Earlier this month we got the chance to shoot some questions at several of the stars and crew of The Amazing Spider-Man, one of these talks being with Emma Stone, who played comic legend Gwen Stacy in the film. She spoke about how she got to know the character Gwen only after having spoken about playing Mary Jane as well as how the big change in working on her first big-name effects film is really in the press tour action. Have a peek at this un-cut interview below.
[Question] What first drew you to this role, this famous role [of Gwen Stacy]?
[Emma Stone] At first I had met Laura Ziskin really early on, just about two weeks after it was announced, [but] for Mary Jane [rather than Gwen Stacy]. And I had always wanted to play Mary Jane. Mary Jane was so great. Then a couple of months went by and he called back and he said we’d like to to audition for the part of Gwen Stacy.’ I was like ‘erm, well, I don’t know who Gwen Stacy is.’ – Because I hadn’t read the comic books growing up. So I looked into the story of Gwen and I just fell in love with Gwen’s story because it is so incredibly epic and tragic and incredible in the way that it affects Peter moving forward with Mary Jane who was another character that I love, obviously, who 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, I instantly knew how much I could learn from him and that really, really drew me. That challenge, rising to meet him every day was something really exciting and was a huge learning and growing experience for me, so it was a combination of things.
[Q] When you read the script and first realized that she’s not just the damsel in distress – she’s a big part of saving the day in this, were you more interested in doing the part when you realized you’d be a very strong woman?
[ES] I was cast before I read the script.
[Q] Well were you happy then when you did realize that, then –
[ES] Yeah, yeah, I read the sides, and Sargin had written the sides, who is a genius, wrote Ordinary People and Paper Moon so he’s not too shabby of a writer. And she had felt that way in sides – there was a heartbreaking scene where was an exchange with them that was really sweet, the dinner table scene, that was all kind of in there when I read the sides, so I instantly knew that it was something very different. Obviously he’s such a brilliant writer – I didn’t even know it was written by him, but I was like ‘god these are well written scenes.’ I really, really liked her from those sides.
Emma Stone in the photo-call during the NYC Press Junket earlier this month with other members of the cast and crew.
[Q] Whenever someone talks about Spider-Man you hear the words ‘Iconic’ and ‘Much-Beloved’, it seems like he’s a hero that so many people idolize, especially young boys – from a female perspective, what do you think it is about Spider-Man that makes him such a beloved super-hero?
[ES] Well he’s the only teenage super-hero, which is major, because a lot of the time when people start reading comic books, you are a kid or a teenager, so he’s the most identifiable, instantly, you can relate to him. Not to mention: he’s bullied, which is huge, for a girl or a boy, I think everyone has experienced something along those lines. And the fact that he is bitten by this spider, and this kind of wish fulfillment comes true – that he’s able to fight back to the bullies that he wasn’t able to before, is symbolism for kids.
They have so much power within them to… speak out, to stand up for themselves, to stay unique, and to stay true to who they are – as Peter does. He finds those elements within him with or without his powers. Which is what I think in this movie spurs Gwen and Peter’s first interaction which when he’s standing up for a kid that’s being bullied and takes that fall for a kid who’s being humiliated in front of a group of people. He has these heroic qualities long before he becomes an actual super-hero.
So yeah, I think that’s why it’s been so resonant and has been for 50 years and will continue to – even to having Barack Obama having him be his biggest inspiration in pop culture.
[Q] In addition to Spider-Man being so iconic, Gwen Stacy is pretty iconic herself. You said you went through and did some research on her and looked into her story. That was very apparent on-screen where everything down to her iconic thigh-highs, her look, and the feel of the character, seemed to come right off the comic book page. How much of that was your own preparation, and how much of it was stuff that you worked with Webb and the others with on?
[ES] Well costumes were done by Kym Barrett who’s fantastic – we worked together to, kind of, make sure Gwen felt like Gwen – that also made sense in the real world. And obviously I’m a lot less voluptuous than Gwen unfortunately, so, it didn’t really go to those heights. But you know, the signature headband, and the thigh-highs, and the coats; all of that was important to stay present, down to the makeup. Ve Neill was incredible and, hair and makeup we really tried to attain that as well, to keep her realistic and, you know, still keep her earthbound. I’m not, by no means a supermodel, or like an unattainable looking person, so that element of Gwen was a bit different from the comic books in some ways because she was such a beauty queen in the comics and I’m more… next door.
[ES] So that we worked on, and in terms of her as a character, it was just a hodge-podge of different versions of Gwen. I know she’s not very hippy-ish in this, and I don’t think she will ever be birthing Norman Osborn’s twins, I don’t think that’s going to be happening, or moving to London. So we tried to keep some of that moxie in there, and some of that self-assuredness, and she’s the daughter of a police chief, she’s the oldest daughter, so there’s that responsibility thing that kicks in when she thinks her father could die everyday. And I think it’s important that she took on that energy of being in charge, for her family, like she could be there should something happen. And then she unwittingly is drawn to a man who is in the same position. [She's got an] Electra complex thing going on.
[Q] Your character Gwen is a scientist / physicist, I was wondering how familiar you are in that field, does that interest you at all?
