At just 23 years of age, Emma Stone has emerged as one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, seamlessly transitioning from broad comedy (Superbad) to drama (The Help). The young starlet is now poised to take on her biggest feat yet: a superhero blockbuster. She’ll star opposite (rumored beau) Andrew Garfield as the web-slinger’s first love, Gwen Stacy, in director Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man. Stone opened up to Newsweek about her voice, childhood nerd-dom, and much more.
I heard your trademark raspy voice came from a childhood malady?
I have a hiatal hernia, which is a hernia that you’re born with, and I had terrible stomachaches the first six months of my life, so I screamed myself hoarse every day when I was awake. To this day, my mom is sent into violent shudders if she hears a baby crying like that! I gave myself nodules before I could talk, so my voice was at this pitch as a toddler. There are home videos of me when I’m 4 at Christmas like [in hoarse voice], “Hey! I got a …” It’s awful!
Judd Apatow is the one who famously had you dye your hair red for your breakout role in Superbad. What was his reasoning?
At 15, my hair was blond and I was auditioning for a lot of things, but it just wasn’t working, so I thought, “Maybe if I dye my hair darker, I’ll be up for different roles.” So I dyed my hair brown. A week later, I got The New Partridge Family, which is pretty insane, and then when I went in for Superbad, Martha MacIsaac, who’s the other girl in the movie, had brown hair, so in the camera test Judd just walked in, said, “make it red,” and walked out. The next day, they took me to the hair salon, and it took eight hours to make my hair red. The same woman who colored my hair then still colors it.
Not a lot of people know you got your start on reality TV with The New Partridge Family.
It was totally, 100 percent a reality show. I was auditioning for a lot of things, sitting there being homeschooled, and I really didn’t want to leave L.A. My mom had never pushed me to audition for anything in my entire life, but she saw a commercial on TV for The New Partridge Family, and I hadn’t auditioned in three months and was living in Park La Brea in this six-month apartment rental with her. She said, “You look like Susan Dey a little and just dyed your hair … why don’t you just give this a shot? I have a weird feeling about this.” I did it, ended up winning this competition show, and met Billy Mann, who was the show’s music producer, who introduced me to my lawyer, who introduced me to my manager, Doug Wald, who’s my manager to this day. He’s still my first and foremost authority on advice. I don’t regret it for a minute!
How were you cast as Gwen Stacy?
I had worked with Sony before on Superbad, Zombieland, and Easy A, and they had talked with me about Mary Jane originally, because they didn’t know where they were going to go with it. When it came back around to Gwen Stacy, they asked if I’d audition, and Andrew had already been cast. I looked into the saga of Gwen Stacy and it was stunning—a huge slice of pop culture history, and it was something I really wanted to be a part of.
I spoke with Marc Webb, who said your chemistry with Andrew from the first audition was electric.
I could feel that that was something that was there, and we were able to do improv in the audition, which was great. As an actor, too, my go-to thing between takes is to sit there and self-flagellate, say things like, “Oh, that was fucking terrible … I’m so sorry you had to see that!” But he instantly had this great way of knocking me down for doing that.
Is it that back-and-forth what makes you two work off-screen as well?
I … don’t know what you’re talking about! [Laughs]
This is your first major blockbuster. Did you have any “Oh, wow!” moments while filming this?
When I saw the crafts service table I was like, “Holy shit! This is a production!” But when we shot the swinging sequence, that was crazy. When you’re strapped into a harness swinging 20 feet above the ground, you really step outside of yourself a bit.
You’ve also got The Gangster Squad out in September, marking your second go ’round with Ryan Gosling.
He’s completely great to work with and is just fun to be around as a person. He challenged me a lot on The Gangster Squad because we just sort of goofed around on Crazy, Stupid, Love. It was fun to do something set in the ’40s because we secretly both wish we were from that era.
Have you poked fun at him for any of the Ryan Gosling Internet memes?
I haven’t! But there was one really amazing picture I saw called “Cholafied” where they added drawn-on lip-liner and eyebrows on his face. That guy! Why do people put so many memes on Gosling! I think it was The Notebook that started it all, because before our movie he had the “Hey Girl” memes.
Do you have any future goals in the industry?
Hosting Saturday Night Live was the greatest thing ever, but the thing that I want to do is make movies that make people feel the way that the ones that inspired me made me feel. Least eloquent thing ever! But movies like Network, Harold and Maude, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Movies that shook me to my core: Hal Ashby, Woody Allen, and Cameron Crowe. People who balance humor and drama like it’s nothing … Like life.
Were there any things you geeked out on as a kid, like comics?
I was a huge computer nerd. I built websites! I would go online on forums, had a bunch of Internet friends, and would build free websites for people because I was trying to teach myself HTML. I was really just fucking around the whole time, trying to make frames and drop-down menus, so if the chance arose I could be a website designer. I wasn’t good at the graphics at all, so I really wasn’t going places. And I had an online newsletter called Neptune, which was an e-zine for girls 12-18 where I made up the advice column and wrote articles, because I thought I wanted to be a journalist for a long time—I still kind of do.