It was Stone's parents who introduced her to that brand of 1970s- and 1980s-style comedy, which, in every case mentioned above, verged on a kind of performative art—and based on that information alone, they both sound like people you'd like to know. But that early education led Stone to become a devoted student of sketch comedy. As a kid growing up in Arizona, she studied Saturday Night Live religiously. She even performed in improv theater, which she credits with helping her to deal with near-crippling anxiety. It also went a long way toward forming Stone's sensibilities as an actor herself: Her work is suffused with a kind of naturalism, which is a word that gets thrown around when people discuss actors who seem to have a realness or accessibility about them, but which, in actuality, has more to do with their ability to contain competing emotions or sets of circumstances in their performances in the way that people often do in life. It's a quality that has been allowed to rise closer and closer to the surface as Stone has taken on less patently funny fare like Paper Man (2010) and The Help and even this past summer's The Amazing Spider-Man. Her next film should provide people with an opportunity to see her stretch even further: Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer's period drama Gangster Squad, about a group of cops tasked with taking on organized crime in late 1940s Los Angeles, which co-stars Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Josh Brolin, and is due out in 2013.
Writer and director Cameron Crowe, who Stone also name-checked as a formative influence in June while accepting a "Trailblazer" prize at the MTV Movie Awards, recently spoke with the actress at the Sunset Tower Hotel in L.A.
CAMERON CROWE: I picked out a theme song for this interview. [music plays] This is "Delfonics Theme" by The Delfonics.
EMMA STONE: This is perfect. This is The Delfonics' actual theme?
CROWE: Yeah. The group had a theme, so they're saying, "We're going to usher you into our whole world with this song . . ." But I think that an interview should have a theme song, and this will be ours. I heard it the other day, and I just thought, This is us.
STONE: Does it play throughout the interview?
CROWE: No, I think we'll just let it be a prelude to our conversation . . . So welcome to our interview.
STONE: Thank you.
CROWE: I will start by asking you this: summer.
STONE: Summer . . .
CROWE: Summer is . . . Well, I always think of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a tire hanging from a tree, and a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone, and people are coming out of their houses . . . That's the mythical summer experience. I don't know if it exists. But what is a definitive summer in your life?
STONE: We went to Coronado every summer, so I always think of driving over that bridge from San Diego, and then walking down that little strip on the main street, going cosmic bowling at midnight, eating at this 24-hour diner at 3 a.m.—that's summer to me.
CROWE: How did you end up in Coronado?
STONE: Because we lived in Arizona, and if we hadn't gone to Coronado, then my summer would be defined by being in a cold, dark room watching movies. Arizona is the worst place to spend the summer—it's like 125 degrees—so my mom, my brother, and I would go to the beach for two months to escape the heat.
CROWE: So you knew the playhouse in Coronado?
STONE: Yeah, the Lamb's Players Theatre. I went and saw the kids in plays there every summer, but I would also take, like, a weeklong class there. We'd just hang out on the beach and walk around and go to Hotel Del [Coronado], and learn about the ghost of the Hotel Del. You go to Coronado, right?
CROWE: I do. I love the Hotel Del. It's crazy.
STONE: It's in Some Like it Hot .
CROWE: Do you feel like the experience that you have in a location stays in that location—that the location will always have the flavor of whatever it is that happened for you there?
STONE: I do. I was actually driving through L.A. by myself last night at midnight, and I drove by this bar that I'd had an experience at, so I drove by the parking spot where I had parked, at this meter, and it was like this spot . . . I could feel that entire experience I'd had coming off this spot all over again, and I realized that this town is full of ghosts for me now. And if I drive over that bridge to Coronado, then I become 12 years old again. It's also hard for me to go to Phoenix. Every corner is something in Phoenix.
CROWE: So you go right back to who you were and the mindset you were in when you were originally there.
STONE: You revert. Do you do that?
CROWE: Yeah, totally. I go to those places in my life to feel those things.
STONE: I'm just beginning in my life to gain places that I want to go back to and experience that way again.
CROWE: I think I read something that Martin Scorsese once said about how people, in many ways, become frozen in the time when they became successful because that's when their whole experience in life kind of galvanizes. They become successful for being that person at that time, and they have to really fight in order to grow past that.
