Emma Stone isn’t letting the whirlwind of having a red-hot acting career mess with her head. She says that she manages to stay grounded by maintaining authentic relationships with her family and friends. The summer of 2011 has been a particularly busy time for her since she has three movies released within a few weeks of each other: “Friends With Benefits,” “The Help” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” In the midst of doing press junkets and premieres for the films, she also made a trip to Comic-Con International in San Diego to promote what will no doubt be her biggest hit movie so far: “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which is set for release on July 3, 2012.
In the romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Stone plays Hannah, a sassy law-school grad who is studying for the bar exam. She rebuffs the advances of a local womanizer named Jacob Palmer (played by Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling), who in his spare time is teaching a soon-to-be-divorced middle-aged man named Cal Weaver (played by Steve Carell) on how to seduce women. After Hannah breaks up with her insensitive boyfriend Richard (played by Josh Groban), drunkenly agrees to go on a date with Jacob — and the results take both of them by surprise. I sat down with Stone at the “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” press junket in New York City, where she talked about her mission to convince Gosling to host “Saturday Night Live”; why she was not intimidated by Gosling but was afraid to complete a certain scene in the movie with him; and how “The Amazing Spider-Man” will be different from previous “Spider-Man” movies.
What’s the craziest or stupidest thing you’ve ever done for love?
I don’t have anything legitimately crazy that I did for love that I would want to talk about … I think falling in love alone can be crazy. It’s part of life. Pretty vulnerable. So I’ve done that. Did Julianne [Moore] tell you about doing drive bys?
Yes, she did.
It’s like, “You’re telling people that you did drive bys?” She’s like, “Oh yeah, I did a lot of drive bys for a really long time.” Jeez, Julianne! I haven’t done a drive by before.
A lot of people want to know: What it’s like to kiss Ryan Gosling?
Smoldering. It was great. You can’t complain. We did it a couple times. We did a quite a few takes of that kiss. We had to get it right.
Ryan Gosling tells me that he’s too scared to host “Saturday Night Live.” You’ve hosted “Saturday Night Live,” and you’ve said in interviews that it was the highlight of your career. So what advice would you have for any actor who has obvious comedic talent but is too afraid to host “Saturday Night Live”?
To Ryan? Oh, I’ve given him enough [advice]! We talk about it every day. He’s so annoying. I hate that he said that in an interview.
He’s not too scared. Put him on the show! He would be great! He would be so great on that show. I just think he would kill it! And I’d want to go do a little sketch with him.
It’s so much fun. And that cast is so warm and welcoming and great. It’s just the best experience ever. The adrenaline that goes into something like that, I think it’s good for everyone. If you could get the opportunity to do something like that, why wouldn’t you want to do something like that? It’s so much fun!
You clearly have a love for improvisation, and your movie career is taking off in a big way. So how do you choose projects now, considering that a lot of movies don’t have room for improvisation?
That’s an interesting question. The first movie roles I ever did, there was always improv. “Superbad” had so much improv. “The House Bunny” had so much improv. “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” had improv. Those were always kind of syncing up.
And now, improv is making me more nervous, which is making me sad. It’s like a muscle. Obviously, conversations are all improv, but to be on a stage or a setting to do improv is getting scarier for me now.
But that’s what’s so great about doing this movie [“Crazy, Stupid, Love.”], because with Ryan, it was easy. We were able to bring in things from real life, and bounce back and forth with those. So it was a nice welcome back into improv.
A lot of people who know you talk about how they love your voice. Did you always have such a deep voice?
I had colic when I was zero to six months, which to this day if I go [she makes a noise like a baby crying], my mom has a panic attack. That’s the sound that makes her crazy. She dealt with a screaming baby 24 hours a day for the first six months of my life. And I screamed myself hoarse every day and developed nodules as an infant.
So I have calluses on my vocal cords, which makes me lose my voice all the time, and which makes doing something like screaming a scene over and over really rough, because then I lose my voice for a week. So I’m always trying to be pretty protective of it. But I’ve sounded like this since I was a kid. Home videos of me when I was a kid are really funny, because I just wanted to be able to scream, and I couldn’t do it …
You don’t seem to be overwhelmed or too caught up in this success that you’re having. What keeps you grounded?
I think that you can look back in history at everybody who was in this position — whatever this position is — and they inevitably are not anymore. Every single person who has been in a circumstance like this is not [any more]. That’s just kind of the way life goes.
You just have to hold it lightly and realize it will change. It’s going to ebb and flow. And what’s important is that the people in your life — your family and your friends — love you completely and entirely, are always making fun of you, and making you feel a little bit like an idiot. So that one day, when this inevitably fades or changes or goes a different way, your relationships are the exact same. So what have you really lost? You haven’t really lost the really, really important stuff.
