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With her role in La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s modern take on the classic musical, Emma Stone emerged as a true Hollywood triple-threat: not only can she act, she can also sing and dance. Here, Stone, who is one of the stars of W‘s February 2017 issue, opens up about her favorite musicals of all time, what it was like to sing on camera, and more.
Lynn Hirschberg: How did you get the part in La La Land?
Emma Stone: Well, Damien [Chazelle, the director] came to see me when I was doing Cabaret, and he saw me on a night that I was on a lot of cold medicine, which was a lot of nights because I was sick a lot during the run. And, I didn’t know that he had come with the composer, Justin Hurwitz. After the fact I heard he had seen it and I was really upset, because I was like I don’t think I was even in my body for that entire show. I think that was my unofficial audition for La La Land, without knowing it. Then we met at a diner and had chicken pot pies and he explained La La Land to me. I hadn’t read the script yet, but he wanted to kind of walk me through what he was thinking. And then I read it and then he came and hung-out in my dressing room and showed me some of the visuals and played some of the score for me. It was pretty special from the very beginning.
LH: Were you nervous about singing in a movie? Continue reading
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“I feel very excited as of late for what’s to come, whether it works or not.” I can’t say enough how much I adore Damien Chazelle’s musical La La Land. It’s an exhilarating cinematic experience, full of so much joy and happiness, along with superb dancing and exuberant singing and beautiful sets and gorgeous sunsets. Aside from Ryan Gosling, the other co-star of La La Land is Emma Stone. Her first big break out role was playing Jules in Superbad back in 2007, and over the nearly 10 years since she’s earned an Academy Award nomination (for Birdman) and worked with some of the best filmmakers around. I was lucky to spend 15 minutes chatting with Emma about her career and her work on La La Land and it was an absolute delight.
I met Emma at the Telluride Film Festival only days after La La Land had premiered there (and at the Venice Film Festival). I fell head over heels for La La Land at Telluride, writing in my glowing review that “I want everyone else to witness this grand accomplishment and feel as inspired and as amazed by it as I am.” Stone is wonderful in the film, and I am glad I had a few minutes to talk with her about it. She seemed more nervous than I was in the interview, at one point joking that “this could be [her] worst interview ever.” We laughed it off. I asked at the end “aren’t you an expert at interviews now?” She responded: “No… I’m the opposite.” Nevertheless, she was as charming as ever and did her best to answer my questions. Let’s begin…
First Showing: Are you where you want to be in your career now? Are you where you felt like you would be?
Emma Stone: Yes. I guess, yes. Yeah, I feel really excited and reinvigorated – I guess is the word for it. I got to do Cabaret and that’s set on stage in New York and that reset my brain in the craziest way. It was so amazing. And then I did La La and then I did this movie, The Battle of the Sexes, the tennis movie I was telling you about. And it’s been just an amazing past year and a half on those three projects. And it’s been really, really – it’s gotten me so excited about everything. Not that I wasn’t before, but I feel reinvigorated.
FS: Do you have more of a chance to do what you want nowadays?
Emma: I think I’m clearer on what that is nowadays. So I don’t know if it’s a more of a chance or just more of – I think things are easier when you’re clearer on the kind of experience you want to have and not as… Maybe at certain points I felt like, of course, I should attempt something because of a variety of factors. And now I feel a little more aware of a sense of what I might be able to bring to the table, rather than the outside coming in. Maybe that’s maturity. Or maybe I just was a late bloomer. I don’t know what it is. Continue reading
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Emma Stone’s favorite place for sushi in Los Angeles is a no-frills spot in a Sunset Boulevard strip mall, tucked alongside a laser hair-removal clinic and a FedEx store. It’s here, having barely taken a seat, that she starts telling me about her hiatal hernia. “I can’t have spicy foods,” Stone says. The issue, it turns out, is that part of her stomach protrudes “into my esophagus,” which sounds gnarly but is actually pretty manageable, increased chances of acid reflux notwithstanding. “I was born with it,” Stone notes cheerfully. She snaps apart her chopsticks. “I was like a little old man as a young lady.”
