“Vulnerability makes me better”From Spider-Man to Birdman, the actress has proved her movie industry mettle. She attributes her success to a talent for panicking.
After her career-launching role in the 2007 comedy Superbad, Emma Stone, 26, has built a reputation as one of the most versatile and likable actors around. Her turn in last year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman, earned Stone her first Oscar nomination, and she made her Broadway debut in November 2014, putting in a critically acclaimed performance in the lead role of the musical classic Cabaret. With the ascent of Stone’s star showing no signs of slowing, she talks to The Red Bulletin about fame, death and the problem with hippos.
THE RED BULLETIN: Paul McCartney designed the tattoo on your left wrist. What does it mean?
Emma Stone: It’s two bird footprints, because my mother’s favorite love song is “Blackbird” by the Beatles, and because of the great line in the song, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.”
Can you relate to that?
At the beginning of my career, I auditioned for a part in the TV series Heroes. Before I went in, I heard them saying to the girl ahead of me, “You’ve got the part. You’re the best fit.” It was Hayden Panettiere. A big part of me died inside right there. I thought, “F*ck, I’m just going to get rejected my whole life, and just keep hearing no, no, no.” Then I got my part in Superbad two weeks after that. That changed my life forever. It taught me to make the best out of difficult situations.
Can you give an example?
I’ve suffered from panic attacks ever since I was 8. I saw a psychotherapist for two years, which helped me get a clear picture of myself and deal with it. I still tend to be hard on myself, and I get anxious a lot. But I also have coping mechanisms.
How do they work?
OK, 98 percent of the time everything is fine. When it’s not, if you can stop and say, “I’m panicking right now. I’m sitting on a couch holding a coffee. I have shelter. When I want food, I can eat. Am I OK? Yeah, I’m OK. Nobody is dying.”
Is death a big topic for you?
When I was younger, I had a soft spot for anything spooky. I would go to visit cemeteries. I’m still interested in that stuff, but not in a negative way. Once you understand that your time is limited, you live with a lot more awareness. Why should I worry about everything else? The actual reality is death. And I think there’s something strangely comforting about that.
How do you stay normal amid the Hollywood madness?
Luckily I have people I love and trust, and relationships in my life are an absolute priority, not my work. Which doesn’t mean I want to develop a thick skin. You see that when it happens to actors. You can’t relate to them on screen anymore. It’s like watching a hippo act.
Is emotional vulnerability a benefit in your line of work?
I have a lot of emotions and a thin skin, which really is a tough combination, but my job helps me put it to good use. Some parts can unleash panic if the challenges are too great. But the more vulnerable you are, the greater the fear, which usually culminates in better results. As an actor, you’re in a weird situation; half of you wants to be shielded from your natural sensitivity, and the other half knows that it’s precisely the thing you need to do your job well.
You’ve played Spider-Man’s girlfriend. Could you do with a superhero to help you cope with real life?
It depends what kind of hero. Anybody who’s willing to laugh when you’ve fallen down is a hero to me, rather than people that are like, “Are you OK?” That makes it so much worse. I like people who take things lightly. They’re my heroes.