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There's a way of looking at The Adjustment Bureau as a love story, about a man and a woman trying to stay together despite many obstacles and the passage of time. And then you can see it as a sci-fi film, about a mysterious organization that controls fate, and conspires to keep two people apart for the betterment of humanity. Of course, only when you combine the two do you get what The Adjustment Bureau actually is, an emotional and thrilling movie starring Matt Damon as an aspiring Senator who's forced to fight the forces of fate-- represented as fedora-clad men from The Adjustment Bureau-- when they want to keep him apart from a winsome ballet dancer, played by Emily Blunt.
In an interview with Blunt and Damon two weeks ago, the two acknowledged how important the sci-fi elements were to the story, but focused on the relationship they built between their characters, and how tricky that sometimes was when shooting on the wild and wooly streets of New York. Below heck out what they had to say about their characters, Matt Damon's dancing and a moment of fate in Emily Blunt's life that brought her to the room of the interview that day. The Adjustment Bureau opens this Friday; tomorrow we'll have an exclusive interview with director George Nolfi, so come back for that too.
Are there any stories from your own lives about fate intervening?
Emily: I remember I didn't get into this really great school that my sister went to. It's called the Westminster School, in London. She gets in, because she's a brainiac, and I don't because I'm obviously not. I remember at 16 being devastated, and my life was over and I was so sad. So I went to my second choice school, which had a good drama department. I hadn't previously considered acting, but I was in a play that went to the Edinburgh Festival, I got an agent-- he's still my agent-- and now I'm here with you nice people. If I had gone to Westminster, I wouldn't be doing this job, guaranteed. At the time it seems devastating, but obviously it was meant to happen that I never went there.
What job would you have been doing?
Emily: I had this really impressive idea that I was going to be a translator for the UN. Be fluent in Spanish. I was going to do modern languages at university.
There's a moment in the film where Emily, you challenge Matt to dance, and it looks like he'll do it but he doesn't. Is there unseen footage of that?
Emily: I think his wife put the kibosh on that. She was there that night and she said, "Don't let him dance!"
Matt: On the set I burst into song and dance a lot when I was in costume, because it felt appropriate. But I left the dancing to Emily, thank God. And it was nice to be in a movie where I wasn't the guy training my ass off. I was sitting in the corner just eating doughnuts.
The movie is very fantastical, with a lot of colorful elements, but there's an intimate relationship at the heart of it. You guys had great chemistry. How do you build that amid all the fantastical story elements?
Emily: That was the tricky part for me. I had to be aware tonally of what the movie was, what are we doing. I think George encouraged us, and we decided to be very naturalistic. Even The Adjustment Bureau are not flying around on wires doing crazy stuff. They're pretty accessible sci-fi characters. We had a lot of fun with our scenes because we wanted to find the right kind of chemistry for the characters in order for you to go on a journey with them and want to see them together. I had an easier time in that my character is not aware of this expression of a higher power throughout most of the movie. I think it was trickier for you to balance, Matt.
Matt: The tone stuff we were not in charge of, that was the director's job. What we can control is the relationship between us. We worked on the scenes, making them feel right. We had similar senses of humor, so that kind of helped. In terms of the tone, we're in different movies for a lot of it. She's in kind of a love story where this guy keeps disappearing on her. That was my main question for George. "What is the tone of this? Is it Heaven Can Wait?" "No, it's not Heaven Can Wait!" "Is it The Matrix?" "No no no, it's not The Matrix." "So what the fuck is it?" The Adjustment Bureau is the obstacle to these two people being together. It's a simplistic version of the hands of fate. They're in the way of this relationship, and [the audience] wants this relationship to work. People need to love both of these characters, and then you really need to want them to be together.
You ended up shooting in a lot of iconic New York City locations. What was that experience?
Emily: I was like a kid, it was so exciting. But the downside of that is you have 400 random strangers watching you do a very emotional scene, which is pretty embarrassing.
Matt: Yeah, we did that scene at the Statue of Liberty, and you can't shut down the Statue of Liberty. So there were 400 people who were going to see the Statue of Liberty, and were like "Oh hey, a movie's getting filmed." They would stand there, and George would yell "Cut" and [he applauds].
Emily: There was a really bad moment where Matt managed to get it together, you were there, you were really in it, and some dickhead goes "Matt Daaaamon." And you looked at me and went, "This is the worst day of my life." That was tough.