With her striking beauty and genuine talent, Emma Stone is one of Hollywood’s most sought after young actresses. In her hilarious new comedy, Easy A, she turns in a terrific performance as Olive Penderghast, a smart high school senior who tells a little white lie about losing her virginity and gains an overnight reputation for being the campus slut. As her life begins to parallel Hester Prynne’s in The Scarlet Letter, Olive sets out to loosen the town up a little bit from its Puritanical values by turning the rumor mill to her advantage.
The 21-year-old actress recently wrapped production on Crazy, Stupid, Love in which she stars opposite Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling. She is currently in production on The Help, adapted from Kathryn Stockett’s New York Times best-selling novel about three women set in the deep south of 1962. The film, which also stars Viola Davis and Bryce Dallas Howard, is being directed by Tate Taylor and is scheduled for release in 2011. She is also lending her voice to the animated comedy The Croods along with Ryan Reynolds and Nicholas Cage. And there are rumors of a script in the works for a 3D sequel to the popular zombie comedy, Zombieland, in which Emma might reprise the role of Wichita. More after the jump:
Emma talked to us recently about why it was important for her to land the role of Olive, what it was like working with director Will Gluck, and how Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci, who play her super cool on-screen parents, reminded her a lot of her real life parents. She also updated us on her new movie, The Help, which she is currently shooting in Mississippi, and dispelled imdb rumors about her involvement in The Master.
Emma: Thank you.
Q: We’ve seen lots of teen films, but you win us over from the first scene. Did you see that intelligence and uniqueness when you first read the script?
Emma: Absolutely. It’s so different and unique from anything I’d read before. There are so many messages throughout it, but it’s not speaking down to anybody. It’s not a message movie. It’s funny and sweet. I thought Olive was such an amazing character and Bert (Royal) really had fleshed her out so much in the script that just trying to bring her to life was the only challenge. Sometimes you read a character and you think “Oh, I could go a million different ways with this,” but that wasn’t the case with Olive because she *was*. It was just fantastic from the first read.
Q: You mentioned you tracked the script and went after the role. Can you talk a little bit about that journey?
Emma: I read the script before Screen Gems optioned it and my manager and I kept an eye on it. Screen Gems optioned it and then signed Will onto it so I went and I met with Will as soon as possible to talk to him about it. And then, a couple months later, they started the audition process and I tried to be in there first. I was really crazy about it and I’m happy that we’re sitting here talking about this movie and that I got to be a part of it.
Q: Have you seen it with an audience yet and gotten their reaction?
Emma: I’ve seen it but I just watched it on my own. It’s hard for me to remove myself from it and really watch it objectively so I’m cool with not seeing it at a test screening or anything. That would make me too nervous. But it’s wonderful that people are responding well to it. It makes me very happy.
Q: Everybody has been talking about the smartness of the script. There is also a reality to the relationships – with the parents and the brother – they all seem real and you see where she came from along with her sense of humor. How do you realize that dynamic that’s in the script and make these relationships work?
Emma: The parent characters were written very funny in the script but Patty and Stanley just came in and blew all that out of the water. They were so unbelievable. I was so grateful to them, selfishly, because they made it all make sense. They made that character and the way she is and the way she makes decisions, how confident she is in knowing the truth herself, regardless of what other people believe, until it starts to hurt people, in which case she feels awful because it’s hurting other people. But when it’s not, she’s so confident in knowing that they all believe something and she knows the truth and she’s fine in herself. I think that comes from her family base and having parents that are open and understanding and have raised her to be confident in herself and to be her own unique brand of kooky because they are as well. I just felt so lucky that it was Patty and Stanley, two great actors that have such a great relationship in real life as well. The two of them have such a great rapport that it was amazing and fun to watch.
Q: They’re the parents we would like to be and as a child the parents we wish we had. Those characters kept it grounded because they let Olive make mistakes.
Emma: My parents are miraculously similar to those parents which is the luckiest thing in the world. They may not be as liberal but their parenting style is very similar. They always let me make mistakes and their biggest rule was – and I know this may not work for everyone but for whatever reason it worked for my brother and I – if you tell the truth, you will never be punished, and if you lie, the punishment will be huge. It made me always want to tell the truth because I would never get in trouble no matter how bad it was. If I went and told them and I was honest with them, I wouldn’t be punished for it which really creates an open, honest relationship because you know that you won’t be in trouble for making mistakes. It was a really interesting, great way to be raised and helped me relate to those parents too because kids are going to make mistakes. But if you scare them into lying about it, it’s going to be a tough road.
