Crossing the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, Stone, slender in a pale pink dress, sports the kind of grin reserved for a summer stocked with three big movies bearing her name.
This weekend, the green-eyed redhead takes on her most adult role to date in Crazy, Stupid, Love as Hannah, a young, driven lawyer who meets a smooth-talking player (Ryan Gosling), dismisses him, and ultimately inspires him to drop his well-honed bravado for love.
“How long has it been since there was a really, really original romantic comedy?” she says of Crazy, Stupid, Love, which also stars Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Marisa Tomei.
With Carell on board (“He’s the reason why everyone wants to be part of whatever he’s in”), the script “was incomparable to anything,” says Stone, who first made waves in 2007’s Superbad. Big roles including in The Help (out Aug. 10) and The Amazing Spider-Man (out next year) and a minor role in Friends With Benefits (in theaters now) mean she’s quickly learning the ropes of the fame game.
Step 1: Get used to being recognized.
“It’s bizarre when you walk into somewhere, like to a grocery store or something, and the person behind the register says, ‘Oh, your hair’s back to red. That’s what’s weird,'” the smoky-voiced Stone says, chuckling while dipping pieces of pita bread into a hummus platter. “You’re like ‘Yes, yes, it is. Thank you.'”
But even to Stone, her rise feels quick. Raised in Scottsdale, Ariz., Stone, 22, persuaded her mother to move with her to Los Angeles in her teens to try her hand at acting. A role on VH1’s The New Partridge Family was her launching pad, and before long, Judd Apatow— and Superbad— came calling.
Stone quickly went from a supporting player in films like Zombieland and TheHouse Bunny to Hollywood’s most recognizable redhead in last year’s hit teen comedy Easy A.
“I think Judd Apatow is who I owe most everything to,” she says. “I think without that, most of this probably wouldn’t have occurred.”
A blond girl named Emily
One major key to Stone’s success: She ignores her own hype.
Warm and friendly over lunch, Stone recounts her jam-packed year. There were big moments: turning “Spider-Man blond” for the role of Gwen Stacy (she is indeed back to red now), hosting Saturday Night Live and walking the red carpet at the Golden Globes in her first custom-made gown from Calvin Klein Collection.
And there were small ones: drinking bourbon in the Deep South with her co-stars from The Help, taking her younger brother Spencer, 21, to the MTV Movie Awards and burning her arm in her New York apartment while whipping up chocolate-chip pancakes with bacon bits sprinkled in. She relates all of them with gusto.
Stone is a natural blonde, and her real name is Emily, she says as she moves on to a bowl of chicken soup.
“(Emily Stone) was taken at (the Screen Actors Guild) when I registered, so I had to be Emma,” she says. But “everyone at home calls me Emily, people who know me really well,” including her Easy A director, Will Gluck.
Gluck calls her a kindred spirit. “Neither of us can take compliments,” says Gluck, who asked his pal to drop by the Friends With Benefits set last summer to shoot a cameo in which Stone (hilariously) breaks up with Justin Timberlake before he moves on to Mila Kunis.
On Easy A, “we would constantly just yell at each other and say how bad everything was. People would come on the set thinking, ‘Oh my God, they hate each other,’ but it’s just the way we argue, like a brother and a sister.”
Her two Crazy directors had no better luck. “I’d go up to her and say: ‘This is the unfortunate time that I have to tell you I’m really happy with what you did today,'” says John Requa. “And she would make the throw-up face every time.”
Stone reveals she hates praise. “The last thing I ever want is to be coddled,” she says with a shudder. “But I should learn to be a little more gracious.”
During this interview, she is nothing but gracious, although wary of one topic: her love life. Stone declines to discuss whom she’s dating or whether she’s single. “I just figure if I never say anything, it never has to be a thing when anything happens in my life. It’s hard enough dealing with it on my own.”
But scoff at the absurdity of dumping Timberlake? Sign her up. “I went to his concert when I was 13,” Stone says, grinning at the experience. “It was just a real moment to dump that guy.”
When Stone auditioned for Crazy’s Hannah, Gosling says the movie began to make sense to him. “The whole movie depends on who plays that role. My character (Jacob) is supposed to give it all up for her. So when Emma walked in, I thought, ‘Show me someone who wouldn’t give it all up for Emma Stone, and I’ll show you a liar.'”
It was Stone’s quick humor and “God-given timing” that caught the attention of Crazy directors Requa and Glenn Ficarra. “Somewhere living inside her is a 90-year-old vaudeville comedian,” says Requa, who likens Stone to throwback talents such as Lucille Ball and Bette Davis. Ficarra calls her a remarkable improviser. “She’s got a whip-smart brain,” he says.
Gosling calls Stone’s “mind-melting Lauren Bacall impersonation” a highlight of the film. “She did it for me one day by the craft table, and I was determined to get it in the movie somehow.”Stone’s comedic chops trace back to her childhood, when her parents began showing her their favorite comedies and episodes of Saturday Night Live from the ’70s. “The Jerk was the first movie I remember seeing,” says Stone, whose idols are mostly from that era: Gilda Radner, Steve Martin, John Belushi. “My favorite is John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” she says.
‘Help’ with history lessons
Next month, Stone trades her polished red locks for The Help’s frizzy-haired heroine, Skeeter, in the film based on the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett.
Stone hits her heaviest notes yet playing a young writer in the 1960s exposing the treatment of black maids in Mississippi. What follows is a warm but wrenching story of Skeeter’s growing relationship with two maids, Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Minny (Octavia Spencer) in the face of Skeeter’s racist contemporaries.
Director Tate Taylor, a childhood friend of Stockett’s, was looking for a younger Joan Cusack to play the role. “I could not believe it, she was sitting right there,” he says of meeting Stone. He introduced the actress to the author over dinner. “That’s Skeeter,” Stockett told him.
Stone and Taylor, who was directing his first studio movie, shook off their nerves at a blues club the night before they started filming. “The Help felt like going to summer camp,” she says, “hanging out with the cast every single day, riding our bikes to each other’s houses.”
But the warm environment was countered by the somber tone of many of the film’s scenes. Stone shot The Help “6 miles from where Emmett Till’s body was found 50 years ago and 11 miles from the birthplace of the White Citizens’ Council,” she says. Preparing for the role, Stone began questioning why her public school education about the civil rights movement had been limited to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
“I don’t know how it was so shocking to me to see Eyes on the Prize, the documentary series, to see the things that were happening. It was like, how did I not know this?” questions Stone. “Or how any human being is born still into inequality. I don’t understand how gay rights are being challenged so much. It doesn’t make sense to me.”
She’s proud of the film and what it stands for. “It was exciting to be in a movie like Easy A, with bullying, and it’s exciting to be in a movie like The Help, bringing up discussions of civil rights and what we’re still going through, and what we’re still enduring.”
The biggest moment of Stone’s career is just around the webby corner, when TheAmazing Spider-Man swings into theaters next summer.
Getting the call in the middle of a Mississippi cotton field that she got the part of Gwen Stacy left Stone dazed. “It was like someone goes, ‘Your life changed, bye!'” she exclaims. And the opportunities keep coming: Gluck says he and Stone “have carte blanche to develop something” for Screen Gems after the success of Easy A.
“She’s a real-deal actress,” Taylor says. “Such a mature old soul in such a vibrant little capsule.”
Tell Stone any of this, and her cheeks match her blush-hued Altuzarra dress. “People keep asking if there was a turning point,” she says. “I don’t know if there has been. My family and my friends feel steady. So all that other stuff, if I don’t pay attention to it, it doesn’t feel like anything’s really changed that much.”
Source: USA Today