HOLLYWOOD can't get enough of Emma Stone - but the young star of The Help still reckons she has everything to learn.
The only thing that’s gone to Emma Stone’s pretty blonde head is a bottle of red hair dye. Ask about her stellar status as Hollywood’s go-to girl in everything from comedies and dramas to superhero capers, and she’s none too bothered. “Don’t put the farm on it,” she says. “Success is such a fleeting thing. I’ve seen how the careers of people I look up to ebb and flow, so I don’t get carried away by it.”
So the 23-year-old star of The Help, Crazy Stupid Love and the new Spider-Man movie doesn’t think she’s hit the big time? “Oh sure,” she beams.
“But I’m a big believer in impermanence. It’s sort of a wonderful feeling when something bad is going on because you know it will end, and when something good is happening I try not to hold on to it too tight because I know it will go. And the articles, the magazine covers – that’s not really me. The only thing I worry about is how I’m going to play a character, and then I can go to sleep at night knowing I’m not selling my soul.”
Intense, husky-voiced and dressed down in a simple blue blouse, jeans and minimal make-up, Emma is not your average starlet. For one thing, her favourite actress is Diane Keaton (“She started out in The Godfather and then she was Annie Hall – all of her movies are so different and I look up to people like that who take chances”). Mind you, she’s also happy to discuss her hair colour (“I might go back to blonde – but it’s fun to change”) and she admits to loving Adam Sandler flicks.
This wide-ranging taste is reflected in her own filmography. “I’m lucky enough to have a choice right now, which is really rare,” she says. “It’s also a brilliant learning experience. I didn’t go to drama school so working with actors or directors I respect, and trying to do things I haven’t had the opportunity to do before, feels really important. I need to learn and soak up as much as possible.”
You won’t hear her moaning about a lack of good roles for women, but then she’s young and pretty. Isn’t she worried about the work drying up some day? “Not really because there are always women in movies,” she grins. “But OK, the roles for women in movies are not always properly filled out, including some of the ones I’ve done.”
Such as? Another grin. “There’s no way I’m telling you that, but when it happens you just hope you’re working with a director or writer who will allow you to shape the character.”
Well-rounded characters are Emma’s forte, from Easy A’s high school misfit Olive to fledgling writer Skeeter in The Help, who does her bit for The Civil Rights Movement by persuading black maids to contribute their stories to a book she’s compiling.
This story of racial segregation in the Deep South clearly made a big impact on its young star. “I got to understand that thing of being in a small town where everyone knows your business,” Emma says.
“We got to go into these houses and meet people who are still ‘the help’ – they’re still in uniform and have been working for families for 50 or 60 years. Getting to live in the South and playing Skeeter was so enriching. She is learning about the everyday lives of these women just as I was. I felt like we were learning in tandem, because I had been educated about the most well-known stories of the Civil Rights era but not the day-to-day lives of the ordinary women.”
One of the film’s memorable moments is when maid Minny takes her revenge on stuck-up Miss Hilly with a pie made from unmentionable ingredients. Given that Emma felt so close to these characters, would she ever have done something like that? “Never!” she hoots.
“My revenge has only ever been in silence. My mom has always told me, ‘Kill them with kindness,’ because being nice is a way to get at people who have done you wrong. With revenge, I’ve never felt like it’s worth the energy. Silence is better. If you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all, right?”
Emma is slim and toned in the approved Hollywood style, but reckons she has body issues just like everyone else in Tinseltown.
“I do have that thing of, ‘Oh my God, I’m disgusting – I ate a huge Wagamama lunch, the whole yaki soba, and I feel so fat.’ But I’m still gonna eat that stuff, and you know what? You can get nice, loose clothes that cover it all up. I’m not gonna go parading around in a bikini. OK, I did that in a photoshoot once, but it’s about what you’re comfortable with at the time you’re comfortable with it. That was a good day, but you won’t hear me saying I have no body issues because I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.”
On-set catering meant she put on a few pounds when filming The Help and her costumes had to be adjusted.
“Suddenly nothing fitted me, but then they have such delicious food in the South and I don’t believe in depriving yourself. Yes, you should be healthy and take care of yourself, but growing up I’ve seen people who have horrible issues with food.”
So what’s her exercise regime? “I haven’t worked out for a month and I’m proud of it!” she laughs.
“Running is bad for your knees and I like to do things I actually enjoy, like going for a swim. I had a trainer during Spider-Man and I discovered I have deep-seated rage when I’m holding heavy weights over my head. Whatever dormant anger I have in me, that’s where it comes out. That’s not the kind of working out I want to do. I would much rather sleep at night than want to throw a weight across a room at someone. I’m usually a pretty peaceful person, but for some reason when I get in the gym something bubbles up in me.”
The Amazing Spider-Man, which opens in July, features Emma as Spidey’s love interest Gwen Stacy. And in real life she is also dating Spider-Man, aka British actor Andrew Garfield, 28. A superhero film is a pretty big leap from The Help – “But I didn’t see it that way,” she insists.
“At the end of the day, whatever the role, you’re sitting in a room with another human being playing a scene, trying to find out more about each other, getting to the root of the character.”
After her web-slinging adventure, we will see Emma next in thriller The Gangster Squad, so the bubble won’t be bursting any time soon. But what if it does? “I’m just enjoying all this while it’s happening,” Emma stresses.
“I can’t worry about what I’ll do if this or that happens, otherwise I’d go crazy. If you’d asked me five years ago what I thought I’d be doing, it wouldn’t be all this. I would never have dared dream this for myself.”
The Help is out on DVD and Blu-ray on March 12.