Emma Stone is back with a vengeance. Well, character wise, anyway.
The actor, who received a Best Actress Oscar for her lead role opposite longtime collaborator Ryan Gosling in La La Land in 2017, was last seen in 2018's The Favourite, along with Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz, and Netflix's Maniac with Jonah Hill.
The return of one of the decade's best-loved actresses couldn't be heralded with a bigger bang, as she takes on the role of the ultimate Disney villainess, Cruella De Vil, in a prequel to the 101 Dalmatians films that delves into the origin story of the brilliant, maniacal and ruthless woman that everyone loves-to-hate.
Four years in the making, anticipation has been building to a crescendo since Stone was photographed in costume outside London's Liberty department store. The film, which documents the early life of Cruella (formerly, Estella) in the UK and London, is partially a love letter to the city in the 1970s. David Bowie punctuates the soundtrack, and if it's not Bowie, it's Sex Pistols-inspired punk wending its way through both the audio and visual elements of the movie. The fashion and beauty looks are phenomenal too, elevating Cruella beyond her iconic spotted fur coat, into haute couture territory.
In a rare interview, ELLE UK chatted to Stone about the role, including preparation for the character's accent, seeing herself as Cruella for the first time, how rebellious her youth was compared to the notorious character's and what she's grown to love from spending so much time in the UK while making the film. Spoiler: If you didn't expect to see Emma Stone written in the same paragraph as Naked Attraction, Gogglebox and Gemma Collins, this afternoon then you're in for a treat...
Can you relate to your character's two personalities - Estella and Cruella - given your real name is Emily?
It's an interesting question, I actually do really love that my name was taken at Screen Actors Guild, because that's my name and so I wasn't able to get it when I was registering for my name. So it is interesting, because sometimes I'll introduce myself as Emily, which is how I introduce myself, and the person will still call me Emma and I'll know that they're kind of associating me with a sort of different version of myself. It's kind of a nice delineation, it's like a clarification of how somebody is sort of seeing me.
So, there has been a little bit of an interesting avatar aspect to the Emma of my life rather than the Emily. It's kind of a nice aspect to have. I've always wished that I could be Emily Stone everywhere, but now I'm kind of grateful that there's a distinction.
Did you become a fan of any British TV shows while shooting Cruella in London?
I spend a good amount of time in England and I am truly obsessed with two shows. Well, actually I'm obsessed with about four shows... and Great British Bake Off, of course is one of them, but that's neither here nor there. Gogglebox and Naked Attraction.
Naked Attraction is, I think, the best show I've ever seen. I actually saw it accidentally when I was in France one time. At like 11 o'clock at night I was like, 'what is this?' And then I realised that it was in the UK. And then when living there I watched Naked Attraction all the time, all the time. It's so good. I love everybody on Gogglebox and I especially love the narration because it's so gentle. It's kind of like, 'and meanwhile in Leeds...'
Nadia Stacey who does hair and make up, she did The Favourite too, but she did the hair and make-up for Cruella, she always makes me do Gemma from The Only Way Is Essex: 'You ain't ever gonna get this candy,' to her. Mm hmm. Love Gemma.
Jasper and Horace are Cruella's sidekicks, but who are your sidekicks?
There's a large number of people I would want to have with me, definitely my family, and I have a group of four very, very close friends. There are two other friends I can think of that I'd really love to have with me. I think there's a good amount of people I would be very sad to be without. I mean, I'd probably choose my guy, that's who I'd go with.
How much could you relate to Cruella's rebellious early years?
I definitely have rebellion in me for sure. But my rebellion didn't go too, too far because my mum is very open and accepting. So I would always admit my rebellion to her Like, 'mum, I had a cigarette,' or whatever and she'd be like, 'oh, woah.'
She had an acceptance that kids are going to do certain things as a rite of passage, they're going to try little things. When it came to like really intense stuff that was a no-go, but you could only rebel so much when your mum's pretty accepting. Then... it's not that exciting to go do something crazy.
Who was your inspiration for Cruella's accent?
The thing about the Cruella accent, which is a more complicated, not quite purely British accent, is because my inspiration for that was Tallulah Bankhead who had the kind of 1940s mid-Atlantic accent. You know those accents that they were doing back then? They were American, but they had that British lilt. So it's more that than fully British, it's more of like a full blown 1940s character. Yeah, that's a complicated accent.
How much fun was it to play a villain?
It was so much fun. It's so much fun when she's full-blown Cruella. Not to give anything away, but there are moments when she's full Estella, or half-Estella, half-Cruella, but just once she's leaned into full Cruella, ugh, heaven.
It's such a blast to get to drop all of the social niceties and empathy, honestly. To get to drop empathy and just be ruthless, and go for exactly what you want is really cathartic. It's a really interesting experience. It's not something I would want so much in real life because I like to be nice to people and have nice interactions, but a blast to play.
How did you react to seeing yourself as Cruella for the first time?
Seeing myself in costume for the first time, they actually released a picture of that day. I'm holding the three Dalmatians and the two guys are with me. It was that first picture that they put out from the movie, that was the camera test day when we first got into full hair and make-up and it was just surreal. It was so, so cool.
The black and white hair, I think because it's such a popular Halloween costume at least here in the States, it's just so crazy to play this character that you've known for such a long time, to get to wear all of that was just mind-blowing. It was a really cool day.
You can watch Cruella on Disney Plus (with Premier Access for a onetime additional fee) and in cinemas, from 28 May. SIGN UP TO DISNEY PLUS
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