It’s not to say that these opportunities and this experience haven’t been fantastic, and that I’m not grateful for it, because I am wildly grateful for it. And I’m trying to be really present and remember it and write it down so that I can look back at it, but everything is impermanent. So I try to remember it all the time — not in a fatalistic way, but in a realistic way, I guess.
What do you want audiences to get out of seeing “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”?
I hope they laugh. I hope they enjoy themselves for a couple of hours, because I think that’s one of the best things that movies can do. And I hope they find it as interesting as I did. There are so man gray areas to love. And there are so many circumstances where you could look at it like a book by its cover. You could look at Jacob, who’s a real lothario, but is he really underneath it all?
And you could look at Emily, who cheats on her husband, but for some reason, you’re rooting for them to get back together. You look at these circumstances that, on paper, look like you could just figure them out right away. And then you see the intricacies of these relationships, and you realize that everything is individual and that you can’t really make rules in love, because it’s such a crazy thing.
What do you remember about your audition for your role in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”?
Auditions, by the grace of God or whoever it is overseeing auditions, have become fewer as time goes on. I used to go on six auditions a week, minimum. And it was commercials and stuff and holding up a product or whatever. That’s what I did a lot of, and I don’t have to do that so much any more, which was nice.
And for some reason, since it doesn’t happen as much, the pressure that I put on myself seems to be that much greater. It’s like improv, when you get out of practice for auditioning, because auditioning is so different from being on a set. It’s like taking a test, as opposed to taking a whole course.
So I have decided to just say, “F*ck it! When y go in there, have fun! It’s the one chance to play the characters, so you might as well just go balls to the wall, and just enjoy it, and not really freak out too much.” I don’t think I was thinking, “Here’s what I hope to get across to [the filmmakers]. I was just there to have fun.” Because Hannah is nuts after she’s had a couple of drinks, and those are the scenes that they wanted me to read.
So I was like, “Hannah is a kook.” So I just went in and had fun, and my voice was completely gone on the day that I went to read with Ryan … Our audition was more about chemistry than anything because they couldn’t really hear me reading with him. I auditioned prior to meeting him. It was a funny audition experience.
You play Gwen Stacy in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which is due out in 2012. Gwen is Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s love interest in the movie instead of Mary Jane Watson. How else is the movie different from other “Spider-Man” movies?
I don’t know. It’s a completely different thing. I think it’s not about what was or wasn’t brought before. It’s just different. It’s maybe a little more intimate-looking at Peter Parker, in a way.
In “Crazy, Stupid, Love.,” there’s a scene where Jacob re-enacts the “Dirty Dancing” lifting scene with Hanna. But Ryan Gosling said that you didn’t want him to lift you so they had to use a stunt double instead. Why did you not want to go through with that scene?
I had a panic attack. When was 7, I was standing on the parallel bars in gymnastics, and fell off of them, and I broke both of my arms, so I had two casts — think about it — all summer in Arizona. Sexy!
So I had this dormant primal fear that came out when he lifted me over his head. And I was afraid I was going to topple forward. And Ryan keeps thinking it’s because I thought he wasn’t strong enough. The guy is clearly strong! He has muscles! Great job! I don’t have those.
The directors of “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” said that you nailed your audition with Ryan Gosling because you were the only actress up for the role to read with him who “owned” Ryan and didn’t appear to be in awe of him. They also said that you immediately called Ryan out when he flubbed one of his lines. Did you know Ryan before you worked with him?
I didn’t know him. He can handle it. I can tell from the very beginning that he wasn’t [uptight]. He’s funny … I felt we were kindred spirits.
Josh Groban is another person who is making his first big comedy film with “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” What was it like working with him, since most people think of him only as a serious singer?
He came to the table read and [I was surprised] … and everyone was just dying — he was so funny! And he did so much improv that didn’t even make it into the movie that would blow your mind … like curse-word-filled rants. Liza Lapira, who played my friend and who is just brilliant, but he screamed at her in this little improv tangent that they let him do, and he was so funny! Everyone was dying and laughing over the takes, which is probably why they didn’t use them. He was amazing.
Have you had any funny real-life experiences in with guys who’ve mode moves on you and used some pickup lines? And if so, did that affect your performance in “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”?
I haven’t really had too many of those experience, to be honest with you. I haven’t been able to go to bars legally for very long, so maybe in the future I’ll have better ones in that kind of setting. I don’t have a standout experience. And trust me, I really wish I did, because I guess it would make this stuff a lot easier …
[Ryan Gosling] had the best line in the movie where he said, “You’re a beautiful woman, and I’m sure you’ll be a beautiful older woman if you use sunscreen. Otherwise, you’ll look like a dragon.” That was so funny! I thought it was hilarious. And it didn’t make in [the final cut of the movie] I made me laugh every single time. Best pickup line ever!
What do you know about the sequel to “Zombieland”?
I don’t know what’s going on with that.
How would you describe your interpretation of Gwen Stacy?
[She says jokingly] She’s a murderous psychopath!
For more info: “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” website
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