LOS ANGELES — What's more scary, fighting aliens with Tom Cruise or singing in front of Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp?
Both brought butterflies to Emily Blunt's stomach, which is how the 31-year-old actress knows when to take a role.
"I like asking myself, 'How on Earth am I going to do this?'" Blunt said as she sipped an iced latte at a coffee shop in the artsy L.A. neighborhood of Los Feliz.
In her latest film, "Edge of Tomorrow," the lithe British beauty wields big guns — of the biceps and military-style variety — as Rita Vrataski, tasked with turning Cruise's character from a scared pencil pusher to a skilled warrior.
"In these male-fueled genres, it's usually the woman who's holding the hand of the guy and he's running through explosions leading her, and I wanted to be doing the leading," Blunt said. "This was the extreme idea of what I ever thought I'd want to do."
Her background is in theater — she made her professional debut on a London stage in 2002 opposite Judi Dench. Blunt's big-screen breakthrough came four years later in "The Devil Wears Prada" as the chilly magazine assistant who was "just one stomach flu away" from her goal weight. She has since appeared in more than 20 movies.
But none prepared her to be an action star. What did was three months of rigorous training in martial arts, weapons and wire work; and working with Cruise, who famously does his own stunts. ("I didn't want him to be the only one showing off," she laughs.) Blunt wore a weighted vest to prepare for the 85-pound armored "Exo-Suit" she wears in the film. She nearly broke her nose — demonstrating for a reporter how the on-set physician straightened it with a finger in each nostril and a quick, painful shift — and may have permanently damaged her thumb.