09.01.11

Emma Stone's Lohan Problem

Emma Stone looks so much like Lindsay Lohan, she’s become her natural replacement in Hollywood. But Ramin Setoodeh asks if she really can measure up to our former favorite redhead.

They share the same red hair, the same husky voice, the same freckled complexion—but only one of them is a movie star.

Emma Stone has essentially landed the career that Lindsay Lohan was supposed to have, back when she was a rising Disney star. “Well…you could say I'm cheating,” Emma Stone recently told Australia’s Herald Sun, when asked about her Lohan-like locks. “I’m the false one. She’s the real redhead.”

At least Stone, 22, is in on the joke. Last fall, she was a relatively unknown actress peddling Easy A, a movie that was a remake of The Scarlet Letter with a dash of Mean Girls. When Stone hosted Saturday Night Live, one of her first skits was a fictional episode of The View, where she impersonated Lohan. What dramatic decisions did Stone bring to the role? Other than biting her fingernails, Emma Stone as Lindsay looked exactly like the real Emma Stone. She didn’t even need to change the tenor of her voice.

But as Lindsay’s career has flailed from a string of scandals that include drugs, booze, and shoplifting, Stone’s squeaky-clean demeanor has propped her up as a natural replacement. After an awards show in January, MTV asked: “Was it just us, or did…[Stone] look a lot like Lindsay Lohan, circa 2005?” A blog post from BlackBook.com’s Ben Barna took the parallels even further: “Come to think of it, Emma Stone isn’t so much the Lindsay Lohan that could have been—she’s the Lindsay Lohan that was.”

As likeable as Stone is onscreen, it’s not necessarily her acting that has everyone—including Jim Carrey—buzzing. In Crazy, Stupid, Love, Stone was a fine romantic comedy player, but still eclipsed by Ryan Gosling’s abs. The Help was a dramatic vehicle for standouts Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer. And Easy A was an exercise in Stone channeling her Lindsayness, before we knew she had the potential to overthrow the teen sweetheart.

Which brings up an even bigger question: Is all the Emma Stone hype because we secretly miss Lindsay Lohan?

It’s hard to remember now, but Lohan was one of the great child actresses of Hollywood. In 1998’s remake of The Parent Trap, she was as adept as Hayley Mills was at playing twin girls trying to reunite their divorced parents. In 2003’s remake of Freaky Friday, film critic Roger Ebert wrote that Lohan “has that Jodie Foster sort of seriousness and intent focus beneath her teenage persona.” And then there was 2004’s Mean Girls, exalted as her generation’s Clueless, propelling Lohan into full-fledged star, someone teenage girls wanted to be and teenage boys wanted to be with.

After fame, Lindsay spiraled into the purgatory of lunacy reserved for teenage starlets. Lindsay never shaved her head like Britney Spears did, but the paparazzi chronicled her every inebriated move outside the L.A. club scene. She was arrested twice for DUIs in 2007 and booked herself into rehab three times (this, by the way, is according to her official biography on TMZ). This year, she was charged with grand theft, after she was accused of snatching a $2,500 necklace from a jewelry store.

“You have acted like a spoiled child, and in doing so have alienated many of your co-workers and endangered the quality of this picture,” wrote James G. Robinson, the CEO of Morgan Creek Productions, in a letter he sent to Lohan when she wasn’t showing up for work on Georgia Rule. She drifted into some TV, with a recurring part on Ugly Betty. And now, not even Steven Soderbergh will hire Lohan for a supporting role in his upcoming movie about male strippers. “He didn’t want to deal with all that,” a source told E! News.

It’s not that we’ve lost our fascination with Lohan—she still has 2.4 million Twitter followers. It’s that the tweens who grew up idolizing her can no longer relate to her (or any of the other bad girls from the Paris Hilton generation). That’s where Stone holds the advantage. She can project all the qualities we liked about Lindsay, without any of the baggage.

There are, of course, a few noticeable differences between the two actresses. Lindsay, who is only (can you believe it?) 25, found fame at 12. Stone, now 22, had an entire life of privacy before Easy A. Lindsay had Dina and Michael Lohan, stage parents who clung to their daughter for fame. Stone grew up in a more functional household in Scottsdale, Ariz. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Stone says, “I have some of the coolest parents in the world. My dad’s whole philosophy, my mom’s too, is start with the reins out, and if you do something that should break the trust, then the reins come in.” She adds that, like Pinnochio, “it really is incredibly hard for me to lie.”

Is all the Emma Stone hype because we secretly miss Lindsay Lohan?

And yet, isn’t that what acting is all about? In her best films—Mean Girls especially—there is a fierceness in a Lindsay Lohan performance, a desperation, a vulnerability, all the qualities of a great, accomplished performer. When I see Emma Stone on the big screen, crinkling her nose and flashing her smile, my mind can’t help but think...she’s a little bland. If Stone wants to emerge as a leading lady for the ages—something that her next performance in The Amazing Spider-Man probably won’t determine—she’s going to need to take bigger risks. She’s going to need to feel less safe. She has to discover her own inner Lindsay.

“There’s going to be another 22-year-old redhead on my heels,” Stone told the Herald Sun. “It’s inevitable, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” But if Mean Girls taught us anything, it’s that you at least have to put up a fight.