"I Want to Learn to Fight Better": Emma Stone on Politics and Equal Pay

Our September cover star plays legendary tennis champ Billie Jean King in this month's Battle of the Sexes—here, she and costar Sarah Silverman explore how the role taught her to find her voice.

Emma Stone

(Image credit: Greg Kadel)

Do I want to do a Q&A with Emma Stone for Marie Claire? Fuck yeah, I do. I have enjoyed the Emma Stone of it all for a while now. Since Superbad, maybe? But she really grabbed me when she did a bit at the 2012 Academy Awards. After that, I was totally smitten. She was in a red dress with a big bow, presenting an award for visual effects, and her comedy skills were tight. Ben Stiller and Jonah Hill were perfect straight men—parts usually reserved for women while the male comic sparkles. With no crazy costume or visual joke, and far beyond the comic skill set of the average actor, she killed it.

Emma Stone - Marie Claire cover

(Image credit: Greg Kadel)

The writing was adorable, but the performance was everything. [The bit had Stone milk her first appearance as a presenter.] As a comedy snob, I was officially wowed. That's when the name "Emma Stone" was forever embedded in my bean. Then, last spring, I got to work with her on this here movie, Battle of the Sexes. All of my scenes were with Emma, and I found out more good news: This lil' mama is not just übertalented, she is the loveliest, most thoughtful, real-deal person on either side of the Mississipi.

The crew felt like a traveling carnival in only the best ways. From the hair-and-makeup department to the director of photography—all had come to this movie from La La Land. They seemed to be a family, traveling with Emma from movie set to movie set. It wasn't like a clique; it really was like a family. One that says, "Hey, come join us! We are a band of misfits, and you belong!" And that vibe and warmth starts with a wacky, red-haired, giant-eyed source of pure love and art named Emily Jean Stone. For her middle name alone, she was destined to play one of America's greatest sports heroes and icons of the equal-rights movement.

Playing Billie Jean was a bit of a game changer.

I've heard the story of how a 14-year-old Emma did a PowerPoint presentation for her parents to explain why they should all move from Arizona to Los Angeles in 2004 so she could be an actress. It makes perfect sense. They did the right thing. If you know Emma at all (and, truthfully, that's exactly how much I know Emma), you know that there is no other place she should be.

She loves movies—watching them and making them and just wholly every part of it. Look, acting is fun, but it's a lot of sitting around, and this woman seems to devour the entire process with wild stimulation and immense gratitude. Quite frankly, that was inspiring to be adjacent to. I will describe Emma the way my mom used to describe Johnny Carson: She's interesting because she's interested. This is Emma. I once heard my sister tell her daughters, when they complained that they were bored, "Only boring people get bored." Emma Stone, my friends, never gets bored.

Here, a few highlights from our September cover interview, on newsstands August 15:

Emma Stone

(Image credit: Greg Kadel)

On what portraying Billie Jean King taught her: "I would say playing Billie Jean was a bit of a game changer. I am very nervous to communicate my opinions a lot of the time, especially publicly…She [Billie] is so direct and confident in the way that she communicates what she believes is right. To be able to step into that was a pretty powerful experience. It's something that I still don't feel entirely comfortable with, but it was also one of the great parts about playing her."

On what was different about her role in Battle of the Sexes: "I have never really considered the physicality of a person or of a character. Maybe because I hadn't played a real person–there wasn't someone who looked a specific way or whose hands moved in a certain way. So that was what I focused on more than anything: building from the outside in."

On speaking out for equality: "There is so much power to our voices, and we need to speak out. That's something that I struggled with in the past, but it's very hard not to feel galvanized right now, politically or consciously."

On what gives her hope during these uncertain political times: "Nobody is going down without a fight–for love and humanity and equality and coming together. It's so inspiring to see marches and beautiful writing and creative work. There's so much power and a grace coming out of so many people who have so much to lose, and the human spirit is incredible. That's worth a fight every day. And I want to learn how to fight better."

Read the full interview and see more photographs in the September issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands August 15.

Featured Music: JNTHN STEIN feat. BXRBR -"Master Control" [etcetc music]