Her ability to convey vulnerability, intelligence and naivete is what landed actress Emma Stone the coveted role of Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan in the big screen adaptation of the best-selling novel, The Help. Set in Jackson during the 1960’s, Skeeter is a graduate of the University of Mississippi who has come back home, is living with her parents, is unmarried and is desperately in search of a career in journalism. Wanting to make a name for herself as a writer, she starts a secret writing project with the help of African American maid Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), a complex and conflicted woman who agrees to tell Skeeter the painful and potentially incendiary stories about her life raising the children of wealthy white families. As more and more maids agree to tell Skeeter about their experiences, what started off as a passing idea quickly builds an unlikely friendship that breaks societal rules and puts them at risk, changing all of their lives forever.
At the film’s press day, Emma Stone talked about getting to shoot The Help in relatively chronological order, working with Viola Davis, the horror of being in a bikini on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, staying so grounded on account of her great mother, how her friends don’t care that she’s involved with a project as high-profile as The Amazing Spider-Man, how she hopes everyone will be happy with the way that story is told and translated for the screen, and how she’s been taking a break from work since that film wrapped at the end of May. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: You have some really great moments with Viola Davis in this film. How did you develop the chemistry between your characters, Skeeter and Aibileen, that sustained itself through the movie?
EMMA STONE: I think we were pretty lucky because, for the most part, we were relatively chronological in shooting. Skeeter and Aibileen don’t really know each other very well, at the beginning. They slowly get to know each other better and better, which was our experience as well, throughout the movie. It was relatively chronological, so it wasn’t that we felt the need to develop this deep, long-lasting friendship chemistry, from the very beginning.
Working with such a talented and accomplished group of actresses, did you have any conversations about your experiences with and in this business?
STONE: That’s outer perspective. That would be like people sitting around and saying, “People view me this way. How do people view you?” “They view me this way.” We’re all just people hanging out. You don’t view yourself the way that people view you, most of the time. I don’t think that’s ever really a thought because that’s put on you.
Having all these films coming out and being on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, do you feel like this is the year that’s going to change your life?
STONE: If I had a nickel . . . Let me say something. There’s nothing you can know until you know. There have been a million times in my life where that’s happened. I was like, “When I turn 13, I’m going to get my own phone line in my room and I’m going to make so many phone calls to all my friends and I’m going to be up all night talking on the phone.” And, it was exciting for two days, but the phone never rang. Then, I was like, “When I’m 16, I’m going to get a car, drive wherever I want and do whatever I want.” And, I picked up my friends for a couple weeks, and then I was like, “Oh god, I just want to say home.” There are a million things in life where people say, “This is going to happen,” or “That is going to happen,” or “Here’s how it’s going to feel.” And, pretty much, it just feels embarrassing.
I’m in a bikini on Vanity Fair, and I don’t wear bikinis in real life, but there was one set-up where they were like, “Wear a bikini because we’re in St. Bart’s,” and I was like, “Okay.” I had the stomach flu for that whole shoot and I was vomiting, so [when I look at that cover], I see the stomach flu and a really great photographer. It just feels so different than you think it would feel, and it’s so fleeting. Life will inevitably change again next year, and you’ll either be asking me that question again or you’ll be laughing that you ever asked me that question. It will just be different.
With so much success, how have you managed to stay so grounded?
STONE: I’m crazy. It’s nice that it’s not coming across so much, though. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s the case or not. My mom and my dad never boosted me up, irrationally. They never told me, “Oh, you’re so great! Look at you go!” They said, “We’re proud of you and we’re happy you’re doing what you want to do.” But, I could drive a garbage truck and they would say the same thing, if that was my passion. I’ve just got a good momma.
When you do a project that’s as high-profile as Spider-Man, are you surprised with the interest that it brings, not just from fans, but also from your own friends and family?
STONE: It’s pretty much just you guys. My friends are always like, “Where do you want to go to dinner?,” or “What movie should we see?” They’re not really sitting around asking me about what it’s like to be in Spider-Man.
Are your friends also actors?
STONE: Some of them, yeah. I’m not Spider-Man. Maybe Andrew [Garfield] is [having that happen]. I don’t know.
What do you think will most surprised people about that film?
STONE: I don’t know. We’ll have to see. It’s that expectation thing. I always struggle with expecting anything. I don’t know what people are expecting from Spider-Man. It’s like that with The Help, too. When you are part of a movie that has a fan base already built in and it feels like everyone has read the script, which is rare because usually you know the story, as the actor, when you’re talking about this stuff, and people have just seen the movie, but it’s also that everyone has read the book or everyone has read the comics, and they come in with these expectations. You just hope that they’ll be happy with the way the story was told and the way it was translated for the screen.
With all the work you’ve been doing, have you been able to take a break at all?
STONE: We wrapped Spider-Man at the end of May, so I’ve been on a break since then. It’s been about two months.