[ES] That’s a great question because I was home-schooled and wasn’t really exposed to anything like that. My aunt and uncle are both scientists that worked for Merck and they had a hand in creating a cervical cancer vaccine – so they’re both incredibly intelligent, fantastic minds, you know. I’d always been fascinated by what they did, and I myself – this is going to sound a little bit strange – but I had really, really bad acne a couple years ago, really bad, and it was during a really stressful time period so I went online and tried to find what causes this kind of thing. The course of production and how things change in your body, and medical power – and they took us to these labs, this is the first time in my life that’d I’d been really angry about not going to college because I went to these labs and I, was, fascinated.
[ES] And I knew what they were talking about, we looked at bio-photonics and what happens when cortisol fires off in your brain, and – the same thing that causes acne can also cause diabetes and they’re proving that stress is a link and I was learning about regeneration and we were injecting axel models and we were seeing how they remove their arms and studying regeneration. We looked at stem cells that they’ve wired to beat like a human heart. And they’re finding ways to do this stuff and I was fascinated! 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 can learn’ and it made me so upset, it’s like the Peace Core, you have to be a college graduate and I was like ‘f*ck!’
It sucks – ‘I can learn, I swear!’ And 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 you’re able to learn or does it mean that you’ve graduated college? I didn’t graduate college: doesn’t mean I’m not smart.
So I really really, I got so interested in biology. One of the most exciting parts of this process was learning about medicine and regeneration and stem cells and all of it just expanded my mind in so many ways so now I’m gonna take biology class. And now what’s amazing is you can do it at home! …Doesn’t mean I’m not smart…
[Q] Dennis Leary was in here earlier and he said that at one point in filming, Marc Webb told him he’d have to step it up because you and Andrew were so good. A lot of people have been raving about your improv skills and I was just wondering what some of the improv moments were in this film? And also – do you think you could convince Andrew to do Saturday Night Live?
[ES] Pfff, you’re telling me – yeah, I can’t convince Ryan Gosling but I’m working on Andrew. I guess some of my favorite improv moments were the hallway scene… which was written, but there were a lot of moments that we got to add in the scene where we’re like asking each other out, but not.
[ES] And then there was that awful, that was just such a hammy bit, they let me go off the cuff to keep Dennis out of my room. So I, of course, when you give me an inch, it’s not good. So I was like ‘what is the one thing that would keep a dad out of his teenage daughter’s room’ – anything related to that. Anything related to hormones. I knew in an instant, from my own life experiences that you can just be like ‘sorry, its just that i…’ ‘OK alright, I’ll let you go!’ Dad’s don’t want to talk about that.
[Q] One of the iconic lines and great themes of Spider-Man is ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. Now that you’ve won the Trailblazer award, is that something you can relate to in your personal life? Responsibility with your stardom?
[ES] I don’t in any way, shape, or form think that I’m any type of a role model, or anything like that, but for whatever reason, when you’re put into a public place, you have to figure out what that purpose is in your life, why that may have happened, or what you can possibly do with something like that. And I’m not political, and I’m not going to talk about those kinds of things, and I know that that’s never going to be my job as an actor to be championing any specific cause, except for originality. That’s the one thing that I identify with as maybe my responsibility, per-say.
And I know it’s not my responsibility and I know all of that, but there’s something that came with – getting a Revlon contract, actually, and I thought – why in the world would I be approached for a beauty campaign? Because I’d always been the funny girl. And that’s not to put myself down, that was just always the way that my brain worked.
And I thought about Diane Keaton for L’Oreal and Ellen Degeneres for Cover Girl and how sometimes real beauty gets to be celebrated. Like what’s inside is what counts, and so you can still feel beautiful and you can still put makeup on but because it makes you feel good, and not for anybody else. And that was something that I was like ‘if I had an opportunity to reach people or reach young girls in a way that makes them feel like what they are is enough,’ and what those parts of their personality that set them apart and make them original, if they feel good about that, in any way, if that affects one person, then that’s a game changer. That’s something that I’m proud to be helpful in any way in – of looking real, or being a real person.
Obviously I have a stylist, that puts me in clothes like this, and I have a hair and makeup artist that’s doing things like that – so there’s all of that going on too, and I’m not eloquent right now, at all, but yeah I do feel a slight, not responsibility, but a privilege, to be able to speak to younger girls and hopefully make them feel like it’s ok to be themselves.
[Q] Why do you feel that Peter was attracted to Gwen other than, you know, she’s a beautiful blond with courage and other qualities – what’s that all about?
[ES] I think that elements of Gwen and Gwen’s family line are things that Peter didn’t necessarily have. Just a sense of stability – I know Aunt May and Uncle Ben are a very stable environment for him, but Peter has abandonment issues, I mean he was left when he was 5, so there’s something where he doesn’t feel he can be totally honest with Aunt May and Uncle Ben because they never stay on the subject, you see that when Peter comes in and Uncle Ben says ‘sorry we don’t talk about this.’ He doesn’t feel comfortable expressing the pain to them, and he sees someone steady in Gwen and someone who can understand what it’s like to lose a father on a daily basis – as you see in that bedroom scene where she doesn’t know if he’s gonna come home every day, so she feels that sense of abandonment as well and I think they find an incredible – they’re so different – but they also relate on love of learning, and things like that and I think he can see something in Gwen that becomes a confidant that he can trust.
