Emma Stone: A movie star on the rise in Hollywood

Emma Stone in Cabaret

Together spoke to Emma Stone, a young actress who is living her dream, despite being naturally anxious.

When Emma Stone was a young girl growing up in Arizona she would often lose herself in a dream world where she was playing in classic Hollywood films.  But Stone was no idle fantasist. At 14, she used a PowerPoint presentation to convince her parents to let her go to L.A. and start making the rounds of studios to jumpstart her acting career. Permission granted, the redheaded beauty has since gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses. While enjoying the popularity that has come with her role as Gwen Stacy in the Amazing Spider-Man franchise films, she has made her mark chiefly as a superb comedienne who has delighting audiences and critics alike in films like Superbad, Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love and last year’s Woody Allen Riviera romp, Magic in the Moonlight.

“Comedy is my true love,” Stone admits. “That will always be my favourite movie genre and nothing can compete with that. But I’ve also been lucky to have the opportunity to experiment with roles outside of comedies because I want to be able to explore different kinds of stories that require a different style of acting.  I’ve always been interesting in studying the human psyche and acting is an incredible way of trying to understand how we think and behave and why life can be so complicated to figure out.”

Her new film, Aloha, written and directed by Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Elizabethtown), gives Stone a chance to test her comic mettle once again in the form of Crowe’s typically ironic and endearingly humorous look at relationships.  Set in Hawaii, Aloha sees Emma play a sprightly U.S. Air Force liaison officer who spends most of the film trying to cheer the spirits of Bradley Cooper’s dispirited military contractor fallen on hard times.  Co-starring Rachel McAdams (as Cooper’s ex), Bill Murray, John Krasinski and Alec Baldwin, Aloha benefits from allowing romantic sparks to fly between two immensely likeable stars in Stone and Cooper, while Murray provides plenty of deadpan irony.

The 26-year-old Stone is currently basking in the afterglow of her Oscar-nominated performance in Birdman and recently marked another milestone in her career when she made her Broadway debut in the Rob Marshall/Sam Mendes revival of Cabaret.  Her sensationally exuberant performance in the iconic role of Sally Bowles won her rave reviews from normally tough New York critics. Wrote N.Y. Times theatre critic Ben Brantley: “Ms. Stone’s version has the avid eyes and angularity of early vintage Joan Crawford and a dance-till-you-drop energy that’s all drive and no gears… Stone is scintillating.”

With respect to her first Academy Award nomination, Emma was somewhat flabbergasted: “I’m not sure that I will ever know what this means overall. It’s a wonderful, very strange feeling. Nothing I can really wrap my head around quite yet. It’s just an honour… I got a text from my mom which is how I found out! ” It came on the same day as her birthday so it was a double celebration.

Emma Stone lives in New York City with her long-time boyfriend, Andrew Garfield, with whom she fell in love while working together on The Amazing Spider Man.

Together: Emma, in the past year you’ve played in a Woody Allen movie, worked with Cameron Crowe on Aloha, and now you’re making your Broadway debut as Sally Bowles in Cabaret.  Is this too much success for one girl too handle?
Emma Stone: (Laughs) No, I can handle it!  (Laughs)  This business has lots of ups and downs and it’s just wonderful when things work out and you feel you’re flying high and enjoying every minute of what’s happening to you.  I’ve been living with this dream for most of my life and it still feels kind of surreal when you find yourself doing exactly what you aspired to. I can still remember a few years ago when I was crying on my couch by myself when I didn’t get some roles I wanted really badly and feeling so upset.  That helps make this time in my life that much more meaningful and fulfilling because you know you had to struggle to get here.

It must be an extraordinary feeling to be playing on Broadway?
It’s something I could never even imagine happening. Cabaret was my favourite film when I was 10 years old and I can’t even express how it feels to be actually playing Sally Bowles.  And working with Woody Allen was another incredible thrill for me.  I’ve grown up watching his films over and over again and then I’m in the south of France sitting at a table with Woody and Colin Firth.  Please don’t wake me up!  (Laughs)

You’re also getting to work with another director, Cameron Crowe, who’s also noted for his own particular ironic take on life?
Cameron Crowe is a director I’ve always adored and I loved the script and the kind of character I get to play.  Shooting in Hawaii is also an incredible pleasure, especially after I got to spend a summer shooting Magic in the Moonlight in one of the most beautiful places you can ever want to be.  You sometimes feel that you’re part of a fairy tale when you get to be part of these projects and that’s part of your thinking anyway as an actor.  It just enhances the process.

You’ve been working a lot lately.  Do you like staying busy?
I’ve been pretty busy, but I’m not a workaholic, really.  I enjoy my time away from work and that’s where my real identity lies. I make sure that I don’t lose sight of my friends and family and the people I love. Sometimes it’s hard to go out in public as much as I would like especially when photographers are always hanging outside your home.

I try to live as normally as I can, and even though it’s disturbing to see them following you to your favourite café because they know where you live and know where you like to go. I still don’t understand why it’s so interesting to take photos with a telephoto lens of me drinking coffee because I do that every day!  (Laughs)  But I’m getting better at just not paying any attention to that.  Everything else about my life is great so why let that kind of thing get to you?

rsz_emma-stone-amazing-spider-man-2What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I’m happiest when I’m hanging out with my friends and getting to read a lot at home.  I also love travelling when I have some free time because it’s much more interesting to be able to explore a city or places when you’re not  spending most of your day on the set and then going back to rest at your hotel at night and then getting up at 6 am to start work the next day.  I have to be careful sometimes not to spend so much time on the internet because it starts to become a black hole and it’s so easy to get sucked in before you realize it! (Laughs)

In the past you’ve talking about how you’ve suffered from anxiety. Has acting over the years been of some therapeutic value to you?
Acting was a way of overcoming my anxiety.  I’m much more secure now, but I still deal with anxiety. Acting allows me to make productive use of my overly sensitive side and channel all that nervous energy which would otherwise be more of an obstacle in life. My work is such an important and wonderful creative outlet for me that I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

You seem to be a rather carefree and engaging woman. Is it hard on occasion to be out in the public constantly?
Sometimes I try to show that I’m a little cooler and more relaxed than I actually am. But I prefer being myself and not trying to hide my nervousness or vulnerable sides rather than trying to put on a facade or hide behind any contrived public persona.  I think the public also appreciates it when you are able to be natural and just relate to people as honestly as possible.

You live in New York as opposed to L.A. Do you prefer the lifestyle here?
I love New York because there are so many different things going on and people are involved in many different kinds of work which is different from L.A. where life revolves around the film business and it’s hard to spend one day without meeting or being with people who are in some way connected to your industry.

New York gives me a chance to feel that I can get away from thinking about the business and also be in a place where people don’t really care that much if you’re an actor.  I feel I can be more anonymous here because the city has a life of its own and people respect your privacy.

Your parents and particularly your mother have been an inspiration to you. How they have influenced your life?
I was very lucky to have two parents who have always encouraged and supported me.  They knew nothing about the film business yet they were ready to support my dream because they believed in me and wanted me to fulfill my dreams. My mother agreed to accompany me to L.A. when I was only 15 even though that meant a big change in her life and you never forget that kind of love and really unselfish act.  (Emma Stone and her brother and father all have tattoos of Blackbirds on their arms as a sign of support for her mother, Krista, who survived a battle with cancer four years ago -ED)

What are your goals for the future?
I want to become more real and live as authentically as possible.  I want to become a better individual and now just try to be happy but also to be braver and scare myself sometimes by taking on new challenges.  I want to keep evolving as much as I can.