As I’m sure you’ll know, the British actor garnered worldwide attention for her memorable performance in the 2006 comedy-drama, which is based on a novel of the same name by Lauren Weisberger.
As fate would have it, the character Emily played in the movie is also named Emily, who’s the cutthroat assistant to the ruthless editor-in-chief of Runway Magazine, Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep.
In the hit film, Emily has to reluctantly work alongside Anne Hathaway’s Andy, who’s hired as another one of Miranda’s assistants, despite having absolutely no interest in fashion.
So, prior to this movie, Emily had already earned praise for her performance in My Summer Of Love, which came out in 2004. However, she says today that it was The Devil Wears Prada that marked an “overnight” turning point in her acting career.
In a new episode of the Hollywood Reporter’sAwards Chatterpodcast, Emily discussed her many film credits and recounted the unexpected way she wound up landing a role in the fashion-filled movie that changed her life.
Speaking with the host, Scott Feinberg, Emily remembered that she’d been in LA auditioning for a totally different project and was frantically running late for a flight when a studio executive at Fox asked at the last minute if she wanted to read for another part they had in mind.
Looking back, she confessed that she hadn’t even read the book of The Devil Wears Prada and was reluctant to audition. However, the studio bosses asked, ‘Why don’t you just have a look at these pages and just wing it?’ — and that’s exactly what she did.
Emily ended up impressing the director, David Frankel, and joked that her ability to master the character’s icy demeanor was probably aided by the fact she was late getting to the airport at the time.
“Maybe it helped that I was straight-jacketed with time concerns and clearly in a pretty amped up state anyway,” she said, “which lends itself to the desperation of that character.”
But, before she could officially sign on for the role, David suggested that Emily come in and read for the studio executives one more time — with a simple request.
“I remember when I’d read at the studio [the first time] I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt,” Emily recalled. “And David said very diplomatically: ‘Can you look a bit more, sort of, stylish?’”
Of course, being that the movie centers around Miranda’s Runway Magazine — which is widely known to be somewhat inspired by Anna Wintour and Vogue — Emily’s high-fashion look was a key aspect both on and off the screen. And thankfully, she was able to nail it.
If you’ve watched the movie, you’ll know that Meryl’s portrayal of Miranda is nothing short of iconic. Although, the performance apparently came at a price for everyone on set.
Meryl has previously said that The Devil Wears Prada was the first time she ever tried method acting — and it also wound up being the last time too, as the technique made her totally miserable.
“It was horrible,” the three-time Academy Award winner told Entertainment Weekly in 2021, confessing that it made her “depressed” to hear her costars “rocking and laughing” when she knew she had to stay in character as the tyrannical and cold Miranda.
While speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in her new interview, Emily was asked about her experience with Meryl on the set of The Devil Wears Prada, which also happened to be her first time working with the beloved actor.
“She was approachable on set, but just in her own sort of vortex,” Emily responded with a laugh, adding that any stories about Meryl’s brutal method acting techniques while making the movie are “so not representative” of how “warm” and “wonderful” she is typically.
“I don’t know if she had a lot of fun trying method acting, but it certainly worked because there was an intimidation factor for all of us on set,” she said. “Especially for Annie and I, who were — we have an expression in England — ‘bricking it’ everyday working with her.”
Emily even recalled the very first table read when she and Anne were left terrified by Meryl after she made it clear that she’d be going full method from that point onwards.
“I remember that table read and I was so scared,” she said. “It was sort of my first exposure to something like that with the big studio heads in the room and, oh, it was awful.”
Much to Emily’s delight, Meryl apparently let out a laugh at one of her lines, but soon made it clear that it wouldn’t be happening again.
“It really meant the world to me,” Emily remembered, “and then afterwards she said to Annie and I… ‘I think you’re both gonna be great, and that’s the last nice thing I’m gonna say to you.’ And it kind of was.”
Now, nearly 18 years after its release, Emily said that her lines from the movie are quoted to her by fans “every week.” And if that’s not the sign of an iconic performance, then what is?