STONE: Well, I don't know if it's because of the age that I am, or that I did Superbad and then started doing these movies, but I wasn't really able to become anything other than who I am. I think that all of this just kind of happened at an age when I was tender enough not to harden . . . Or to be hardened up . . . [laughs]
CROWE: Do you have a little voice inside you that you trust?
STONE: Yeah, definitely. The gut—that's the loudest speaker. My gut never stops talking to me—unless I'm really tired with jet lag. That throws it off a little bit.
CROWE: What does that voice sound like?
STONE: Like a little old man shouting things out—"You need to go here." "You need to be with this person." "You need to experience this." It's really definitive. I hear it on a daily basis, but I have flashes where it's like a punch in the gut and I just know something.
CROWE: You said something about Taylor Swift that I thought was interesting. You said that knowing her, you realized that her fans know the real her—that nobody is kidding anybody—and that you felt like the Taylor that she puts out there in her music is worth believing in.
CROWE: How does that work for you?
STONE: Well, Taylor is a musician who does things under her own name and tells her own stories—her songs and her albums are her. Whereas I'm playing characters, so that kind of authenticity of self in this job is a little bit different. A lot of times I feel like people come up to me because they think I'm like my character in Easy A, or because they've seen me in interviews, but really what they're a fan of is a movie or a character.
CROWE: Do you feel like someone who has read the interviews that you've done and seen you on TV would have an accurate sense of who you are? Or have you been deft at hiding parts of your true self so that you have something to access in your work?
STONE: In general I get nervous when I do print interviews because I know that whatever I say is going to be shown through the lens of whomever I'm talking to. So I've read a lot of different versions of myself—and all of them are true because it's all opinion and they're as accurate as it can ever be. But I don't think that I've been deft at hiding parts of my personality. I have not mentioned parts of my life, for sure—although I have talked about my childhood more now and anxiety and that side of myself. I don't think that people would expect that I would have panic attacks . . . Or I don't know if they would, because I don't know what people expect of me. I have no idea.
CROWE: What's your earliest memory or image?
STONE: The earliest memory that really sticks with me is of sitting on the back porch that we built onto the first house that I lived in. I remember sitting on this back screened—in porch with my dad during monsoon season in Arizona, eating foam circus peanuts, and watching the storm. I remember that very vividly because that's my first memory of pure happiness.
CROWE: How old were you?
STONE: Probably 4, maybe 5. But it's a really vivid memory. That's the place I go to access that feeling that you have before anything comes into your life that breaks your heart or anything really hard has happened yet.
CROWE: What was your first heartbreak like?
STONE: I was crawling on the floor. I remember throwing up.
CROWE: On the spot? Or thinking about it later?
STONE: Like, within the hour. I remember being on the floor . . . I have never felt anything quite like that. It was so visceral. It's like someone has killed you and you have to live through it and watch it happen . . . It was awful.
CROWE: Was it a surprise?
STONE: Yes. What was your first heartbreak like?
CROWE: Falling off a building . . . I'm getting a stomachache just thinking about it. [Stone laughs] But creatively, do you think it's true or false that many of the artists who we know and love are often governed by a single event that happens in their life, and that event then becomes this vivid, iconic thing they return to over and over in their work?
STONE: One-hundred percent true. That's not actually my moment or my theme—my moment is not one that I would probably talk about. But there is a moment that keeps coming back over and over throughout my life.
CROWE: How old were you when it happened?
STONE: Six. It's the thing that I return to when I'm making a decision out of fear. Anything that I'm doing out of fear is defined by that moment. Do you have a moment like that?
CROWE: Yes, I do.
STONE: How old were you in your moment?
CROWE: Ten. But I've returned to my first heartbreak, too—I returned to that over and over for a long time.
STONE: My first heartbreak was at 14.
CROWE: But I'm starting to outgrow the heartbreak, which is a weird thing because it was so defining for a while.
STONE: So you have to find the new one?
CROWE: No, I have the new one—the new one arrived on schedule. [both laugh] But you also realize that there's a certain kind of addiction that happens with knowing that you have this raw spot that you can just press on. Then you heal and you realize, "Okay, that defined an earlier time."
STONE: You heal yourself. It's weird when you can't make yourself cry with the same things anymore.
CROWE: So I thought we could do some liner notes for each of your movies. I will say the name of the film and then you give me a couple of sentences on what you remember most about it or what it meant to you.
STONE: All right.
