Inspired by the classic novel The Scarlet Letter, Easy A tells the story of Olive Penderghast, a typical high school girl. That is, until she lies to her girlfriend Rhiannon (Aly Michalka) about a made-up sexual escapade which, with the help of Facebook and Twitter, becomes an instant school scandal. Instead of fighting the gossip, Olive decides to rely on the school’s rumor mill to advance her social and financial standing, until it becomes totally out-of-control…
Emma Stone, who portrays Olive, has become one of Hollywood’s most sought out actresses. She has just wrapped production on the Warner Brother comedy Crazy, Stupid Love with Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling, and is currently starring alongside Viola Davis and Bryce Dallas Howard in the drama The Help, the story of three women set in the Deep South in 1962.
We spoke with Emma about her new movie, which qualifies as her first starring role.
What were your days in high school like?
I was home schooled, I didn’t really have a traditional high school experience.
Was it difficult to get into this character not having gone through high school yourself?
Not really because I didn’t feel it was a high school movie. We’re not really dealing with any of the traditional things; graduation or prom or any of the rights of passage of high school. It was more a story about reputation, technology and judgment and it just happened to be through the eyes of a 17-year-old girl. But you don’t really see us doing too much ‘school-ish’ stuff even though we’re in the hallways a lot.
What interested you about the character of Olive?
Everything. I thought she was layered, realistic and funny, clever and confused. The story that she goes through was very interesting to me thematically and her relationship with her parents and her friends and how she takes the matter into her own hands [was great].
Usually a false rumor gets started about you and all you want to do is deny it, and she decides to take it to the next level and see what it’s like to go for it full-throttle because she knows the truth. And, I like that she was bold enough to know that if it’s not hurting anybody, then why does it matter? When it starts to hurt people, that’s when things start to spiral out of control but, when it’s only her dealing with it, she just has fun with it and is a confident girl that knows herself well enough to know the truth and be comfortable with that.
Did you feel extra pressure as this is your film?
For me it was less about the size of the role than trying to bring Olive to life in the most accurate way I could. That pressure was what I was thinking about. It wasn’t how many lines there were or how many scenes I was in, it was more playing her accurately and making sure that she stayed how she was on the page, because she was so fleshed out and fantastic in the writing. I don’t know if I did her justice but I tried.
You seem to be such a thorough preparer for your work. So, did you read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter?
No. It’s embarrassing to say but I can not tell a lie. I did not. Here’s how I’ll justify it. Once I got the part, it was go time. We were starting about two weeks after I wrapped Zombieland so, to me, it was so important to have the script completely memorized before we started, like you would a play or something. I was so obsessed with reading the script over and over and getting those words down that there were no other books I was reading at the time and, throughout shooting.
How was it working with Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson who play your parents. Did you learn something working with seasoned actors like that?
How can you not? They’re so incredible. Those were my three favorite days of shooting. In real life they’ve been friends for such a long time that they have that chemistry and rapport. So, it was nice to get to see that unfold and see how great and comfortable they were with each other. They are such fantastic actors and I was learning so much just in that experience. It also makes you realize how much fun it is to work with the same people again, or to know someone for a long time and get to work with them.
As an actress don’t you go through a similar situation as Olive; you’re always being scrutinized by the media and your reputation is kind of out there for better or worse. Can you relate to it on that level?
Probably. There’s definitely an element of that. I wouldn’t say as much personally because my life is a pretty standard, livable life. There’s a lot of other actresses my age that wouldn’t be able to say that, so I’m lucky that that is the case but, seeing that and watching that happen, there’s probably definitely an element of that for all of us in the way we relate to that story.