Interview: Emma Stone from “The Help”
Interview: Emma Stone from “The Help”

Emma Stone is all set to become a household name. What many don’t know about the rising young star is that she was born right here in Scottsdale, Arizona. “It was hot. That you can probably guess,” she says jovially of her hometown. “It was also pretty great. I think the heat kept me indoors and kept me watching movies. I was an active kid but whenever I was inside I was watching movies, like I’m sure a lot of people are. I come back and visit as often as I can, which isn’t often enough.” Her unwavering determination, maturity, and perhaps the weather, influenced her destiny as an actress. “I think I knew from my first grade play at Sequoya onward. My teacher Mrs. Goldman was the best and put me in my first play, ‘No Turkey for Perky.’ I loved it. From then on I was pretty one-track-minded.”

At the age of 11 she joined the Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, where she starred in over a dozen productions and participated in their comedy improv troupe. She says of the Producing Artistic Directors, “Bobb and Karol Cooper are two of the greatest human beings on the planet. There’s no way I’d be able to be sitting here right now without them. Bobb taught me professionalism and what it was like to be given an opportunity to be versatile and brave and try new things. He also taught me what it was like to work hard and be a team player. VYT was my home and I can’t recommend that you go see their shows and support that theatre and those kids enough.”

At just 15, she convinced her parents to let her move to Hollywood where she picked up brief roles on a few television series. “I miss my family the most, followed by my friends, and the Sugar Bowl downtown,” she reminisces. It wasn’t until she landed the love interest spot for Jonah Hill in Judd Apatow’s Superbad (2007), however, that she really began to get noticed. “That entire experience was one giant fond memory because it was the first movie I ever got to be a part of and it really meant a lot to me. The people were incredible and I really couldn’t have asked for anything better.” She followed that riotous comedy venture with another, The Rocker, a role in which she had to learn to play the bass guitar from scratch, starring alongside The Office’s Rainn Wilson. Coincidentally, this year she also stars alongside another The Office persona, Michael Scott – the inimitable thespian Steve Carell, headlining Crazy, Stupid, Love. Of her costar, she says, “Steve is a genius and probably one of the funniest actors on the planet but on set he’s a calm guy, and a real family man. He’s always got stories about his wife and kids and he’s as nice and fantastic as you’d expect him to be.”

Between 2008 and 2010, she would land six more feature film roles, including voice work in Marmaduke, the lead female character in Zombieland, alongside Jesse Eisenberg, and top billing in Easy A, a resounding performance that would land her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. “That was a great night because I got to take my mom and she’s a real hoot. Calvin Klein Collection was nice enough to make me a dress and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever gotten to wear,” she says of that memorable event. She also fancies Louis Vuitton, Lanvin, and Chanel.

This year alone, she’s appeared in three major releases, most recently in Walt Disney/DreamWorks’ The Help, once again as an influential leading lady. The film has already picked up early award-season buzz thanks to stellar performances and a striking central theme of racial inequality in the 1960s. Stone is Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, a Southern society girl who never really fit in, back from college and interested in becoming a writer. She lands a job at the Jackson Journal taking over a housecleaning column. As she speaks with her friends’ black maids, all of who are multigenerational servants for wealthy white families, she decides to collect their stories into a controversial book that will reveal their unique perspective and firsthand experiences with the injustices of segregation, lesser rights and abrasive racism, exhibited by nearly everyone in the town.

“I knew The Help through my mom, who read the book and loved it,” she says of her experience. “I met Tate, the director, first and then read the script, then the book and fell in love with it too. The accent was the toughest part but there was a really great dialect coach on set. The research, for me, was learning as much as I could about civil rights era Mississippi.” Stone stars alongside Academy Award-nominated actresses Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, and Sissy Spacek, as well as fellow Golden Globe nominees Allison Janney and Bryce Dallas Howard, who previously played Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3. This is another noteworthy coincidence, considering Stone’s next major theatrical role will be in The Amazing Spider-Man. It’s a reboot to the successful Marvel franchise, slated for a summer 2012 bow, where she’ll reinvent the character of Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man’s main squeeze. “Bryce was one of the first people I saw after I found out I was going to play Gwen. I love Bryce so much. We both thought it was funny and exciting. This Gwen is completely different than Bryce’s – we’re in high school this time around and she and Peter are meeting and falling in love for the first time.” Stone will also get to reunite with her natural blond hair. “All the time spent in AZ was blonde. Going back was a six-month process, which I wasn’t expecting, but it was fun. But red makes me happy because my mom is a redhead.” On the subject of superheroes, she comments on the superpower she’d choose: “Teleportation. I like that whole idea. But only if you get to travel with your clothes on. I don’t want any of this Time Traveler’s Wife showing-up-naked crap.”

Already in post-production, Emma will again lend her signature seductive, smoky voice to a computer-animated character in The Croods (2013). “The voice stuff I’ve gotten to do has been ridiculous. I’ve had such a good time. I think any chance to blow the walls out and yell or have no ceiling on how big you can go is my favorite thing about it.” Later that year she’ll appear in her intoxicating entirety in The Gangster Squad, a thrilling crime drama about the LAPD’s war against the East Coast mafia in the 1940s and ‘50s. “Guns! Gangsters! Cops! Chases! Fights! Romance! Old-timey poppycock and hullabaloo!” she exuberantly divulges about that upcoming project.

Although she couldn’t confirm her rumored involvement in the upcoming Dirty Dancing remake, she did talk about selecting new scripts. “Choosing roles is kind of like choosing a relationship. Unless you’re dreaming someone up from scratch, you never know what you’re going to get or respond to. You could be convinced there’s some part you want to play or some idea in your head of something you want to be a part of, then some Rico Suave strolls in and sweeps you off your feet.” As she stays in the spotlight, she says filmmaking doesn’t get any easier. “More familiar, maybe. It’s like going to summer camp each time. A big group of new people, or if you’re lucky, a few people you’ve worked with before.” Clearly, she’s continuing to make distinguished choices, with her slate of anticipated features already the stimulus for anxious moviegoers and critics’ enthusiastic chatter alike.

Lastly, Emma mentions her amusement with the possibility of her own action figure for The Amazing Spider-Man. “If there is one and the studio doesn’t give one to me, I will not buy it. Because I’m betting you my best friend will buy one instead and make it do a bunch of embarrassing, terrible things. She’s the worst.” She also fondly recalls her participation with the San Diego Comic-Con this year in July, where we previously got to speak with her about the coincidence of starring with both Jesse Eisenberg and now Andrew Garfield, the leads in The Social Network, and why she hasn’t accepted our friend request on Facebook. “I really would friend you if I had an account. Comic-Con has been my favorite place since Zombieland but this time was a little busier and I only got to stay for the day. I wish I could’ve walked around the floor or gone to some of the parties. I’m excited it’s you guys interviewing me again!”

– Mike Massie