Hitting the right notes

Hitting the right notes

Emma Stone opens up to Samantha Reyes about her love of musicals, bestie Ryan Gosling and bad auditions

Can you explain what the title of your new film, La La Land, means?

It’s one of Los Angeles’ many nicknames – maybe the most sarcastic one, as if to say it’s a dumb and superficial town. But people who live and work here know how amazing, beautiful, interesting and cosmopolitan LA is. No one really calls it la-la land any more, except in New York, because of the East and West Coast rivalry. I think New Yorkers are jealous and envious of LA; that’s why they keep making fun of it.

LA is also a cradle for musicals: do you love this genre?

Of course I do. I started out in 1st grade as an actress in a musical, a little school production. I fell in love with acting and stage because of the musical. So La La Land is a homecoming for me, the celebration of my destiny, if you’ll allow me to say that! [laughs]

Were you influenced by the actresses of the Hollywood golden era?

To a certain point, because I mainly love comedians, people such as Gilda Radner, Goldie Hawn, Gene Wilder … Mel Brooks and his hilarious actors. My parents introduced me to ’70s and ’80s comedies when I was a young girl, and that’s what really shaped me as an actress. Underneath, I’m a full-on comedian.

In La La Land, you also sing and dance. That must have been a great accomplishment for you.

Of course, and I hope I honoured that genre. I trust director Damien Chazelle – who also directed the movie Whiplash, which I loved so much. In that film, he talked about jazz music in New York, whereas this movie is about film music in LA.

And I would have done anything with my beloved friend Ryan [Gosling]. He’s becoming to me what Spencer Tracy was to Katharine Hepburn or Fred Astaire to Ginger Rogers. Next to Ryan, I’m able to do everything. I become fearless.

What was it like working with Woody Allen on Irrational Man?

Every actor has dreams of working with Woody at least once. It’s like a bucket-list wish; you can’t say your career is fully accomplished without working on at least one of his films. I watched all of his movies growing up, and his world and sensibility are now part of my DNA. Manhattan, Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris … I adore those movies. I also love Diane Keaton: that’s another actress I look up to constantly.

Working with Woody was way easier and less complicated than I ever expected. He trusts his actors and lets them be. Once he casts them, he leaves them free to say his words as they please.

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Your career has been a great success. Do you remember any bad auditions?

Many. I hate auditions; as does any actor, I guess. I remember one when I was about 16 – it was for a commercial and I had to wear a bikini in front of a sitting committee. It was terribly embarrassing and demeaning. As an aspiring actor you have to be flexible and available and show up to every audition – but in a bikini? Please, no! I’ve never repeated that same mistake. I was inches away from abandoning my dream of becoming an actress and just walking out.

Fortunately I was able to recover quickly and, after the next audition, I was cast for the series Medium in 2005, which was the beginning of my professional career.

What about best auditions?

The best was for the first The Amazing Spider-Man with Andrew Garfield. We clicked immediately and the chemistry between us was obvious to everyone in the room. Another good audition was with Ryan Gosling for Gangster Squad; it was very funny. Everyone said to me: ‘Watch out for Ryan, he’s difficult and demanding.’ But he was a pussycat to me. He was more intimidated by me than the other way round! We’ve been best buddies ever since.

Do you enjoy fashion?

I like to play with costumes and make-up; it’s such a fun part of film-making and the make-believe world. In real life, I don’t have a great sense of style though. I rely on others to dress me up for special occasions.

Do you have a favourite stylist?

Yes, I do. She’s my friend, Petra Flannery. When she decides to dress me up, I let her do her thing and usually she makes me look very pretty.

Text: The Interview People; Photography: Gallo/GettyImages, GreatStock

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