The amiable co-stars of Woody Allen’s 44th feature, Magic in the Moonlight, discuss ghosts, skinny-dipping, and that time Stone live-texted Bridget Jones to Firth.
“We’ve talked about this so many times, Colin! Gosh!” I’ve just entered a fancy suite at a ritzy hotel in Midtown Manhattan to interview Colin Firth and Emma Stone, the two affable, easy on the eyes stars of Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight. Despite their sizeable difference in age (he 53, she 25), the two playfully bicker like, well, a couple in an Allen film.
In Magic in the Moonlight, Firth plays Stanley, a renowned illusionist under the stage name Wei Ling Soo, who’s hired by the consigliere of a wealthy family to travel to the Côte d'Azur and debunk Sophie (Emma Stone), a young, fetching American woman who claims she can not only tell the future, but also communicate with the dead. The family’s fool of a son, Brice (Hamish Linklater), is wholly infatuated with her, so it’s up to Stanley, a famous skeptic, to expose her before they tie the knot. But, as it happens, he also grows quite fond of her, which complicates matters considerably.
But back to the bickering thing. When you sit down with the duo in person, you can tell why Allen would cast them as an onscreen couple (despite the massive age gap). Over the course of the chat, Stone needles Firth on everything from Bridget Jones to Pride and Prejudice, to the point where Firth jokingly says, “Can we not be paired up for these anymore?” Unfortunately, the publicist abruptly terminated our lively chat midway through before I could touch on a number of topics of interest (like the age gap in the film and the recent controversy surrounding Woody), but alas, it was still a fun talk.
Emma, did you grow up with Colin’s movies? I took my college girlfriend to Love Actually twice in theaters.
Emma Stone: I’ve seen Love Actually about 18 times. I’ve seen Bridget Jones too many times now. You were so upset with me! I live-texted Colin the plot of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason a few months back while I was watching it. You were very upset with me, if I remember correctly. I talked him through what he was doing.
Colin Firth: Thank you. She’s talking through my back catalog via text! I might decide to not revisit stuff in the past, and then you get a good friend saying, “Oh, when you were doing this you had this and that expression on your face.”
Stone: That was a misfire… in that moment. But it was all complimentary! But I’ve seen many of Colin’s movies. Although my mother absolutely does love Colin, I will say that.
Firth: You’re not the only person whose mother loves me. [Laughs]
“I like you very much… just as you are.”
Have you ever been to a medium, or a psychic? Emma, I saw the bit on Letterman where you spoke of how the ghost of your dead grandfather leaves quarters around the house.
Firth: Never have. It never even occurred to me. It would either scare me, because it was real, or be a waste of time if it wasn’t. A friend of mine when I was in drama school went to one who told him he was going to die when he was 40, and he didn’t know if he believed it, but it was still hanging over him, and he’s now 50-something.
Stone: Yes, I’ve been to a medium and a psychic. I wasn’t even going to talk about that [on Letterman], but then he was telling me a true story about a woman on his show that died who taps him on the shoulder and talks to him a bit. I completely regret telling that story about my dead grandfather that leaves quarters because now I feel people are just going to leave quarters around to fuck with me. It was this sweet family thing where my mom found them, my aunt found them, and now it’s going to be like, Oh look, there’s a quarter! Ugh. I am a total skeptic, and a believer. Both things coexist.
Firth: I probably am, too. I don’t have a hard line on this, but I’m completely distrustful of complete certainty in every direction. There’s this great Groucho quote, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them I have others!”
Stone: You never don’t have a quote for something. I know that’s a double negative.
Firth: No, that is a grammatically correct double negative! Am I just a quote-bore?
Stone: “I like you very much… just as you are.”
Firth: She can do it! Jesus.
Stone: That was so good, and you know it! Look at you… you’re all red now. Oh, Colin, you’re so wonderful. [Laughs] You’re my Oscar Wilde.
Firth: But am I a quote-bore?
Stone: You’re a quote whore is what you are. You have so many quotes that I can’t see straight. You’re like the quote village bicycle.
Firth: I’m going to stop now. Crack-Whores and Quote-Bores. That will be the name of my autobiography.
How did Woody’s script make its way to your hands? I know he operates in mysterious ways.
Emma Stone: Some cast members never get to look at the script. Some cast only ever sees their part. He’s incredibly protective of the plot. I think he goes to great lengths to keep it under wraps. I had a very short meeting with him and his casting directors, and about a month later I got to go to his office to read the script, and then give it back. It sounds weird, but I’ve read Spider-Man the same way. Now, all these scripts need to be controlled, otherwise they leak.
Colin Firth: You get to read it in a controlled experiment while you’re closely watched. Funnily enough, the script was driven to me in a remote part of Italy while someone waited while I read it, and then handed it back.
Do you have favorite Woody Allen films?
Stone: I’m a big fan of Love and Death. It’s so funny. I love satire.
Firth: I’m a big fan of Love and Death, too. Sometimes, it’s the time or whatever day that was, and the fact that you were in the mood for that movie. I love Manhattan, and I know it’s not one of Woody’s favorites.
I’m sure you two aren’t like Adam Sandler and make movies for the sake of taking vacations, but shooting in the French Riviera doesn’t sound too shabby, either. Had either of you been there?
Stone: No, never.
Firth: Oh, I have endlessly. Really, I’ve lost count. And I mean… I’m not jaded about it!
Stone: You said the word “endlessly!” That sounds pretty jaded, to me. Oh, I’m so boooored I’m just there constantly! Oh Godddd! [Laughs]
Firth: The vistas and vintage wine, when is it going to stop! No, when I was younger, I’d take the train down there, go backpacking, and then sleep on the beach. I backpacked through France and Italy in my teens, and then I was at Cannes with the first movie I did in ’84.
Stone: God… you were in a movie 115 years ago?
Firth: Oh God, here we go.
Stone: He told me he was on The Daily Show in 2001, and I told him that was six years before I was born. So long ago. What was it like then?
Any great real-life love stories from the South of France, Colin?
Firth: Some of my least favorite stories take place there. Most of the French crew on this film I’d worked with, and most of them had seen me naked before in the South of France at some point. Do you remember Jean-Marin? He blushed when he saw me! I’m not saying what movie it was, but I had to come out of a river on a freezing November morning at 7 a.m…. naked. It was physically uncomfortable…
Stone: …Was this Pride and Prejudice?
Firth: No, it was before that. They try to throw me in a lake in everything! I was in a lake in Love Actually, and I was attacked by some hideous aquatic beast and was rushed to the hospital by a man named Rafael! Something stung my elbow and it blew up to the size of a tennis ball. And they threw me in the sea in this movie.
Stone: You had a bad experience on your legs in this movie.
Firth: Oh, I was cut to bits by the coral! The scene where she’s on the rock and I’m in the water, if you cut yourself in that bit of ocean there’s so much crap in it that it immediately becomes infected, so they were only a bunch of tiny scratches, but when the doctor saw it he said, “That looks horrendous.” So, I had to use antibiotics and all that. But back to the naked scene. It was horrendous, because what the temperature of that water does to your pride…
Stone: …and Prejudice. [Laughs]
Firth: Oh God…
And with that, the interview was abruptly ended halfway into my allotted time by the publicist.