CANNES, France (AP) — Emily Blunt didn't come to the Cannes Film Festival to talk about shoes.
She may have breezily, without hesitation, called out the silliness of any red-carpet dress code that would turn away women in flat shoes "in 2015," drawing headlines for her matter-of-fact defense of several heel-less guests who were refused admission to a premiere. Blunt won't hesitate to speak her mind, but she would rather let her actions — and her characters — do the talking.
"We need to take more action and talk less about it," Blunt said in an interview shortly after her "Sicario" premiered at Cannes. "I sometimes feel you can exacerbate a problem by talking about it until you're blue in the face and putting further and further stamps on the divide. Instead of having nights that celebrate women in Hollywood, we should organize programs where you pay for female writers to develop their skills."
Blunt's skills are prominently on display in "Sicario," a drug war thriller directed by Denis Villeneuve that's among the films competing in Cannes for the Palme d'Or. Lionsgate will release it in the U.S. on Sept. 18. She plays Kate Macy, a steely FBI agent whose brave efficiency gets her enlisted in a covert CIA task force (led by Josh Brolin) aiming to take down a Mexican cartel boss.
As the mission increasingly pushes the boundaries of legal law enforcement, Macy becomes ever more wary. As practically the only female in the film, her strong presence anchors "Sicario."
"I don't ever relate to characters that don't have their s--- together in their 30s," says Blunt. "I've been offered a couple parts like that and I just say, 'I don't relate to it. I don't understand it.' I don't have an interest in playing those kinds of parts. As I get older, I just love seeing people that don't have their head in their hands. I like seeing people who cope."
The performance in "Sicario" has put Blunt among the women who have defined this year's Cannes Film Festival, from Cate Blanchett in the '50s lesbian drama "Carol" to Charlize Theron in the dystopian drag race "Mad Max: Fury Road," for their solitary strength in male-dominated worlds. Before Blunt came aboard "Sicario," there was pressure to change her role to a man.
"It's more an anomaly to see a character like this in cinema," says Blunt. "But the reality from the FBI agents that I spoke to, there's a lot of chicks in law enforcement. We just don't make movies about them very often."
The 32-year-old Blunt, who's married to actor John Krasinski, hesitated at tackling the grim, brutal tale of "Sicario" (which translates as "hitman"). Villeneuve, the Quebecois director of "Prisoners" and "Incendies," met with the British actress four week after she gave birth to her daughter. She was feeling, she says, "the opposite of the character."
"It seemed at the time like a bad fit for me to be doing at that point in my life," says Blunt. "But I actually thought: This is really good to put out there for my daughter to put out there and for her to see. I start to think now, becoming a mother: What am I putting out there in the world and what affect will that have? It's not only a really fantastic role for a woman; it's an intelligent argument."
As "Sicario" pushes deeper into Mexico, questions about the morality of American pursuit of justice mount. The film follows another tough warrior Blunt has played: her elite soldier of 2014's sci-fi action film "Edge of Tomorrow."
"There's a sort of gregarious quality to certain roles that I do," says Blunt. "So it's a challenge for me to play characters like in 'Edge of Tomorrow' and like Kate Macy where everything is so submarined."
Blunt smiles, charmingly. "You can't fall back on any of your tricks, trying to charm people."
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP