AMAZING SPIDER-MAN Week: Emma Stone Becomes Gwen Stacy
In the build up to the movie's release, we have insights into the filmmaking process from all those involved. Thanks to a series of press conferences held in New York City in early June, we can tell you exactly what to expect, and what these actors, writers, directors and producers think about Spider-Man.
Known for her roles featuring bright red hair and a saucy attitude, when Emma Stone was cast in The Amazing Spider-Man, most people assumed she'd be Mary Jane Watson, the primary love interest in the Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi trilogy of Spidey flicks. Suddenly, she was blonde and playing Gwen Stacy, Peter's first love from the comics. After the initial shock wore off and test images started to show up, fans began to accept her.
Question: What first drew you to this role?
Emma Stone: At first, really early on, I had met for Mary Jane. I always wanted to play Mary Jane, she's so great. A couple months went by and they said we'd like you to audition, but the part is Gwen Stacy! I was like, hmm I don't know who Gwen Stacy is, because I hadn't read the comic yet.
I looked into Gwen and just fell in love with Gwen's story, because it's so incredibly epic and tragic. And it's so incredible, the way that it effects Peter going forward with Mary Jane, which is another character that I love, obviously, was enormous. So I took the opportunity to audition, and met Andrew at the audition and got to act with him for the first time. He is one of the best actors I've ever worked with and I instantly knew how much I could learn from him. That really drew me to it.
Question: When you read the script and realized she wasn't just a damsel in distress, were you excited by the character's strength when you took on the role?
Stone: I was cast before I read the script. I read the sides, and Alvin Sergeant had written those, he's a genius with Ordinary People and Paper Moon so he's not too shabby of a writer, and she felt that way in the sides. There was a heart breaking scene, there was an exchange with them that was really sweet, the dinner table scene, that was all in there when I read the sides; I knew it was something different.
Question: You always hear the words iconic, beloved whenever someone talks about Spider-Man; what is it about Peter Parker and Spider-Man that makes him so beloved?
Stone: He's the only teenaged superhero [that isn't a sidekick], which is major, because most people that start reading comic books, you're a kid or a teenager, so he's the most identifiable instantly, you can relate to him. He's bullied, which is huge for a girl or boy, I think everyone has experienced something along those lines. He's bitten by this spider and the wish fulfillment comes true that he's able to fight back, that is symbolism for kids that they have so much power within him. To speak out, to stand up for themselves, to stay unique, to stay true to who they are, as Peter does. He finds those heroic elements within him, with or without his powers.
Which in this movie is what instigates Gwen and Peter's first interaction, he stands up for a kid being bullied and takes the fall for a kid being humiliated in front of a group of people and he displays those heroic qualities long before he becomes an actual superhero.
I think that's probably why it's so resonant and has been for 50 years and will continue to be. Even Barack Obama said that was his inspiration in pop culture.
Question: Gwen Stacy is pretty iconic herself. What did you do, how much were you involved in keeping her iconic look and feel, down to the headbands and thigh highs?
Stone: Costumes were done by Kim Barrett, was fantastic. We worked together to make sure that Gwen felt like Gwen, but also made sense in the real world. I'm just saying, a lot less voluptuous, unfortunately, so it didn't really go to those heights [laughs]. But you know, the signature headband, and the thigh highs and the coats, all of that was important; hair and makeup tried to attain that as well but keep her realistic.
In terms of her as a character, it was kind of a hodgepodge of different versions of Gwen. I know she's not, very hippy-ish in this. I don't think she'll ever be birthing Norman Osborn's twins [laughs]. [Newsarama Note: That's the reference that got crickets from the rest of the crowd. I laughed loudly, and Stone pointed to me nodding and smiling.] I don't think that's going to be happening, or moving to London or any of that. We tried to keep that moxie, that self-assuredness, and she's the daughter of a police captain, she's the oldest daughter. There's that responsibility thing that kicks in when she thinks her father could die everyday.
I think it's important that she took on that energy of being in charge of her family, like she could be there if something should happen. Then she's unwittingly drawn to a man who is in the same position, an Electra complex thing going on.
Question: Gwen is a well-versed student of science in this movie. How familiar were you in the science and does that interest you at all?
Stone: I was home schooled and I hadn't really been exposed to things like that. My aunt and uncle are scientists at Merck, they had a hand in creating the cervical cancer vaccine. So they're incredibly intelligent, fantastic minds, and I've always been fascinated by what they did.
I myself, this might sound a little strange to you, but I had really really bad acne a couple years ago, during a really stressful time period and I started going online and trying to figure out what causes this sort of thing: your cortisol production and how those things change in your body, how things like Accutane works. They took us to these labs, it this was the first time in my life that I had ever been really angry about not going to college, because I was fascinated. And I knew what they were talking about and we looked at biophotonics and what happens when cortisol fires off in your brain, the same thing that causes acne can cause diabetes and they're proving that stress is a link! And I was learning about regeneration, they were injecting axolotls and seeing how they could remove their arms and studying the regeneration. We looked at stem cells that they've wired to beat like a human heart.
I was fascinated, and I was like, "What do I need to do to intern?" "You need to be a college graduate." And I was like "but I know what you're talking about! I get it! I can learn! It made me so upset. F***! That Sucks! I can learn! I swear!"
So now I've gone on my tangent about the word "smart" which has really been bothering me for the past year. I don't like the word smart anymore, because what does smart mean? Does it mean that you are able to learn or does it mean did you graduate college? I didn't graduate college but I'm smart!