CROWE: Okay, The House Bunny.
STONE: [laughs] Improv. Getting to stand next to Anna [Faris], and the director, Fred Wolf, just said, "Go ahead." So I came up with something about throwing shoes over a telephone wire, and they kept the whole thing in the movie. For a lot of the scenes, I would do one of the written lines and then they would let me make stuff up, which was so nice. That goes back to the improv theater I did as a kid. I was such an anxious kid, and because of that, I couldn't really do much, so I went and did improv, and I guess I was like that really shy kid who joins the debate team and then all of a sudden you can't shut them up. Improv is what helped me overcome the anxiety that I was feeling. It's the thing that still pushes me to be present, and to keep moving through all of the what-ifs that go through my mind.
CROWE: Was Superbad your key to improv-land as well?
STONE: Well, just the whole experience of working on a movie with those guys as my first movie . . . I thought that every movie was going to be like that. I was like, "Oh, this is fun. You can just make it up as you go." But every movie is not like that. [laughs]
CROWE: I must note that a wistful look crossed your face when I said Superbad.
STONE: I have the best memories of working on that movie. I was walking around with my mouth agape—I just could not believe that I was on a movie set. Auditioning with Jonah [Hill] was pretty great, too—he's so funny. I also remember sitting in [director] Greg Mottola's chair. He's the nicest man in the world. He comes in one day, and there are all these people around, and he's directing the scene, and I'm sitting in his chair. So he's like, "Oh, don't get up." But then he winds up in the back of the room struggling to see the monitor because he won't let me get up out of his chair. So that was a nice moment . . . It's bad luck to sit in a director's chair, isn't it?
CROWE: I've never heard that.
STONE: Really? I don't know who told me that—probably a director who didn't want me sitting in their chair.
CROWE: You had to dye your hair for that movie.
STONE: Yeah, I had to dye it red for Superbad. They didn't let me go back to blonde until Spider-Man—the collective "they."
CROWE: Do you look upon that as a key moment—dying your hair for that film?
STONE: Well, I came in with brown hair and Judd [Apatow] asked me to dye it red at the camera test, so I was already cast in the movie—it was just a thing that happened. Now I'm back to my roots. But I get a lot of questions about hair color. People are very into talking about hair. Why do you think that is? Is it because I'm a girl?
CROWE: Well, I think at least in part because there is something accessible about you, and because of that some people probably feel comfortable asking you about the things that they really want to talk about.
STONE: Which is hair?
CROWE: Personal style can be a huge thing
STONE: Really? Are you interested in that sort of stuff?
CROWE: I don't study it, but I think there is a whole world of people who want to know about style, and how you pick the people who are style icons in your life. Not being a fashion plate, I don't really have a pantheon of style icons myself. [Stone laughs] But I remember going to a preview of Superbad, and there was a feeling in the air that everyone involved was building their own little future at the time. Jonah was clearly in a groove. Michael Cera was in a groove. I felt like I had come to this party that was already in session, and everyone was having a good time, but something great was going to come out of it all. How early in the process of making Superbad did that feeling arrive?
STONE: I think that's just what it was because it was Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg]'s story. When we made Superbad, Seth and Evan were in their early twenties, but they had started writing the script when they were 13. I also hadn't really seen any of Judd's other movies at the time, besides The 40-Year-Old Virgin , so I didn't really know how Judd's films worked, with people riffing and going off the cuff. That's a newer form of comedy, isn't it? I don't remember older comedies having people who riff and just go off—although I recently watched Bringing Up Baby  for the first time, and Cary Grant riffs in that film. So does Katharine Hepburn—she doesn't stop for the entire movie.
CROWE: But they had to be more disciplined because they were working with mags of film that ran out, as opposed to when you're shooting digital and you can just go on and on.
STONE: Which is great because it's fun to play around . . . Of course, all I crave now is for the words to be written. I don't want to improvise. [laughs] I don't mean to speak out of turn, but there aren't a lot of final scripts floating around these days . . .
CROWE: It's true. But you also have the belief mechanism working for you. I can see how writers and directors would go, "Emma, just say something. The bomb is going to go off in 30 seconds, and you're going to say something, and everyone is going to believe it." [Stone laughs] You do have this quality in movies where you have the ability to say things straight-up in a film that the other characters hear and the audience hears and believes, which is rare. Before you did Superbad I know that you did some TV.
