When Emma Stone talks about the kind of actor that she'd like to be, the conversation inevitably turns to comedy—which is appropriate, since Stone's brief but impressive filmography thus far includes a number of funny movies: Superbad (2007), The House Bunny (2008), Zombieland (2009), Easy A (2010), and last year's Crazy, Stupid, Love among them. But the kinds of comic actors that Stone is quick to mention—John Candy, Diane Keaton, Steve Martin, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Gene Wilder—don't represent the usual sort of formative stuff for a 23-year-old in 2012, especially one who looks like Emma Stone and inhabits the sort of world that she inhabits.
It was Stone's parents who introduced her to that brand of 1970s- and 1980s-style comedy, which, in every case mentioned above, verged on a kind of performative art—and based on that information alone, they both sound like people you'd like to know. But that early education led Stone to become a devoted student of sketch comedy. As a kid growing up in Arizona, she studied Saturday Night Live religiously. She even performed in improv theater, which she credits with helping her to deal with near-crippling anxiety. It also went a long way toward forming Stone's sensibilities as an actor herself: Her work is suffused with a kind of naturalism, which is a word that gets thrown around when people discuss actors who seem to have a realness or accessibility about them, but which, in actuality, has more to do with their ability to contain competing emotions or sets of circumstances in their performances in the way that people often do in life. It's a quality that has been allowed to rise closer and closer to the surface as Stone has taken on less patently funny fare like Paper Man (2010) and The Help and even this past summer's The Amazing Spider-Man. Her next film should provide people with an opportunity to see her stretch even further: Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer's period drama Gangster Squad, about a group of cops tasked with taking on organized crime in late 1940s Los Angeles, which co-stars Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Josh Brolin, and is due out in 2013.
Writer and director Cameron Crowe, who Stone also name-checked as a formative influence in June while accepting a "Trailblazer" prize at the MTV Movie Awards, recently spoke with the actress at the Sunset Tower Hotel in L.A.
CAMERON CROWE: I picked out a theme song for this interview. [music plays] This is "Delfonics Theme" by The Delfonics.
EMMA STONE: This is perfect. This is The Delfonics' actual theme?
CROWE: Yeah. The group had a theme, so they're saying, "We're going to usher you into our whole world with this song . . ." But I think that an interview should have a theme song, and this will be ours. I heard it the other day, and I just thought, This is us.
STONE: Does it play throughout the interview?
CROWE: No, I think we'll just let it be a prelude to our conversation . . . So welcome to our interview.
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