“The Help” marks the third Emma Stone movie released in four weeks, following “Friends with Benefits” and “Crazy Stupid Love.” Isn’t she worried about, uh, Stone-verkill?
“Stone-verkill! Yes! Coined a word,” Stone exclaims, laughing. “I’m always worried about Stone-verkill. I have to live with me every day. I’ve had to listen to my voice way too much the past week. I probably shouldn’t do anything ever again.”
That self-deprecating sense of humor and irresistible charm is part of why the 22-year-old actress has become such a hot Hollywood commodity, with her biggest role having just finished filming (in next year’s superhero reboot “The Amazing Spider-Man”). In “The Help,” opening Aug. 10, Stone leads a fantastic cast of actresses in writer-director Tate Taylor’s adaptation of the bestselling book by his longtime friend Kathryn Stockett.
The story centers on African-American maids in highly prejudiced 1963 Mississippi who finally have a place to voice their life experiences, thanks to a book by Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Stone). The movie co-stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer as the maids who serve as Skeeter’s most prominent sources, and Bryce Dallas Howard as the community’s most unbridled racist who refuses to share a bathroom with her maid.
At the Elysian Hotel, Arizona-native, New York-dwelling Stone talked about becoming Southern for “The Help,” releasing her rage while weightlifting and going back to high school for “Spider-Man.”
You put a lot of work into your Southern accent for “The Help.” How do you think it turned out, and how often do you accidentally slip back into it?
I don’t know how it turned out. I worked really hard on it. It was incredibly difficult for me because it’s like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, and I’m not that coordinated. I slip back into it whenever I’m around [Mississippi native director Taylor].
What sounds were the hardest?
All the “wh’s.” (In Southern accent) “White.” “Where?” (No accent) That was difficult for me. (Back to Southern accent) “What?”
When you were filming “The Help,” how aware were you of how much things have or haven’t changed?
We were shooting in Greenwood, Miss., and it was the only place I think in the world that we could have made the movie accurately. Just the location alone, you could feel the history and you could feel the difference, but it’s all so informed by how recent this all was. It’s a strange balance that’s being struck in Mississippi right now. Really, really wonderful people, but you’re on the Tallahatchie River six miles from where Emmett Till’s body was found, and it’s kind of impossible to forget that while you’re making it. So I definitely became more aware of how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.
RedEye reader @blairjanis wanted to know: How much of a person’s character is shaped by the times they live in?
I think a pretty damn fair amount. I believe that nurture outweighs nature so much of the time in human beings. It’s hard to tell because you don’t really know what your nature is until you get really angry and you’re kinda primal. [Laughs.] I think that it affects us hugely in ways that we don’t even realize. I will probably check my phone within the next 20 minutes. If this were 20 years ago I wouldn’t even have a phone to check, and that’s keeping me connected to all these people that I speak to back home, which is maintaining relationships that I wouldn’t have been able to maintain throughout the day 20 years ago. It’s shaping the way I maintain relationships with people and the way I speak to people. That’s talking about the technological aspect of our time, but I think that the cultural aspect of our time, you either go with it or you fight against it.
So what happens when you get angry?
Blind rage. I also find out that I’m filled with rage when weightlifting. Who knew? It’s all bubbling right under the surface. I do not feel like a rage-filled human at any other point in time, but when I’m weightlifting, I’m a lunatic.
What are you benching right now?
Nothing. I am not benching anymore. [Laughs.] I want to make it through my days, man.
This summer we’ve seen “Bridesmaids” and “Bad Teacher,” and people are talking a lot about women in comedy. Mila Kunis was on the cover of GQ saying some people don’t find women funny and some just see them as attractive. She’s also not wearing much on the cover. What can you do to be seen as funny and attractive without having to minimize one or the other?
I think you just have to be totally and completely yourself. Mila’s a friend of mine and I think she’s awesome and she’s one of the most beautiful human beings on the planet, and incredibly funny, so you choose your own path. There’s no one you can emulate in any sense. I think Tina Fey said, I’m completely paraphrasing, but the basic idea of what she said was you really can’t follow anyone’s specific career path, you kind of have to make your own. And I believe that to be true the most in this business, in any business, in any life, you have to follow your heart and do what’s right for you in your life. If you’re comfortable being done up and also being funny, then why not get done up and be funny? And if you’re not comfortable with it, then don’t do it.
Some people say, “How can she say this about attractiveness vs. comedy and then pose this way on the cover?”
There [are] other elements that come into play too. You realize when you’re shooting for a men’s magazine there’s going to be that skew. It just depends on the thing and the time period and your personal opinion.
At one point your goal was to host “SNL,” and now you’ve done it. When will you join the cast full-time?
Oh my God, I. Will. Do it right now. If you will let me. Do you cast the show?
I do. They just gave me that power.
Great! Can I be in the cast please?
Great! Perfect. Then right now. I’m ready.
How do you feel about going back to high school for “The Amazing Spider-Man”?
It’s pretty fun. In “Crazy Stupid Love” I’m 27 and in “The Help” I was 23 and then I’m 17 again [in “Spider-Man”] and it was lovely. I like getting younger and younger as time goes on. I’m like “Benjamin Button.” [Laughs.]
How confusing is that for your emotional state?
I don’t know how well I did as a 17-year-old this go-round, but we’ll see.
You seem to be climbing People’s Most Beautiful List, among other lists. Is it true that people become more beautiful as they become more famous?
[Laughs.] What an interesting theory. Um, apparently. I guess that’s a … notion. I don’t know what the hell is going on. [Laughs.]
On picking the right roles: “[Doug Wald, my manager], is brilliant, and we have long discussions about all these scripts. He’s been my manager since I was 15, so this whole time I’ve got a real teammate in terms of picking things. It’s also not like I just get my pick of the litter. It’s like a relationship. Like, ‘Wow, I think you’re really attractive. Do you want to date me?’ The answer is either yes or no, and sometimes they do not want to date you unfortunately. The movies are not into you.”
On feedback from strangers: “I try not to put too much stock into anything people say, negative or positive. [Laughs.]”
On the worst thing she’s ever eaten: “I drank some sour almond milk the other day. It was disgusting. It was a horrible, horrible experience. I only took a sip.”
On her iPod: “I’m listening to Noah and the Whale. Have you heard that? It’s pretty good. And that new Fleet Foxes album. I’m listening to this song by Audiobullies called ‘Only Man.’ That’s what pumps me up, if we’re being honest. That’s what really pumps me up right now.
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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