STONE: A little bit.
CROWE: As Riley Stone? Is that a name you just picked out?
STONE: Well, my name is Emily Stone, but that was already taken at SAG [Screen Actors Guild]. I was 16 at the time, and I hadn't done anything yet, so I was like, "I can be whatever I want to be. What name do I want to have?" So I went through a list of names and picked Riley. But then I had an identity crisis pretty much right after because I had a guest part on Malcolm in the Middle, and everyone kept on yelling, "Riley!" and I didn't know who they were talking to. So I had to change my professional name to Emma, which my mom always called me.
CROWE: So what's it like seeing little Riley Stone on TV? Does it feel a little bit like looking at a family album?
STONE: When I did TV, I only did little guest parts, and it hasn't been that long. There is a kind of pressure in this job that comes from your work every day being there forever. But this is all part of the brand-new world that I'm discovering . . . I'm just trying to keep my head above water as I learn how to act. I feel like I have so much to learn, it's insane. The only thing I know is that I don't know or have a grasp on anything other than this one thing that's within me, whatever that is, so I'm just trying to trust that.
CROWE: Your instincts.
STONE: My instincts. But is your gut different from your instincts? Because my gut is always right but my instincts are sometimes off. I project things.
CROWE: Tell me the difference.
STONE: When I feel something in my gut, I can feel it physically. But my instincts seem to come from a different place—they feel headier to me, and I get the wrong scent, and go off on these whims where I think that something is happening when it's not.
CROWE: So you have a subversive gut.
STONE: I have a subversive gut.
CROWE: I wanted to talk to you about the live reading that you did recently of Billy Wilder's The Apartment  with Jason Reitman and Paul Rudd. The character you read, Fran Kubelik, who was played by Shirley MacLaine in the film, is one of the great characters of all time. She's an icon of happy-sad.
STONE: I was shaking during the entire read. It was so exciting to read Billy Wilder. You hear again, in a different venue, just how that script pieces together, with all of the callbacks and jokes that run through. I also needed to do it without going back to Shirley MacLaine, because I was never going to be Shirley MacLaine. Fran, though, is one of the saddest characters that I have ever read. She is suicidal the whole movie. She's trying to kill herself the whole time.
CROWE: How did you find that?
STONE: I found it in the script. I didn't want to watch the movie more than once because I didn't want to fall into doing an impression, but the moment that really defined Fran for me was that one where he [C.C. Baxter, played by Jack Lemmon in the film] says, "The mirror . . . it's broken," and Fran says, "I know. I like it this way. Makes me look the way I feel." That was the moment that stuck with me. I was like, Okay, that is where she's functioning at any given time. It's such a major element in life—of just getting through the day.
CROWE: That's a difficult thing to direct though, because people will say, "Well, why am I laughing if I've just lost everything? That's not consistent." And you go, "But it is consistent . . ."
STONE: Because you've got to function. I highly respect people who say, "Why am I laughing when this is happening?" Because my go-to is, "Okay, we got a little quiet there . . . It's time to laugh!" That's where I go to when I'm having a hard day—which isn't always the greatest thing. I look for the escapist. I look for the silver lining. But sometimes you just have to say, "I've lost everything. I need to sit for a minute and let that sink in." That's something else I'm learning.
CROWE: As an observer of life and someone who has championed the cause of journalism, do you feel like you get fooled by people much?
STONE: Yeah. [laughs] It's also been a different couple of years because I'll meet people and think they're really nice, but they aren't necessarily nice to everyone, and that is my least favorite type of person: the selective asshole. I can't stand selective assholes, but sometimes I can't tell that someone is a selective asshole because they're so nice to me and the people around me that I don't realize it until someone else says, "You know, that person is an asshole." So I'll be fooled by selective assholes sometimes . . . lately. Do you feel like you get fooled by people much?
CROWE: Oh, I get fooled by people a lot.
STONE: There was this guy who came to interview me during the Crazy, Stupid, Love press, and he said, "Do you find it hard to keep a thin skin?" A lot of people will ask you, "Have you had to grow a thick skin?" But how do you keep your skin thin? By trusting people and not believing that everyone is out to get you—and that makes you pretty easy to fool.
CROWE: I like that we get to pepper our conversation with our liner notes. So when I say The Help, what do you think of?
