Muse of the Month: Emma Stone
The Diane Keaton of her generation
Murmurs of La La Land have not stopped since the release of its first trailer and with the recent Golden Globes wins and a record-matching of Oscar nominations with Titanic (a whopping 14, to be exact), you'll be hearing about the film for a while more. Even Emma Stone, one of the main charms of the film, thinks the same way. "I feel like I started promoting the movie back in August and it hasn't stopped since," she said. As everyone predicted, the 28-year-old actress garnered an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress and now more than ever, all eyes are on the young woman named Emma Stone.
HER REAL NAME
Born Emily Jean Stone in Scottsdale, Arizona, she had to change her name as an Emily Stone was already enrolled in the Screen Actors Guild. She first chose Riley Stone but realised it wasn't for her when people on the set of Malcolm in the Middle—where she did a guest spot—were calling her and she didn't instinctively respond. Emma sounded a lot closer to Emily and thus Emma Stone was born.
HER REAL HAIR COLOUR
She's actually a blonde but dyed it red at Superbad producer Judd Apatow's suggestion for the film. However, she returned to her original (hair) roots for her role as Gwen Stacy in Marc Webb's 2012 The Amazing Spider-Man.
While everyone now can't stop talking about her enticing charm and undeniable talent in La La Land, one will find that the Stone trail began 10 years ago since her silver screen debut in Superbad—a true and shining example of a rising star and a trailblazer. That's not saying she wasn't born with this innate flair but rather, one of the things that separate her from the other young actresses is her clever choice of roles that can shape her career path.
"It's no surprise that her career is taking off. Emma is very, very smart. It's clear in the choices she made. She knows what she's done well but has really pushed herself and challenged herself." — Superbad director Greg Mottola
In an interview with Vanity Fair, she said, "There are times when I've wanted to do something just because I liked the character and not necessarily the whole story. But I'm pretty passionate about the film as a whole being something I'm excited about, not just the part." It's not a career strategy though. She told The Guardian that it's more like she was "stubborn" and only accepted the roles "that spoke to me".
Hence, while she had a great start playing sarcastic and comic type of characters such as Jonah Hill's love interest in Superbad, the witty lead in Easy A, and a shotgun-wielding zombie fighter in Zombieland, she gradually made the decision to experiment with different types of roles to showcase her array of acting abilities. Her most notable breakthrough role into drama was Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a journalist who interviews African-American servants in 1960s Mississippi in The Help.
Her next big break came in the form of Gwen Stacy in the comic blockbuster hit The Amazing Spider-Man where her portrayal stood out more than an average supporting character and instantly won the hearts of many in the mainstream crowd. Stone then took a slight detour down the indie route by starring in Woody Allen's romantic comedy Magic in the Moonlight which, though a modest success, had a slight controversy due to the large age gap between her and co-star Colin Firth who plays her romantic interest.
The blazing trail picked up again when she acted as the recovering-addict daughter of Michael Keaton's character in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's critically acclaimed Birdman. The film was nominated for nine awards—including Best Supporting Actress for Stone—and won four—including Best Picture.
"Emma's very modern, but there's a timelessness to her, too."—La La Land writer and director Damien Chazelle
What followed was a Broadway musical called Cabaret—which, as she told W Magazine, was "her unofficial audition for La La Land" as director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz went to see her in the show before they met up to explain the idea to her—then Aloha and yet another Woody Allen film, Irrational Man. The latter two was a subject of controversy for a) Hollywood whitewashing by casting her in an Asian-American role and b) that age gap issue again (as per most Wood Allen films). In the end, Stone admitted that perhaps acting in Aloha wasn't a great idea.
Not that any of these criticism had ever affected the actress on both a personal and professional level—especially since La La Land came along and Emma Stone is currently riding high in public adoration and talent recognition.
HER STRUGGLES AND STRENGTHS
With her strong personality laced with an evident underlying warmth, it might be hard to imagine Emma Stone ever having a tough time but you'll be surprised that she had a similar start as an aspiring actress with her La La Land character Mia Dolan. At the beginning of her career in 2004, she had failed auditions even for a role in Nickelodeon's All That and Disney Channel shows, and a supposed television debut on a show ended up as an unsold pilot while another one got cancelled after seven episodes. Then, 2007 with Superbad came along.
Stone also has the image of a confident young woman with a self-deprecating humour more believable than Jennifer Lawrence, but she revealed she had anxiety and panic attacks as a child. Her solution is an inspiration to anyone who suffers from the same issues: "I wrote this book called I Am Bigger Than My Anxiety that I still have: I drew a little green monster on my shoulder that speaks to me in my ear and tells me all these things that aren't true. And every time I listen to it, it grows bigger. If I listen to it enough, it crushes me. But if I turn my head and keep doing what I'm doing—let it speak to me, but don't give it the credit it needs—then it shrinks down and fades away."
"She's not caught up in the game of this profession which is, I think, incredibly hard for anyone to do. She has her head screwed on straight. She's a one-off."—Andrew Garfield
As many celebrities would agree, their industry is far from fame and glory alone. It comes with a price. And if you're a woman, you'd face issues like a wage gap, the pressure to reveal more than a cleavage and an opinion where men take no notice of—or in Stone's case, someone else took credit for her joke. "There are times in the past, making a movie, when I've been told that I'm hindering the process by bringing up an opinion or an idea. I hesitate to make it about being a woman, but there have been times when I've improvised, they've laughed at my joke and then given it to my male co-star," she told Rolling Stone.
That combined with those controversies, it's sometimes surprising that Emma Stone can still remain so genuine and headstrong. Her trick: "I just focus on what I've got to do at any one moment, and don't necessarily think about where it's all leading." And that's probably something we should all be doing.