Referred to popularly as the “modern-day Scarlet Letter,” “Easy A” tells the story of Olive Penderghast, a high school girl who finds herself ostracized from her peers after a self-made rumor regarding her sexual ventures spreads across campus.
Despite its connection with Letter, “Easy A” is actually very much its own story. Unlike Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s classic, Olive, played by Emma Stone, (“Zombieland”) doesn’t actually sleep with anyone.
In a conference call with the Wheel, Stone agrees that the plot of “Easy A” isn’t a modern remake but a completely fresh approach.
“Hester decided to be silent about what was going on, and Olive is wildly outspoken and lying the entire time as well. It’s kind of almost the reverse problem in a way,” she explains.
But despite the obviously humorous nature of Olive’s character, some questions linger concerning the ultimate message her actions in the movie convey.
As Olive begins accepting compensation for her “services” — at one point, a 20-percent-off coupon to Bath & Body Works — a natural concern that arises is whether the movie promotes promiscuity as a means for high school-aged girls to help themselves climb up the social ladder.
“I was actually concerned with that for quite a while and still have a lot of thoughts about that,” Stone says, “What Olive learned from this entire experience ... lying to everyone and watching her life kind of crumble around her and realizing that if she had just told the truth from the beginning, she could have been saved from all that.”
Stone notes that she was attracted to Olive’s character as soon as she read the script.
“It’s really rare to read a really well-written, fleshed-out, funny character that’s female, especially in a comedy,” Stone says. “She’s no damsel in distress.”
The actress comments that part of the reason for her attraction may have been her ability to relate to Olive’s character in terms of her personality and the open, eccentric relationship she shares with her parents.
This “eerily similar” connection between Stone and Olive’s character obviously lent itself to the authenticity the performance.
It helps that the supporting actors seem equally perfect for their roles.
Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) and Patricia Clarkson (“Shutter Island”), who play her lax, hippie-ish parents, interact with each other and Stone’s character in a way that seems both fluid and natural.
Indeed, many of the lines in scenes of Olive joking around with her parents were made up on the spot.
“They were so fantastic with ad-libbing,” Stone says about Tucci and Clarkson. “A lot of their dialogue was improv.”
Even though “Easy A” is considered Stone’s first big headliner movie, the actress explains that most of the pressure was self-inflicted — her primary concerns were ensuring that she accurately depicted Olive’s character the way she was drawn in the script.
“I put more pressure on myself for sure, but I don’t think it had to do with the size of the role. I think it had more to do with just wanting to make sure that the Olive on the page came to life accurately ... . It was just a daily fight to make sure that I was doing her justice all along the way.”
Stone remarks that she’s grateful for the experience, mainly because she was so drawn to Olive’s character, but also because she was given a chance to work with and learn from the other actors on set.
As for working with sexy co-stars — Penn Badgley (“Gossip Girl”) plays her Prince Charming in “Easy A” —, Stone seems to have taken a leaf out of Olive’s diary about staying mum.
“I’ve been pretty lucky,” Stone remarks. “It’s kind of hard to pick. You know what? I’m not going to name names, but they know who they are.”
— Contact Catherine Cai.