STONE: Bourbon on the front porch of Tate Taylor's rental house in Greenwood, Mississippi, with Viola [Davis], Octavia [Spencer], and all the girls, and Tate and Chris Lowell . . . Tate's mom cooking blueberry-and-peach pie and beans . . . It was like living in Mississippi for a summer. I go to the off-camera stuff, but it was really special . . . There was so much bourbon.
CROWE: Friends With Benefits?
STONE: I remember screaming over and over and over because my character, Kayla, comes with only the description of "crazy" because she's only in one scene. I screamed at Justin Timberlake over and over and over again until I lost my voice, and then the director, Will [Gluck], who also directed Easy A, came up to me and said, "I know that you're just doing one night, but this doesn't really fit with the rest of the movie." So that's what I remember: losing my voice at 5 a.m., and then Will telling me that I was doing the scene wrong anyway.
CROWE: Easy A?
STONE: Oh, god, I was a wreck during that. I didn't sleep much. I remember the day I wrapped Easy A. Getting into the car as the sun was coming up because it had been a night shoot . . . It felt like a house had been lifted off of me. I felt a great deal of pressure making that movie, because in my personal life at the time, too, things were just . . . It was like a hurricane. I've still never seen it.
CROWE: I know. I remember talking to you about Easy A, and you were looking at me like I was speaking Zulu. Finally, you said, "Really? I haven't seen it."
STONE: But I know there's a reference to you in the film, so that works for me. That movie was such a crazy experience for me, and it was no one's fault but my own.
CROWE: Because that film is so you-intensive. There is no place to hide.
STONE: There was no place to hide—ever. There was never a moment when I could shut out everything. I had to be accountable, and that's a great gift, but at that time, I think I was just terrified of that pressure.
CROWE: You've seen most of the other movies you've done though, right?
STONE: Yeah, I've seen pretty much everything else.
CROWE: It's late at night and one of your movies is on TV. Do you watch it?
STONE: No way. Unless I'm already feeling insecure—then, of course, I watch it.
CROWE: Is there one scene that you could point somebody to in any of the films you've done and say, "That's where I got closest to what I wanted to do?"
STONE: There's a scene in Paper Man—and, strangely enough, it's a scene that I don't remember shooting. It's near the end of the movie, and the Jeff Daniels character falls asleep on my lap, and then there's a little speech that we did in one shot. I remember being there, but I don't remember what happened between "action" and "cut." That's the one scene that I've seen though where I was like, "That was the truest."
CROWE: Paper Man is the sleeper of your films, I think. Filled with great texture . . . Wonderful quiet moments from you, too. I was also knocked out by the bed scene in Crazy, Stupid, Love. There's such an easy way about the dialogue between you and Ryan Gosling in that scene. How did you make that happen?
STONE: We just talked about our lives in different positions around the room. Most of those things are true—like, I actually won the spelling bee when I was 8 and my dad cried, and I do a Lauren Bacall impression. Ryan really has bought most of those things from infomercials. So we were just laughing at each other and talking. The directors [Glenn Ficarra and John Requa] just gave us a day to hang out.
CROWE: Is Gosling somebody that you show your movies to? Do you solicit his opinion on stuff?
STONE: Yeah, completely.
CROWE: How does that work?
STONE: I've asked him to read a couple of scripts. I just really like hearing his viewpoint because I know that it's never going to be tainted. He's very much his own person. It has really just been scripts so far, because I only met him two years ago when we did Crazy, Stupid, Love, but it was like meeting a member of your team or something. I really like his brain.
CROWE: Was that obvious immediately? You were put together in an audition, right?
STONE: Yeah, it was immediate. I immediately felt a kinship with him.
CROWE: So now, Gangster Squad.
STONE: Working with Sean [Penn] was pretty cool. There was a moment when Sean did an impression of the guy he was in jail next to, and then I realized I was working with Sean Penn, because he became the guy he was in jail next to. You hear people do a voice, but his entire body . . . He turned into this terrifying guy with this tiny voice who was talking about his cat. I was like, "Holy shit. This guy is touched by something."
CROWE: He's amazing.
STONE: It's pretty wild. I also got to work with Ryan again, and that was cool, too, because it was so different from Crazy, Stupid, Love.
CROWE: Do you think that you are drawn to people who are like you, or people who are very different from you?
