By Mariam Schaghaghi
When she starts laughing heartily, your eardrums fly out. Resounding, loud, uncompromising, drowning out everything. Quiet tones, but it also hits them very well. Emma Stone plays with Ryan Gosling in an enchanting musical that beguiles everyone: La La Land. The film has already won the Golden Globes and is now considered the big favorite at the Academy Awards on February 26th.
The 26-year-old plays the ambitious youngster Mia, who wants a great Hollywood career as much as her friend, the jazz pianist Sebastian, her own jazz bar. In “La La Land”, the film started this week in the Gloria in Heidelberg, LA is a brightly colored backdrop for dreams and longings, promises and disappointments.
Emma, in “La La Land” you play a young actress who dreams of her breakthrough. Have you ever seen casting marathons yourself and kept hearing “no thanks”?
Oh yes, and how! Some of my own experiences that I told the director about were even included in this script. The worst part wasn’t a “no” at all, but when I wasn’t really listened to. I have not only experienced that once, when I said on stage after a single sentence: “Thank you very much! – The next one please.” That hurts.
Isn’t that totally crushing?
Well, in the so-called “pilot season” there are a few weeks when actors are recruited particularly intensively for the pilot episodes of new TV series. The casting people channel so many actors through that they know as soon as they come in whether someone is eligible for the role or not. Of course you then swear “Bad job!”
In “La La Land” you will not only enchant with your dancing skills, but also with great singing! They sound very soft – much more delicate than in real life.
So I’m not a bad cast – that really means a lot to me! (grins) But I’m not nearly as snotty as I sang the Sally Bowles from “Cabaret”, but I’m very reserved. Downright ladylike.
For a long time it was said that you shouldn’t sing at all because you had been diagnosed with vocal cord nodules. Justin Timberlake suffered from it too. Did you also have an operation – or how did you get rid of the problem?
I avoided the operation. Instead, I took a lot of singing lessons until I could actually perform in “Cabaret” on Broadway. And that was right before the shooting of “La La Land”. I was also treated by a wonderful ENT specialist who got me back with holistic medicine.
Her famous hoarse, deep voice is said to have the same cause as her damaged vocal cords. As a baby, you must have screamed your heart out about colic.
Yes, that’s right. The voice problems were worst two or three years ago. Since then, the vocal cords have been examined regularly. In the meantime I also have better singing technique. Still, I lost my voice quite often during the shoot. But I did it!
If you want something, get it done: when you were just 15 years old, you persuaded your mother to move to LA with you because you wanted to be in front of the camera. Is that a legend – or is it really true?
Clear! I really wanted to be an actress. We lived in Scottsdale, Arizona at the time, but I really wanted to go to Los Angeles.
Sorry, but every fifteen-year-old has nonsense on her mind.
Right, and if my daughter ever came up with something like that, I would lock her up in her room. – I know it was really crazy. I gave a Powerpoint lecture to my parents, with excerpts from the 16 school theater pieces in which I played. That made me so obsessed with wanting to be an actress. My father clapped his hands and just said: “Of course! If that’s what she really wants, she has to go there too!” He was immediately hooked – that was also a bit strange.
What about your mother?
She wasn’t at all impressed. And even less amused by my dad going it alone. She first ordered a one-to-one consultation. To say no later.
How did the “yes” come about?
I believe today it was because my parents both faced death very suddenly, independently of one another, when they were quite young. So both of them were totally “carpe diem” and preached things like “seize the day”, “you can do anything you dream of” and so on. Then I was lucky that they were financially able to make this time in LA even possible. I never took this privilege for granted. Then there was the fact that they thought: “If she really wants it that bad, she has to be able to try it.”
So it really went to Hollywood. And then?
We had no plan at all! I auditioned like crazy for all sorts of things, but I didn’t get a single role. Then I wasn’t even invited to auditions for months – that’s worse than being turned down. I mean, we were only in LA, apart from my dad, because I was so passionate about gaming – but then nothing happens. Terrible!
Weren’t the many rejections broken your heart?
Of course we thought about going home again. After three months without a casting, I went to an audition for “The Partridge Family” on VH1 – without an appointment, really with hours in line. And I got the job! Nothing came of the series, but from that day things went up. From then on, casting invitations fluttered into the house regularly. That’s when I met my agent too. He still manages me to this day.