Question: What were some of your favorite improv moments? Also, do you think you can convince Andrew to do SNL?
Stone: I think so. I'm working on Andrew.
My favorite improv moment was the hallway scene. Which was written, but there were moments where we got to add in the scene where we were asking each other out but not.
Then there was that awful, such a hammy bit, they let me go off the cuff to keep Denis out of my room. So, of course, when you give me an inch… So I was like "what is the one thing that will keep a dad out of his teenage daughter's room?" Cramps. Anything related to hormones, i knew in an instant from my own life experience. Dad's don't want to talk about that.
Question: Do you feel the "with great power comes great responsibility" motto in your own life as a role model for young girls?
Stone: I don't in any way, shape, or form think that I'm a role model or anything like that, but for whatever reason when you're put into a public space, you have to think about what your purpose is for that, why that happened and what you can do with something like that. I'm not political, I know that is never going to be my job as an actor to champion any specific cause, except for originality. That's one thing that I maybe identify with as part of my responsibility per se.
There was something that came with getting a Revlon contract, actually. I thought "why in the world would I be approached for a beauty campaign?" because I've always been the funny girl? Not to put myself down, that's just the way my brain worked. Then I thought about Diane Keaton and Ellen Degeneres in theirs and sometimes real beauty gets to be celebrated, that inside is what counts. Or you can put make up on but because it makes you feel good, and not for anyone else. If I had the opportunity to possibly reach young girls and make them feel like what they are is enough. Those elements of their personality and what makes them original, if they feel good about that in any way, if that affects one person, that's a game changer. That's something that I'm proud to be helpful in anyway in of looking real and being any kind of real person.
So I feel not a responsibility, but a privilege to be able to speak to younger girls and hopefully make them feel like it's okay to be themselves.
Question: Why do you think Peter is attracted to Gwen?
Stone: I think elements of Gwen and her family life are something that Peter didn't necessarily have, the sense of stability. I know that Aunt May and Uncle Ben are a very stable environment for him, but he has abandonment issues. He was abandoned by his parents when he was five, so he doesn't feel like he can be really honest with Uncle Ben and Aunt May. You see that when Uncle Ben comes in and asks why don't you talk about this?
He doesn't feel comfortable talking about that pain with them. He sees someone steady in Gwen, and can understand what it's like to lose a father on a daily basis; she doesn't know if he's going to come home every day. So she feels that sense of abandonment as well. They're so, so different, but they also relate on love of learning and things like that. She becomes a confidant and someone he can trust.
Question: We've seen you play "high schooler in love" before but this felt different. How did you approach it?
Stone: In Superbad and Easy A, in actually any movie that I've done, there hasn't been a love story like this. In Superbad with Seth that's just a "oh he's cute." And with Easy A there's Woodchuck Todd who's "cute," but they're focused on their own story in most of the movies that I've been a part of. This kind of swept me off my feet because she is truly in love with him.
I wanted to feel that again, I wanted to unlearn and go to the very beginning when there's that attraction to a human being in a way I've never felt before and "what is this?" That uncomfortable "uh!" I wanted to feel that again. So it was really just a process of unlearning and becoming 17 again and letting yourself be 17 in this moment. It's fun and you should try it! It's really cool to feel that way again.
Question: How would you describe the difference between working on a film like Easy A where there's no effects whatsoever and moving to something like this where it's not only a blockbuster, but a major effects film?
Stone: My character wasn't as involved in the effects. My storyline, for me, was actually very human, so it actually didn't feel all that different other than the days I had to swing, which was fun, and the days on a green screen which when you're acting with another person, you could really be in a cardboard box so it just tests your imagination in that way. In terms of shooting in 3D the difference is, it takes a little bit longer because you're syncing two cameras, and the 3D camera is huge and reflective, so it's like acting with a mirror right next to you, which is very bizarre. If you've ever had a conversation with a mirror right next to you, you keep catching yourself and it's really just awful. Then you get used to it and it's a little bit better.
It's nice to know that in shooting a movie like this you're still approaching a character the same way. you're trying to tell the truth about who that person is and what they're feeling. That remains the same. This feels different, the press feels different, this is where it really strikes you that you're in Spider-Man.
Question: Any pressure on set for the first kiss with Peter to be as memorable as the first kiss between Spidey and MJ in the original film?
Stone: I know, obviously there's no comparison there. I thought about it, but you know, it was up to them to write it, so we just kind of went with what they wrote. There was a little tango move, I think it's cool that it was a nod to Indiana Jones.
Question: How would you explain the chemistry between the two of you?
Stone: Can one explain chemistry? It's hard to! With any actor, it's hard to tell if there will be chemistry. Even if it's not a love interest, you're playing parents or best friends. Sometimes it either just clicks or it doesn't. It doesn't matter how good the actor is. It really is undefinable, it's exactly what they call it. It's something else entirely, just some soul thing. I don't know what it is!
Question: What did you think Webb brought to this?
Stone: From 500 Days of Summer, you can tell that Marc cares about love and humanity, and that was incredibly important for this movie!
He was incredibly kind and willing to work on that relationship, from my experience I was very grateful that he came from that background.
Question: Did they rig you up for that big swing, or was that CGI?
Stone: Oh yeah, we swung, we were swinging. Other than the bruising, I loved it. Harnesses bruise, you guys. Yikes.
Stay tuned later this week for Andrew Garfield, Peter Parker himself's press conference and a special one on one interview with director Marc Webb!
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