STONE: Probably both—I guess it depends. I do find that I'm drawn to people in my life, romantically or not, that have something to teach me. I'm drawn to people who I feel like I can learn from. I'm not really drawn to toxic people—I don't find myself discovering that someone in my life is toxic very often. But there is some sense of being changed by each person that I think I'm drawn to.
CROWE: Complete this sentence: "If you really like my work, then you should check out . . ."
STONE: Cameron Crowe. How's that?
CROWE: I don't know . . . [laughs] But it's like that speech you gave at the MTV Movie Awards. You were given that "Trailblazer" award, and you used the opportunity to point people in some directions and basically said to your fans, "Check out Gilda Radner. Check out Bill Murray and John Candy. Check out Charlie Chaplin and The Beatles. Check out J.D. Salinger and Lorne Michaels." I love that you mentioned Gilda.
STONE: I love Gilda. I love Molly Shannon, too—she is amazing. But Gilda is my favorite.
CROWE: Let's talk about that Gilda quality for a second.
STONE: Well, my parents' taste in comedy really rubbed off on me. I grew up on comedy from the '70s and the '80s. My dad showed me The Jerk —that is the first movie I remember seeing. And then my mom showed me Gilda.
CROWE: They actively said, "You must check this out."
STONE: They actively did. For whatever reason my dad was like, "You need to see The Jerk. You need to see Animal House  and Caddyshack . You need to see Planes, Trains and Automobiles ." So that was what I watched.
CROWE: I already love your dad.
STONE: [laughs] He is awesome. He runs a general contracting company, and on the walls of his office he has all of these black-and-white stills from comedies. Gilda, Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Gene Wilder—those were the people I grew up loving. John Candy might be my acting hero. He's the perfect example of what we were talking about with Fran Kubelik—of someone who can find the humor in the dramatic moments. He just has that broken mirror within him all the time. You can feel it. I'd love to be that kind of an actor. Gene Wilder is that way, too. Gilda was that way. Steve Martin . . . The funniest ones are.
CROWE: But not Murray . . . Well, Murray has that, but he also has the universe that only he occupies . . . Gloriously.
STONE: Did you see the speech he gave for the [South Atlantic League] Hall of Fame?
STONE: Bill Murray co-owns a minor league baseball team, so he was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame in Charleston, South Carolina, and he gave this great 11-minute speech. There is one part though where he says, "Life is a game, and it's much more fun if you play it as your own game, so stay light and loose and relaxed." That's the way to approach life: light and loose and relaxed. It is also a great example of who Bill Murray is, because he does have all that other stuff going on, but he's also light and loose and he's always playing his own game, showing up at college parties and doing the dishes, or walking up behind people in New York. Have you heard that?
STONE: Apparently he'll walk up behind people in New York and put his hands over their eyes, and when they turn around he'll say, "No one will ever believe you," and walk away. [both laugh]
CROWE: Let's do some quick ones.
CROWE: Vinyl or MP3?
STONE: Vinyl, but vinyl-turned-MP3 is nice, too.
CROWE: Fantasy or reality?
CROWE: Stardom or a long career as a character actress?
STONE: [in showbiz voice] Stardom! [laughs] No-long career as a character actress for sure.
CROWE: Joni Mitchell or Bob Dylan?
STONE: Bob Dylan.
CROWE: Blonde or redheaded?
STONE: Blonde right now, but who knows?
CROWE: Black-and-white or color?
CROWE: Christmas or Fourth of July?
CROWE: Halo or Call of Duty?
STONE: Ooh . . . Call of Duty.
CROWE: Summer or fall?
CROWE: The Apartment or Some Like It Hot?
STONE: The Apartment.
CROWE: The Catcher in the Rye or Franny and Zooey?
STONE: Actually, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and Seymour: An Introduction.
CROWE: Happy or sad?
STONE: Well . . . The elixir.
CROWE: Gwen Stacy or Mary Jane Watson?
STONE: I mean, Gwen, because I'm biased. But I love Mary Jane.
CROWE: When you were out promoting The Amazing Spider-Man, did you get a lot of serious Gwen-o-philes bending your ear?
STONE: Yeah, but not so much in terms of how I played her. It was more about whether or not the films are going to stay true to her story—which I'm hoping they are. Do you know the Gwen story? Do you know what happens?
