Feature story: Rolling stone

With three summer movies, actress Emma Stone has momentum

Emma Stone is having a moment.

Within a period of less than three weeks this summer, three major movies featuring Stone are seeing their release: "Friends with Benefits," "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and "The Help," based on Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel. And next summer? A little something called "The Amazing Spider-Man."

Since making her feature film debut in the 2007 comedy "Superbad," Stone could do no wrong, racking up credits including "Zombieland," "Easy A" and a guest-hosting gig on "Saturday Night Live." It would be easy to lose her head, but Stone says "The Help" -- a drama revolving around mistreated African-American maids in early-'60s Mississippi -- has given her some fresh perspective. After all, Hollywood entourages and hotel stays occasion plenty of "help."

"It heightens your awareness," Stone told the Weekly. "The entire point of this book is that every human being is born completely equal, and any of that (racism) is just put on us by some outside force or some ignorance."

Stone's character, Skeeter, encourages the maids to share their stories of mistreatment for an expose Skeeter will pen. Stone says she could relate to Skeeter's awkwardness at having one foot reluctantly in the establishment and one foot tentatively in the counterculture she's creating.

"There's that truth, there's that feeling at your core that you really want to access -- you're brave enough, and you see clearly -- in every human being, I think," she said. "And you know, we all have our own perspectives. We are the center of our own 'show.'

"And then there's also that 'I really want to be accepted,' 'I really want to be liked,' 'I really want to get along with my peers,' 'I don't really want to start anything too crazy.' Because what happens once you do that? Well then you've gotta really kind of go full throttle, or else. ... I could relate to that struggle just from childhood."

Stone dismissed the idea of studying the glam author Stockett to inform the unfashionable Skeeter. "You've seen Kathryn Stockett ... ? She is, like, hottie-tottie."

But Stone hastened to add that the author gave her blessing to the movie project. "She was so hands-off. ... 'What you're gonna do is what you're gonna do and more power to you. The book and the movie are different.' I felt so supported by her."

Even more helpful in informing the character of Skeeter was Mississippi itself, where the film was shot. "Everybody is right there to tell you stories," Stone enthused. "We went to houses where they still had housekeepers that lived there year-round, all the time, in uniform. ... Greenwood is a really, really small town in the South, and I'm from Phoenix, Arizona, which is a pretty urban city. And I didn't understand the level of secrecy needed.

"There is a certain level of privacy that leaves immediately when you set foot in this small town, y'know? Everybody heard what you had for dinner last night and who you had over. And I really understood just how life-threatening this situation that Skeeter and (maids) Aibileen and Minny were getting themselves into was."

As for playing Spidey's girlfriend in next year's blockbuster, Stone demurs, "My Gwen -- you'll have to wait and see."

But she offers: "The material that came before was definitely useful to me ... I definitely looked back through that, but I think this Gwen might be a little -- I don't know. I don't know what she'll be like in comparison to the comic. I am desperate to live up to people's expectations."

Stone laughed. If she's worried, she wears it well.

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