[Q] Piggybacking off of that question – we’ve seen you playing a highschooler in love before, in Easy A and Superbad, but this story felt different, it felt young, it felt goofy, it felt sweet – how did you approach this love story and what traits from love people in love inspired you to put into this movie?
[ES] Well in Superbad and Easy A – in any movie that I’ve done, there hasn’t been a love story like this, I mean Superbad with Seth, that’s kind of a totally different thing that’s like ‘oh he’s cute’ and in Easy A it’s like ‘oh Woodchuck Todd, he’s cute’ but they’re focused on their own story, really, in most of the movies that I’ve been a part of. This kind of swept me off my feet because she truly is really in love with him. And I think the approach was – I wanted again to feel that experience of “first love” before you know what it feels like to get your heart completely shattered, or that “life or death” love where you’re like ‘I KNOW WHAT LOVE IS’ – you know that, except where in the circumstances where it actually is life or death.
So I wanted to feel that again, I wanted to unlearn and go from the very beginning of where ‘oh my god there’s an attraction to another human being in a way that I’ve never felt that before’, that uncomfortable *ugch*, I wanted to feel that again. So it was a matter of unlearning, of really becoming 17 again and letting yourself be 17 in this moment, it’s fun! You guys should try it! It’s pretty cool! It’s pretty cool to feel that way.
[Q] How would you describe the difference between working on a film like Easy A where there’s no visual effects whatsoever and moving up to this where it’s, first, a completely different thing where it’s a blockbuster film, but it’s also a major effects film? Especially in regards to 3D?
[ES] My character wasn’t as involved in the special effects – my storyline was really very human, so it actually didn’t feel all that different other than the days where I had to swing – which was fun. Or the days on a bluescreen, which when you’re acting with another person, you can be in a cardboard box, it just tests your imagination. But in terms of shooting in 3D the only big difference was, the only thing different was that it takes a little bit longer because you need two cameras, and the 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 just awful. But then you get used to it, and it’s a little bit better. But it’s nice to know that even when you’re shooting a movie like this that you approach the character the same way, and you’re trying to tell the… tell the truth, all the time, about who that person is and what they’re feeling. So it’s comforting that under any circumstance no matter what the budget that that remains the same.
THIS feels different. The PRESS feels different. This is where it really strikes you that you’re in Spider-Man.
[Q] In regards to the first trilogy and MJ, was there any pressure for you to make Gwen’s first kiss as memorable as it was with MJ in the first film? That became a very iconic moment in the film.
[ES] I know, and obviously there’s no comparison there. Of course I thought about it, because… I just did, I thought about the kiss but I, you know, just trusted them to write it, so it was just what they wrote, we just kind of went with what they wrote.
[Q] Did they purposefully make that a little nod to Indiana Jones?
[ES] I think it’s cool because Peter kind of reminds me a little bit of that mischievous Indiana Jones character, but yeah, that’s a little, a little tango move.
[Q] Marc said earlier that he cast the chemistry between Andrew and you, and you said earlier that Andrew is one of the best actors that you’ve ever worked with – how would you explain the chemistry between the two of you?
[ES] Can one explain chemistry?
[Q] I knew you were going to say that for some reason.
[ES] It’s hard because with any person in life that I’ve had chemistry with I don’t know exactly what it is, and that’s why they do chemistry tests for movies. Because even if they’re not playing a love interest, even if they’re playing parents or best friends, sometimes it either just clicks or it just doesn’t, it doesn’t matter how good the actors might be. So it really isn’t definable, it really is just what they call it. It’s something else entirely, it’s just some soul thing, I don’t know. I don’t know what it is.
[Q] Could you tell us what Marc Webb brought to this film as he wasn’t the obvious choice given his background.
[ES] I think that Marc, clearly, I mean from 500 Days of Summer, you can tell that Marc cares about love, and he cares about humanity, and that was incredibly important for this movie. He prioritized the relationships just as much as the action. And I know he had a million voices in his ear – there’s a lot of opinions all the time, and he would come in on Sundays to work on the scenes with us, and break them down and build them all the way back up until we got the same scene that was written on the page but we had analyzed it to death. He was incredibly kind and willing to work on that relationship, so from my experience, I was very grateful that he came from that background.
[Q] I was wondering if they rigged you up for that big swing or if most of that was CGI?
[Q] When he took you on, kind of that…
[ES] Oh yeah yeah yeah! Yeah, we swung. We were swingin’.
[Q] Are you afraid of heights or were you..
[ES] No, it was awesome, I really loved it, yeah. Thankfully I’m not afraid of heights, it would have been horrific, it would have been awful actually because you’re so out of control. But no, I loved it – other than the bruising – I loved it. Artists do bruise, you guys. Yikes.
Don’t forget to catch The Amazing Spider-Man starting July 3rd in the USA!