SHE’S TIPPED FOR THE BEST ACTRESS AWARD AT THIS MONTH ’S OSCARS FOR HER ROLE IN ALL SINGING, ALL DANCING MOVIE LA LA LAND. WE SPEAK TO EMMA STONE ABOUT MAKING THE YEAR’S MOST TALKED ABOUT FILM, AND WHY THIS ONE IS HER MUM ’S FAVOURITE…
Emma Stone’s just spilt coffee on the lush carpet of the hotel suite. It’s a moment reminiscent of a scene in La La Land, where her character, aspiring actress Mia, is rushing from her job as a barista to make an audition and ends up with coffee all down her front.
It’s this goofiness, both on and off screen, which is part of Stone’s great appeal, and what makes her so accessible.
That said, her talent can never be questioned. She’s currently riding high with a Golden Globe win, a BAFTA nomination and hopefully an Oscar too for her role in the modern-day musical La La Land. The film, directed by Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle, has already proved a phenomenal critical and commercial success, but Stone says the “real test” is the fact her mum has declared it her number one choice from her daughter’s back catalogue.
“And if it’s my mum’s favourite, it must be OK – she’s picky,” she says with a laugh, admitting she couldn’t have predicted the movie would garner such a reaction.
“Reading the script, I definitely felt inspired and struck by it in that way. You always hope when you’re making a movie, or telling a story, that it will affect people in the way it affected you.
“It’s very exciting, it’s wonderful,” adds the 28-year-old, whose red hair and wide green eyes are accentuated by her emerald ensemble.
Set in the City of Angels, La La Land is the timeless tale of boy-meets-girl – with Ryan Gosling playing the ‘boy’ in the equation; the ambitious but frustrated jazz pianist Sebastian. A love letter to Hollywood, it harks back to the song and dance triumphs of yesteryear and is beautifully poignant in its depiction of unabated dreams, and those moments in life where decisions set fate into motion.
Stone, whose debut movie was 2007’s Superbad, before coming to prominence in 2010’s Easy A, admits she’s had something of a love-hate relationship with Tinseltown.
“It’s an interesting place and definitely an interesting industry,” she remarks in her characteristic husky voice. “There are a lot of ups and downs and your experience with it ebbs and flows depending on the time period, but this film made me appreciate the parts of Los Angeles that I hadn’t really experienced in quite a while.”
Early on in the process, Stone met with Chazelle, who talked her through his ideas for the musical numbers. “It was intoxicating,” recalls the actress, who hails from Arizona. “The idea of telling this really modern story of two struggling artists, but in a 1950s-style musical version of today’s Los Angeles, became something really exciting to me very quickly.”
Her character’s yearning for something beyond the ordinary hit home too.
“Mia’s driven by something that maybe she doesn’t completely understand. She wants to be an artist in a city of so many people who seem to be just like her. She feels there’s something special inside her, but she doesn’t quite know what it is,” explains Stone, who’s also appeared in The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man (where she met former boyfriend Andrew Garfield) and Birdman, for which she received an Oscar nomination for in 2015. And just like Mia, Stone’s experienced “some particularly garbage” auditions over the years.
“But I think what sits with me more than anything, is the feeling Mia has a little bit later, one of feeling very shutdown and kind of ignored,” she adds.“[It brought to mind] the times I wasn’t being sent on auditions, and my agent would stop sending me because I wasn’t getting enough call-backs. That was almost harder than the rejection in the [audition] room, because when you’re not even getting the opportunity, it can be really challenging.”
Two years ago, Stone fulfilled a childhood dream when she sang on Broadway, as Sally Bowles in a revival of Cabaret. But despite her evident vocals skills, she doesn’t deny she felt vulnerable singing her heart out on the La La Land set, particularly in a pivotal audition scene.
“We did it live, so I had an ear wig where I could hear Justin Hurwitz, our composer, who was playing the piano live with me, but I realised everyone else in the room was just hearing me sing a capella! That’s not very fun,” she says, with a laugh.
“For two months, we rehearsed every day,” she adds, recalling the intense preparation period. “It was so much fun because I’ve taken some dance in the past, but this was learning tap and jazz and ballroom dance – whole new languages of dance.”
But Stone points out Chazelle was never looking for perfection.
“Our characters are struggling artists, so we were never asked to be incredibly brilliant dancers and singers. Actually, Damien wanted our relationship to feel alive and raw in a certain way, even though we’re part of these incredibly cinematic dance numbers. So little flaws and natural flubs were welcomed with open arms.”
The film marks the third time she and Gosling have collaborated, following 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love and 2013’s Gangster Squad.
“Honestly, it’s just easy to work with him,” she says of their palpable on-screen chemistry. “I don’t have any fun or exciting description of what that means, he just makes it fun.”
There’s plenty to celebrate with awards season in full swing, and the actress intends to enjoy every moment. “I see it mainly as an honour and lots of fun,” says Stone.
“I try not to take it as too much pressure, or turn it into something negative. It’s just a lovely thing and very exciting.”
La La Land is in cinemas now