Set in Stone: Double Oscar winner Emma Stone’s bold acting choices have enriched our viewing experience

Emma Stone has been a favourite in Hollywood for more than 10 years, enthralling with her girl-next-door charm, comedic timing and amazing range. Her audacious approach to the lead in Poor Things, the Frankenstein-like tale of a Victorian-era woman who commits suicide and is resurrected with the brain of her unborn child, paid off. It earned her a second Academy Award for Best Actress, placing her on par with film industry icons such as Meryl Streep, Jodie Foster and Elizabeth Taylor.

“It’s not about me. It’s about a team that came together to make something greater than the sum of its parts,” she declared as she accepted the statuette. “And that is the best part about making movies, it’s all of us together.”

It was a deserved win, with Stone dominating the Yorgos Lanthimos film as the unconventional Bella Baxter, who embarks on a daring and liberating voyage of self-discovery. “Bella falls in love with life itself, rather than a person. She accepts the good and the bad in equal measure, and that really made me look at life differently,” she noted at the Golden Globes ceremony in January.

Once upon a tone

Emily Jean Stone was born in Scottsdale, Arizona on 6 November 1988 and began acting at an early age, participating in youth theatre. She was home-schooled for a spell and then dropped out before finishing high school, moving to Los Angeles in order to follow her passion. Her breakthrough performance was in the teen comedy, Superbad, in 2007, where her natural humour and likeability were evident. Parts in movies such as Easy A (2010), The Help and Crazy, Stupid, Love (both in 2011) solidified her position as a rising star.

Stone’s first Oscar came in 2017 for her turn as struggling actress Mia in the dreamy musical romance La La Land, Damien Chazelle’s ode to Hollywood’s Golden Age. The dazzling musical showcased her versatility as both a powerhouse singer and a nuanced dramatic performer.

“My mom would play Les Misérables in our house when I was growing up,” she recalls. “She told me the story and then I saw it on stage when I was eight, and it was transformative for me. I loved it. After that, singing became a medium of expressing feelings that was so much bigger than just saying it.”

As she reiterates in many interviews, however, dancing used to be her favourite art form. She took dance lessons for 10 years, mostly tap classes, but was not as technically proficient as other budding young dancers. She eventually realised that acting spoke to her in a different way.

“I think I connected with acting I was more able to bring to life what I wanted to,” she says. “Performing helped me as a kid to channel my energy somewhere else, to put it out instead of turning it inward. Acting is therapy, especially as a kid. It was nice to have an outlet like that when I was really struggling with panic attacks. Being on stage early on made me less afraid to try things that are challenging and scary.”

Odd is good

With Stone’s glittering ascent showing no signs of slowing, she likes to express her opinion on odd topics as many people do, proving that being a superstar does not make one ‘special’.

“When I was younger, I had a soft spot for anything spooky and I would go to visit cemeteries,” she shares. “I’m still interested in that stuff, but not in a negative way. Once you understand that your time is limited, you live with a lot more awareness. Why should I worry about everything else? The actual reality is death. And I think there’s something strangely comforting about that.”

Her real life is as colourful as her reel life. Having previously dated actors Kieran Culkin and Andrew Garfield, she tied the knot with writer-director Dave McCary in 2020, and the couple welcomed daughter Louise Jean in 2021. They live in Austin, Texas, where she can go out, see friends and lead a normal life, or at least, a more normal life than she would have in Hollywood. She and Jennifer Lawrence are close: “We go on trips together, we hang out at each other’s houses in New York and watch [fantasy comedy film] Hocus Pocus.”

Although Stone is known as a redhead, her natural hair colour is blonde. She dyed it red on the advice of Superbad director Judd Apatow and the colour has remained almost ever since.

Ready, set, go!

Off the sound stage, she served as producer on Poor Things and executive producer of the 2023 black comedy-horror TV series The Curse, in which she stars alongside creator-writers Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie. Through their production company, Fruit Tree, Stone and McCary also guided the comedy film A Real Pain to life; written, directed and starring Jesse Eisenberg, it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January. Numbering among Fruit Tree’s credits as well is Problemista (2023), the brainchild of writer and comedian Julio Torres, who created two of Stone’s best-ever Saturday Night Live skits, Wells for Boys and The Actress.

Stone’s talent and diverse roles have earned her a substantial fortune, with her current net worth reportedly estimated at about US$40 million (HK$313 million). She’s also a dedicated philanthropist, supporting causes such as cancer research and Stand Up to Cancer – her mother is a cancer survivor.

“I learn from my mistakes … I never feel like I am doing it all right all the time. But that’s okay. Being human is okay. That’s a hard lesson if you are a sensitive person; when you care about people and you don’t want to hurt anybody, you don’t want to f*** up. And it’s hard because you will,” she confesses.

This all paints a picture of Emma Stone as a kind of auteur, giving herself and others a platform to experiment with their greatest and most unusual work – work meant to challenge the audience. After two critically acclaimed collaborations with Lanthimos, The Favourite (2018) and Poor Things, she is set to make it a trio with the Greek maestro. Kinds of Kindness debuts at the Cannes Film Festival this month. Bring on more Emma Stone brilliance, we say.