Q: What about “Oh I killed the cat, Dad.” “Well it’s good you told me the truth.”?
Emma: Kids are pretty emotional about that stuff, too. I wasn’t like “You killed the cat? That’s awful.” “How’d you kill the cat? Did you murder the cat?” Then it’s a whole other story. I did some stuff but it wasn’t like “Oh, I accidentally ripped my sweater.” Who cares? I did some stuff that was more depthy than that, but we would sit down and we would talk about it and I would be honest because it was so much better than them finding out and me getting in trouble for it. That would be the worst because usually you already feel pretty bad when you mess up. Kids know. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Messing up is no fun. So, it was nice and it also teaches you as an adult, at least for me, to cop to your mistakes more quickly with your friends or with the people you’re working with. It’s like “I messed up. I know.” So it’s not a big thing. That’s a whole different story.
Q: How were you in high school? Where did you fit in?
Emma: I was home schooled. I went to school for a semester but I was home schooled.
Emma: No, not really. I moved out to L.A. when I was 15 and it was to pursue this (acting) so I have no regrets. Also, you don’t really know what you don’t know. I could be in college right now so you can only imagine what that might be like, but I’m pretty happy to be sitting here.
Q: Wasn’t that one semester at a parochial school?
Emma: Yeah, it was at a Catholic school.
Q: How did you feel about the Christian fundamentalists being the heavies if there is a villain in the story?
Emma: I think it’s so much less about their religion and more about who they are as people because they’re a very extreme group of people. They’re not trying to speak for all Christians by any means in the movie. I definitely had a massive amount of experience with fundamentalist religious people just growing up in Arizona. I had a lot of experience there, but again I really don’t think it’s a religious thing that we’re trying to convey. I think it’s more the personalities of those specific people.
Q: But there’s also that quest that Olive goes on and she doesn’t find answers.
Emma: You’re right. Exactly. Just to see if maybe that’s going to help me. I was breaking down to the priest who wasn’t there or the pastor who isn’t there. She does go on a bit of a spiritual journey there for a minute.
Q: But also, knocking the bible on the floor was very deliberate. What was behind that?
Emma: I think that was just a little of she’s really rebelling against this group of people that are Christian, and of course, after all that and going in to speak with a preacher, she’s going to knock a bible on the floor. They think she’s the devil and of course she’s going to knock the bible on the floor. I don’t know if I still say “Shit!” when I do it, but in the original scene it’s “Shit!” and then people in the back [of the library] are like [shocked]. It’s just that it cannot get worse. Yeah, that might not be in there anymore.
Q: Working with Will must have been good because you’re back in another movie with him?
Emma: As much as we constantly make fun of each other and rag on each other, it’s a good thing. We both need that. We are so frickin’ similar, it’s awful. Sometimes you’re not like the person you’d want to hang out with. Would I really want to hang out with me full time? No, you’ve gotta find people who balance you out. Will and I are very, very similar people and that’s so obnoxious. But it’s great because we call each other out all the time. He’s really fantastic to work with.
Q: This is a potential breakout role for you. With the critical community behind you and if the audiences come out for it which we hope, this could really change the course of your career for you. Are you thinking at all that way?
Emma: No, no. I mean, you can’t think that way. Like I was saying, you can see me in 6 months and go “Sooooo, that didn’t happen. But how’s this one that you worked on?” You never know. You can’t try to predict anything. And I wouldn’t know otherwise. Again, you don’t know what you don’t know. I wouldn’t even know what that would be like to speak to it. We’ll see.
Q: You’ve got a number of projects coming up including a couple of period pieces. The Master is set in the 50s and The Help is set in the 60s.
Emma: The Master? Oh no, I’m not involved with that. That’s just one of the IMDb rumors. But The Help is set in 1963 in Jacksonville, Mississippi. That’s what I’m shooting right now. I’m on Mississippi time. It’s fantastic. It’s based on the book that’s been on the best-seller list for 70 weeks. It’s just an incredible book and such an amazing story to tell. We’re having a really great time trying to tell it right now in Mississippi.
Easy A opens in theaters on September 17th.