The Verge: Emma Stone

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The trajectory of Emma Stone's young career is a steep one, spiking from her screen debut as Jonah Hill's dream girl in Superbad (2007) to her iron-willed Wichita in last year's Zombieland -- both films that opened No. 1 at the box office. A couple of Stone's films in between -- The House Bunny and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past didn't fare too poorly either. So the 21-year-old's new film Paper Man arrives next week as a bit of a surprise (and not just because of its half-decade in development hell): A quirky, conscientious indie dramedy about writer Richard Dunn (Jeff Daniels) and the superhero imaginary friend (Ryan Reynolds) who exasperatedly shepherds him through the mid-life crisis blocking more than just Richard's second novel. Stone plays Abby, a sardonic teenage loner with a suspicious pal of her own (Kieran Culkin) and an instant kind of psychic appeal to the struggling author. It may not be her biggest film role to date, but in the folds of her small-town inertia and the haunted past rolling across her face like cloud shadows, it's inarguably her most dynamic.

In addition to teasing the raunchy work her costars Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet performed in Untitled Comedy, Stone recently spoke with Movieline about falling in love with her role, hypothermia, catharsis, and why she's not as intense an actor as you might think.

So this one's been in the works for a while, eh?

Oh my goodness, yes.

How did you become involved with it?

I auditioned. I think they were finally like, "Let's make this movie." It was in the works for so long, and with lots of different casts. And I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time and get to go audition for it.

It's obviously crucial to make good choices at this point in your career. What's the philosophy to balancing things like Zombieland with projects like Paper Man?

I'm learning that. It's strange. You keep hearing that from your agents and your managers: "Gotta make good choices!" I'm like, "Well, OK! Sh*t!"

No pressure!

No pressure! But Paper Man came before Zombieland; I got that during Paper Man. It went from Ghosts of Girlfriends Past to Paper Man, which is pretty funny to think about. It was almost a year after Ghosts of Girlfriends Past; I hadn't really worked for a while. I read the script and just fell in love with it and wanted to be in it so badly. I went in for it a lot of times, and it wound up working out really wonderfully -- for me, at least, because I got to be in it!

What did you fall in love with?

Oh, just the entire story. I think there's a lot of judgment when... [Pauses] People forget that we're all just human beings. Two people can feel very similar things. Everyone's felt lonely; everyone's felt scared. These two people who don't seem similar -- a 17-year-old girl and a 40-something-year-old man -- come together in a nonsexual way and have this very important friendship for the both of them, right when they need it the most, I think. It just had a really great story of acceptance and understanding and humanity in a way you don't really see very often. A lot of people would think there are [romantic] undertones, but there really aren't.

But there is some kind of attraction. What exactly, to you, is Richard and Abby's relationship?

I think more than anything -- if you had to compare it something, and I'm not sure this is what it is -- it's almost a father and child in a way. You never meet Abby's parents. She clearly isn't close to them. There's that time she asks Christopher, "Would you rather have no friends or no parents?" And she doesn't have an answer to that because she doesn't know the answer either. He has no children, and now his wife can't. She's gone all the time, and he kind of is a child. I don't know. I never saw any sexuality in it. He doesn't think to make that judgment and neither does she. She's never afraid of him. Like when she shows up at his house and he doesn't have any kids, you'd think people would scream and run. But she doesn't; that's just not what this girl does. She's been through a lot worse than that. She doesn't really have much to live for at that point. I think she lives for that moment she jumps in the ocean once a year. And she feels a lot of guilt. I don't know, it just made a lot of sense to me why these people work together.

Jumping into the ocean -- that scene must have been fun to shoot.

It was! It was very cold. I could tell you: It was November -- the 12th or something -- in Montauk, and it was very, very cold. It was like 30 degrees or something. It was amazing, because Abby needs to feel that. It was much better than jumping in in the summer, where it's actually warm and it's not actually happening. But the two wetsuits with the clothes on top -- the weight of it was very metaphorical. It was pushing me down; it would not let me stand. I kept falling whenever I tried to swim back to shore. It was scary a little bit. It kept pulling me under.

Really?

Yeah. And we had to do it six times, and at the end they had to have paramedics come check me out because I was a little hypothermic. I was blue!

I know! You were blue on camera.

Exactly. It was very cold. But it really only the last time that got me, because it was six times of drying off, running back in, drying off, running back in. And they put you in this car with this extreme heat. If I had stayed cold, I probably would have been fine, but... They should have given me a shot or something. Doesn't that thin your blood out and make you a little warmer?

I'm certain there are ways to avoid that condition under the circumstances.

But hey, it was still one of the coolest things I've gotten to do.

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