nytimes – ‘Cruella’ lets Emma Stone be bad, and it feels really good

Of course, Emma Stone can make you want it. But isn’t it more fun to do a little intrigue instead?

Since winning the Oscar four years ago for the alluring romantic musical “La La Land”, Stone, 32, has turned to wild walks. “The Favorite” has proven that she can play greed as brilliantly as innocence, and now Stone’s nascent penchant for wickedness gets a full-fledged showcase in “Cruella” (opening Friday), which imagines a story original live for the animated foe from Disney’s “101 Dalmatians.” “

“I loved the character of Cruella – I don’t mean that I like the things that drove her, because she’s obviously a very sick woman, but I found the character very interesting,” said Stone said.

In this tale, Cruella de Vil has yet to become a puppy poacher: instead, we meet her as an orphan named Estella whose rise to the top of the UK fashion industry – which is led by a haughty designer known as the baroness. (Emma Thompson) – will require tapping into a dark alter ego her name is Cruella.

The story intersects with Stone’s own origin story in unexpected ways: to move forward, Estella first dyes her hair red, just as Stone, a natural blonde, once did to drop out. his role in “Superbad”. And Stone also treats her public persona as an alter ego: “I compartmentalize a bit – even because my name is actually Emily, so when someone calls me Emma, ​​it’s easy for me to know that has to do with work. “

And although Stone avoids Cruella’s methods, it could at least relate to the character’s ambition: In Stone’s own origin story, she put together a PowerPoint presentation to convince her parents that she should sue. her job as a teenage actress in Los Angeles. Did her career really disappear as she had launched it then?

“Oh my God, I never would have imagined it, nor dared to think about this kind of situation,” she told me on a recent phone call. “All I wanted to do was play the girl on a sitcom!”

These are edited excerpts from our conversation.

You have been attached to “Cruella” for several years. What first appealed to you about this project?

I was filming “La La Land” when I first heard about “Cruella”, and it was so exciting to think of playing a villain in quotes because before that, the only role where I felt I had been somehow bad was when I played Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” [on Broadway], because she is a drug addict and she makes decisions that are a little wild. She is unlike anyone I had never had access to.

It was really exciting, and I did other roles in the meantime like “Maniac” and “The Favorite” where these people knew what they wanted and they weren’t pretty about it. I really loved this phase of playing these women who are much less concerned with what people think of them, and at the same time working on it myself in my life. It was definitely a beautiful symbiotic relationship.

The way Cruella recounts her rise from a humble toilet-cleaning position, she reminded me of Abigail, the complicit 18th-century courtesan you played in.The favourite. “

Absolutely, but I think there’s something interesting about Abigail that Cruella doesn’t quite have is that Abigail has this charm offensive: she plays the ingenuous, in a way. I don’t see that in Cruella, and there’s something so liberating about it. Cruella is just who she is and she is angry that she has denied it for so long in order to survive.

Have you ever felt compelled to play the ingenuous in your own life?

Beyond just being an actress, I think it’s probably a question for people who adapt socially: are you someone who tries to make people laugh, or someone who just sits and observe? For me personally as Emily my natural state is nice, I want to laugh and put people at ease. I don’t even think it’s intentional – that’s just what my wiring is. But as you get older you feel more comfortable that you don’t always have to wear it.

That’s part of why it’s interesting to be an actor, to watch characters who are putting it on, then ask yourself, “OK, what makes me do this?” It’s not that it replaces therapy – I would rather go to therapy than play a role – but over the past five years I have asked myself a lot of questions about this idea of ​​charm or ingenuous offensive in my own. life. How do I try to smooth things over when I don’t necessarily need to? And it was helpful. Did that answer your question?

It made.

Look, I’m the one still trying to please people.

How do you make Cruella a character you root for while still preserving the bad things about her?

She is not kind of mean, she’s the meanest! We don’t quite come to a place where this woman is skinning puppies, but there is an exploration of what it means to be ‘bad’ and the difference between that and being rebellious and thinking differently than everyone else. world around you.

One of the ways she exults in this difference is through fashion.

Fashion is seen in some ways as frothy or frilly or not very important, but I think for a lot of people it’s really an act of self-expression that can make you feel more like yourself. Dressing really matters – and I’m not talking about haute couture, I mean dressing everyday.

As a character, I think Estella felt it from the start: it’s her mode of expression when she didn’t feel like she was in control of her life. She changes who she is every time she dresses, and once I got into that hair and makeup and clothes, that was the only way for me to really feel like Cruella, because that it’s pretty silly about you to work on it. and on that laughter and that voice of Tallulah Bankhead without being fully Cruella.

When confronting the Baroness, Cruella chooses her look almost as if she is wearing armor. When dressing for the real red carpet challenge, is there a similar sense of battle readiness?

It’s so surreal, it’s not real life. The only time I feel completely comfortable is when I’m talking to you, where I feel like I’m talking like myself. When I’m on a red carpet, it’s like I’m on a set. It’s a crazy experience, but I consider being dressed this way a nice part of the job. Otherwise you would take it too seriously and be miserable: “Oh my God, I’m so scared, and everything is so horrible”. Psch. You are an actor on a red carpet. How boring can you be? Things could be a lot worse than that!

One aspect of Cruella’s look that didn’t make the jump into live action was her iconic cigarette holder. Was it one of those things that doesn’t quite feel right for family anymore?

This is not allowed in 2021. [Laughs.] We are not allowed to smoke on screen in a Disney movie. It was hard not to have that cigarette holder.

But did you feel, spiritually, that you were still brandishing a long cigarette holder?

Yes! I was so excited to have that plume of green smoke in there, but it wasn’t possible. I don’t want to promote smoking, but I also don’t try to promote skinned puppies.

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