TIME – Emily Blunt has come a long way from her star-making turn as a Louboutin-loving fashionista in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada. To play the lead role in The Girl on the Train, out Oct. 7, she had to deglamorize like never before. “Talk about no makeup,” she says over salmon teriyaki and iced green tea at a Brooklyn sushi joint on a late-summer evening. “We added makeup to make me look even more like I had no makeup.” Each day she was decorated with prosthetic under-eye bags, varicose veins and rosacea, along with a changing array of contact lenses meant to evoke various stages of inebriation: pinkish for buzzed, bloodshot for hammered, tinged with yellow for brutally hung over.

Yet for all the attention on the minutiae of her appearance, the key to playing such a truly damaged character—a divorced, infertile alcoholic obsessed with the perfect-looking lives of a couple she whizzes past on her daily commute—lay far beneath the bleary-eyed surface. To bring Rachel Watson to life, Blunt, 33, had to learn how to identify with the humiliation and isolation familiar to many addicts. She disappeared so thoroughly into the character that even her husband, actor and director John Krasinski, says he didn’t recognize her onscreen. “For the first time ever,” he says, “I forgot it was my wife.”

High praise as that may be, Blunt will need to impress legions of tougher critics: the millions of readers who buoyed the movie’s inspiration, Paula Hawkins’ 2015 novel of the same name, to the No. 1 spot on the New York Times best-seller list for 13 weeks straight. While the book is the kind of impossible-to-put-down Hitchcockian psychodrama that begs for a film adaptation, its success creates a daunting bar for the movie to clear. “That’s what I found so appealing,” says Blunt. “It’s less about the thriller of whodunit. It’s the idea of your blackout drunk protagonist making sure she didn’t do it.”

The novel weaves together the perspectives of three interconnected women. There’s Rachel, who rides the commuter train from suburban Westchester into New York City. (The movie transplants the story from the book’s London setting to the U.S., though Blunt keeps her accent in tribute to Hawkins’ story.) Then there’s Megan (Haley Bennett), whose house Rachel’s train passes each day and who, Rachel imagines, has a perfect marriage. And finally there’s Anna (Rebecca Ferguson), the real estate agent whom Rachel’s husband (Justin Theroux) left her for. When Megan goes missing, Rachel believes she can help solve the mystery— though she can’t be sure that she didn’t, during a blackout, have something to do with Megan’s disappearance.

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