a shorthand with someone so brilliant as Emily. You really feel like you know what they're doing without looking, and those moments are so perfect." While "Into the Woods" contains some melancholy moments, Blunt said the message of the film is ultimately hopeful, especially the second-act song "No One Is Alone."
"I think that people are growing up in a very complicated world now," she said. "It is not easy. People do not go through life unscathed, and so I think it's representing that and touching people with that at the same time with that hopeful song of 'No One Is Alone.'"
(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Playbill.com. Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)