CROWE: It's like the Kennedy assassination or something.
STONE: Yeah. Essentially the argument is that Spider-Man kills her by accident. So the person she loves is the person who kills her, which is the most horrifying thing. Apparently people unsubscribed to the comic book when that happened because they were just so flipped-out over it. But, of course, I want to stay true to that. That's the question you get the most when you're part of that saga.
CROWE: "Are you going to die?" is the question that you get the most?
STONE: Yeah, and, "If so, will it be in the same way that she died in the comics?"
CROWE: Which is a broken neck, right?
STONE: Yeah. She snaps her neck because Spider-Man shoots a web out to save her, so in trying to save the person he loves, he kills her . . . That's life for you, man. [laughs]
CROWE: Did the decision to do Spider-Man play out pretty much how you thought it would?
STONE: In the way I thought that my life was going to go? It doesn't feel like I thought it would feel. I tried to imagine what it would be like if things changed and if, all of a sudden, people had a strange interest in me for whatever reason. But you can't really conceptualize it until it actually happens, and I'm still trying to grasp what exactly is happening—if anything . . . I don't know if anything is actually happening. [laughs]
CROWE: How do you feel about all of the attention? Apparently there's a video on YouTube that shows you and Andrew [Garfield] being approached by some paparazzi, and there's a photographer who says, "You chose the life of a celebrity, which puts you in the public eye."
STONE: I think that's fair to say. Of course, you do have that moment where you want to say, "I don't know why there are eight of you here, and I'd like to have a conversation with you so I can know why you need this picture of me walking around . . ." And there are people who start to get really self-defensive and preach to you about why you're wrong for questioning it. But not everyone is like that. There was this one Hasidic guy who wore a suit, and he was following me around for a while in New York. He was taking my picture, and I was like, "What are you doing?" And he put down the camera and was really nervous and said, "This week, People is running a story on you, so I need three pictures." And I was like, "Well, at least I know why you're here.' " But then sometimes they're like, "You chose this! Why'd you pick Spider-Man?" and you feel like an object or a zoo animal or something.
CROWE: I love that the Hasidic guy told you his assignment.
STONE: He always does! I still see him, and if I'm like, "What are you doing here?" he always puts down his camera and has a conversation with me
CROWE: "It's a retrospective piece for Mojo. I need a picture of you with some vinyl."
STONE: "How much are you getting? Great! Are you feeding your family?" And because he is the way he is, there are times where you're just like, "Well, this is gonna help him, so I'll give him what he needs." But it's all really so new to me. I have no idea how to think about it.
CROWE: Do you have a 10-year plan?
CROWE: A five-year plan?
STONE: No. I have ideas, but not a plan. I won't make a bucket list because I'm so afraid that I'll die and then people will find my bucket list and be like, "Oh, she didn't get to do that . . ." There is stuff that I'd like to do or experience, but nothing that would crush me if it didn't happen.
CROWE: Who do you look to for inspiration for the next phase of your career?
STONE: I think I'm looking to my gut again and trying to key into that, so I have no idea what will happen next. My parents always put more of an emphasis on who I was as opposed to what I achieved. They were never like, "You won that! You did this!" It was all about, "You've got a good heart. You're a good friend. You're a good daughter." So that other stuff in no way defines my sense of self.
CROWE: Is there someone who has been able to do it all for you?
STONE: Diane Keaton. I mean, no one dresses like Diane Keaton. No one acts like Diane Keaton. She seems constantly uncomfortable, which I really like—it makes me feel like she's maintained a sense of discomfort with this whole thing.
CROWE: So, finally, you're about to go on stage at the Oscars with Ben Stiller. You're standing behind the curtain. What are you thinking?
STONE: That I'm about to go on stage at the Oscars with Ben Stiller. That's what I'm thinking. The second I walked out it felt like being in a sketch comedy show when I was 12 on my youth-theater stage again, and I wasn't scared anymore. But before that, the anticipation was so great. Then I just realized, "It's just like everything else, man." My great goal in life is to try to remember that everything is of equal value. That moment was no greater than any of my moments walking out on stage in my youth theater as a kid. It felt the exact same way-and it should feel the exact same way . . . But then you do have the moment when you look out and you're like, "Holy shit. It's Meryl Streep."
Cameron Crowe is a director, producer, and Academy Award-winning screenwriter.