Emma Stone on Trying Not to Ruin Birdman


Emma Stone seems to have an affinity for movies about men who dress up in animal suits and fly around New York City. Things are going to get pretty meta, so hang on. In Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman (in theaters Friday), The Amazing Spider-Man star plays the petulant daughter (and terrible personal assistant to) Michael Keaton’s Riggan, a washed-up movie star who made his fame and fortune in a superhero franchise and is now trying to revive his career by launching a play adaptation of a Raymond Carver novel on Broadway. And now, in real life, while releasing a movie about trying to make it on Broadway, Stone is actually about to be on Broadway, singing every day in preparation to take over for Michelle Williams as Sally Bowles opposite Alan Cumming’s Emcee in the revival of Cabaret. Got it? Good! Vulture talked to her for a hot minute at a Birdman lunch earlier this week hosted by Peggy Siegal about terrible jobs, her fear of heights (or lack thereof), and the pressure of not messing up the movie’s many very long, highly choreographed takes.

Cool outfit.
Thanks! It’s Roland Mouret. I don’t know if it came directly from him. If he is a he? I have no idea. Sorry if my breath smells like the worst coffee in the world. I just guzzled coffee.

There are lots of long tracking shots in this movie that require everyone to hit their marks right on time. Did you ever fuck up?
Yes, I totally I fucked up. That scene with Michael [Keaton] and Edward [Norton] on the stage where he’s like, “That’s a fuck you!” or whatever, and I come in and lead him around the corner, there was a time where I had to move at a certain speed around the corner because that’s where the stitch was, and Alejandro told me, “You’re ruining the movie!” He didn’t mean to, but he was like, “You’re ruining the movie! You have to speed up!” Or slow down. Whatever. I don’t know. I just wasn’t walking at the right speed. And I was so catatonic, just for a couple more takes. Because that whole six-minute scene that I wasn’t even in would be dashed by me. Those were the hardest days, when you came in at the end of a scene.

And everyone had done everything right …
And I would come in and ruin the whole thing. But then he told me “Good job” at the end. Which is so great to hear after, “You’re ruining the movie!”

Were you able to apply any of your Amazing Spider-Man skills to this movie?
The only thing I felt that I had gained from Spider-Man was having no fear of heights. So sitting on the roof [of the St. James Theater], I was going over the edge, and Edward was terrified. He was like, “Stop! Get back!” I was like, “I am fine. It’s four stories. It’s nothing.” But they had a little harness clip on my shorts. They made me. I don’t care! I like it.

You play an assistant. Have you had a job as humiliating as that in your life?
I worked in a dog bakery. I don’t know if that’s as humiliating, though, as being your dad’s assistant when he’s Riggan. [Laughs] I mean, the dog bakery was pretty cool, actually.

I bet you got to wear a cute outfit.
I wore Dickies with a polo shirt and my name tag. So I don’t know if it was the cutest look in the world. And I had very strange highlights in my hair. And this face.

Your character works for her dad. Is hiring family and friends always a bad idea?
No, I don’t think so, because I’ve seen it work really well with some people. But I don’t think that I would ever want to work with my family. Nothing against them. But I just think that blurring the lines of family and professional life, especially if you have to ask someone to get your laundry done and it’s not your mom doing your laundry as a nice mom thing, as a paid job, that would be really weird for me.

At this point in your life, does your mom still do your laundry?
That would be great, if she was willing to do it.

[Publicist Peggy Siegel comes over and says the men from the film have to leave early to go over to Charlie Rose.]

Emma: He doesn’t want me. [Sad face.]

You heard about Malala, who won the Nobel Peace Prize at 17. What were you doing at 17?
Ha, that’s great. I love that. That’s so unfair. I was …

[Alejandro González Iñárritu walks by and whistles like a construction worker, then gives Stone a big hug.]

Emma: Ooh, what were you doing at 17, Alejandro?
: Literally, I escaped with my girlfriend. Really.
Emma: You escaped Mexico with your girlfriend?
Alejandro: Yeah, we went together, we were living together for two weeks. Then her father caught her and threatened me to death. And I never saw her again.
Emma: Well, that’s a pretty great story. I did Superbad. [Laughs]. So there we go. Same. Same thing.
Publicist: Did that just happen? Everyone else is like, “I got into a rated-R movie.” And he’s like, “I escaped from Mexico.”
Emma: And that’s why he can make Birdman.