I first met Stone approximately 11 minutes ago, but it feels like I’m hanging with an old buddy. She huddles over the table mock-conspiratorially; drops callbacks to small talk we only just made like she’s citing long-cherished in-jokes; tilts her head back and asks me to examine her nostrils because she’s sure she detects an embarrassing particle in there. Halfway through dinner, two dudes take a table nearby. Stone, clocking them, falls into a whisper: “Oh, shit, I think Paris Hilton’s ex-boyfriend just sat down – the one who looks like an Elvis Presley impersonator.” She jabs her thumb leftward, totally unsubtle as she directs my gaze toward a handsome, square-jawed guy. He might be Hilton’s one-time beau Paris Latsis, or someone else entirely. I look back at Stone, who, despite the fact that she is Emma Stone – by far the most famous person in this restaurant, and quite plausibly the most famous person on all of Sunset right now – is grinning at this maybe-possibly sub-TMZ sighting. “That’s him, right?” she asks.
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Emma Stone has been listening to a lot of TED Talks recently, and speaking to Backstage about her childhood love for youth theater gets her thinking about entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan’s 2015 presentation about chicken behavior.
“There are worker chickens and super chickens,” Stone explains. “They did this study, and the worker chickens, by the end of it, had gotten all this stuff done. But the super chickens, all but three had pecked each other to death. I guess I relate to that in the sense that it feels good for me to collaborate with people and be in a community. It’s hard for me to be, like, this sole person doing something. [With] theater or something like La La Land, we all were such a team the whole time.”
She laughs in the same dorky, utterly adorable way that she has in so many movies. “Is this a really weird roundabout discussion?” she asks, before announcing faux-seriously, “I’m not a super chicken.”
This is the Emma Stone you hope to meet face to face. Since she was launched onto the scene in a small but delightful part in 2007’s Superbad, Stone has been one of cinema’s effervescent goofballs — a sunny and sarcastic force of nature. Self-deprecating but thoughtful in person, the 28-year-old actor started her film career playing funny characters whose humor stemmed from their no-nonsense response to the ridiculous world around them. Moving from the endearing ditziness of The House Bunny to her breakthrough in Easy A, Stone has since worked on Woody Allen films and Spider-Man blockbusters. But her work in 2014’s Birdman suggested a darker edge and a dramatic heft that hadn’t always been apparent, earning her an Oscar nomination in the process. Continue reading
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Before Emma Stone became, you know, Emma Stone, she was Emily Stone, a teenage would-be actress from Scottsdale, Arizona, who moved to Hollywood with her mom and lived in a two-bedroom apartment right near the Farmers’ Market. She kept a John Lennon poster on her wall, burned incense (“I was sixteen,” she protests), drove a red Volkswagen Beetle to auditions, and, in an oft-recited but irresistible biographical detail, worked behind the counter at Three Dog Bakery — mm-hmm, a bakery selling dog treats.
Stone was one of thousands of young fresh faces who arrive every year in Los Angeles carrying the hopeful but brutally difficult dream of Making It in Show Business, and you can find all that collected ambition inspiring or melancholic or a little bit of both. I should point out that none of this is ancient history to Stone, who turns 28 in November and can still tick off the Three Dog Bakery’s top sellers.
“Pup Tarts,” she says. “Pop Tarts, but for dogs. And Pupcakes. Then there was a kind of dog Oreo made with carob and honey. A mom would come in and buy them for her kid because she thought dog Oreos were healthier.”
The reason Hollywood is Hollywood is that it’s a town where someone can go from selling dog Oreos to seeing his or her face on a billboard over Sunset Boulevard. This is pretty much what happened to Emma Stone. It’s the sort of timeless dream that lifts every showbiz striver and serves as the engine for a romantic and rather brilliant musical movie that Stone stars in this December. Called La La Land and directed by the Whiplash wunderkind, Damien Chazelle, the film tells the story of an aspiring actress named Mia (Stone) and a would-be jazz-club owner named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) as they try to navigate their respective careers in a sunny but cruel town. Big, sweeping, and refreshingly uncynical, La La Land is the sort of movie that studios used to make all the time but don’t anymore. Stone and Gosling sing. They dance. They fly — literally, in a breathtaking scene among the stars inside the Griffith Observatory — and fall in love. In an age of thumping and frantically edited franchise flicks, La La Land is both retro (there are nods to the MGM-musical heyday and the French New Wave director Jacques Demy) and utterly radical. When it opened the Venice Film Festival in late August, the audience burst into applause barely ten minutes in (Stone would go on to win the festival’s Best Actress award). Similar praise and accolades followed in Telluride and Toronto, as the early Oscar buzz for Stone and the entire production intensified and Tom Hanks said after catching a screening, “If the audience doesn’t go and embrace something as wonderful as this, then we are all doomed.”