After spending the last half-decade playing smart, independent women, Emma Stone was ready for a change: “Now I like women that are totally dependent,” she half-jokes to Rolling Stone. In fact, she’s come to love the “damsel in distress” aspects of her role as Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, in The Amazing Spider-Man (out July 3rd) – as well as her equally vulnerable part in September’s Gangster Squad. “I think my brain might be changing,” she says.
Doing an action movie like The Amazing Spider-Man is a different world for you. What concerns did you have?
When you hear “Spider-Man,” all you picture is green screen and wires and, like, CGI in post. But then they sent me over these top-secret scenes that were really interesting, and I was like, “Well, what do I have to lose just auditioning for something like this?”
Then I went and I read with Andrew [Garfield, who plays Peter Parker], and it was like a full-blown camera test, which I had never done before – with hair and makeup, and in costume and with lighting. It was like we were shooting a movie. I was doing a scene with Andrew, and it all kind of clicked in that the reality of actually shooting this was going to feel like any other movie I’ve done. Because it was grounded and it was realistic, and it was really lovely to find beats with him and to get to work with him, even for those six hours that I was auditioning. I think it’s really easy to put it into a box – like, “It’s just a superhero movie.”
But you do get to fall from buildings, right?
Yeah, then there was the falling off and the swinging, which is pretty fun in the moment, after you’ve done days of scenes where you’re sitting on the bedroom floor. To swing is then kind of exhilarating because you’ve done all of the other stuff.
You don’t really get bad press at this point – it seems like everyone basically loves you. Does it make you worry that the other shoe is going to drop?
Well, I’ve never really seen it that way, that’s very nice of you so say. But yeah, I’m so fatalistic in general and I’m a pretty anxious person in life, so it’s almost like the better things are going, the more terrified I am. But I thought about that in school, too: Like, if I thought, “Oh wow, I’m really getting along with people! All these girls seem to want to be my friend this week,” I would assume that by next week I’ll be old news. So of course I know tomorrow someone’s gonna leave a bag of dog shit on my doorstep. [Laughs]
How did you stay so calm onstage at the Oscars this year?
I think a lot of people thought I was drunk.
Yeah, like right after I came offstage, a lot of people were like, “When you walked out I though you were completely hammered.” But I wasn’t! I was flipping out backstage, of course, then you walk out onstage and you’re like, “OK, I’m in my high school auditorium and everyone is in their underwear” – because in my high school everyone wears their underwear, I guess? And I wasn’t going to look out into the audience, except that one part where I’m like, “Jonah [Hill], come dance with me!” and I look down, and of course he’s sitting right behind Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, so I was like, “They’re not here, they’re a mirage! And it’s only Jonah that I’m comfortable with, he’s my friend.”
People were kind of shocked when you let your hair go back to its natural blond. But why did you dye it red in the first place?
That was a Judd [Apatow] decision; that was a Superbad decision. I dyed my hair brown when I was 15, when I first started auditioning in LA.
So Judd executive produced your hair for like five years?
Yes, Judd executive produced my hair for the past five years. I’m out from under his thumb, thank you! He came into the camera test for Superbad, and Marsha MacIsasc, who was in the movie, had brown hair. And maybe it was just a little differentiation kind of thing, but he said, “Let’s make it red,” so the same person who colors my hair now made it red.
Superbad set an early template for you of playing brainy, confident women.
It’s interesting because now when I’m reading things, my brain for whatever reason is so switched off from that. I think my brain might be changing, and I’m just drawn to something else. But I think for a long time it was something I was really, really drawn to, and obviously they had to pick me, too – it wasn’t just, “Oh, I’d like to do this role.”
But I don’t know why that was the common thread. I think there was something about independent women that was really resonating there for a long time with me, and something that I really felt drawn to. And starting with Spider-Man, the damsel-in-distress aspect of Gwen was appealing to me for the first time. I love the tragedy of this story, I love that she doesn’t win in the end, I love that she’s not one hundred percent confident and she’s constantly surrounded by mortality. I loved that element, and with my part in Gangster Squad it was the same way – she was really broken and kind of had this weird skin on her that was not something that I’m used to. So I think that mentality has been tweaked a bit. I like the more broken people now.
It struck me that you’d be really good in a Woody Allen movie – is that something that you’d like to do?
Don’t even start with me. Come on! The other night I went to see him – he plays clarinet at the Carlyle every Monday night.
Right, I’ve been meaning to go for like 20 years.
Oh! You have to go. It’s the best. I have a lot of pictures. It was so incredible, even being in the room with his energy, I named my dog after him. Well, my dog’s name is Alvie. And he’s got pretty much the same personality type as Woody from what I’ve seen in the movies. He’s definitely a neurotic New Yorker.
Did Woody spot you in the audience?
I didn’t exchange any words with him or anything. I clam up massively when I’m around any of my heroes.
Oh, yeah. People I admire I’m really okay with, but there are people that I literally hold as heroes in my life, who made me want to do what I do and made me understand life in a different way – and he’s one of them. So I wouldn’t be so cool around him.