Emma Stone and director Yorgos Lanthimos on “Poor Things”


If you’ve seen Emma Stone on any red carpets lately (and she’s kind of hard to miss), you might’ve noticed a tall bearded man close by. He’s Greek film director Yorgos Lanthimos, and it seems he and Stone are, in a professional sense, joined at the hip.

By her account the two have spent hundreds of thousands of hours together. “Every second has been, like, a dream,” said Stone.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos and actress Emma Stone at the 81st Golden Globe Awards, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., January 7, 2024.

Todd Williamson/CBS via Getty Images

It might be more like a fever dream.

Lanthimos directed Stone in her latest film, “Poor Things,” based on the Alasdair Gray novel of the same name. It’s an updated take on the Frankenstein story: in this case, a brilliant scientist (played by Willem Dafoe) transplants a baby’s brain into a recently-deceased woman, Bella. She quickly evolves from being a really big toddler, to a really smart adult who learns how to dance, how to read, and how to think.

Duncan (Mark Ruffalo): You’re losing some of your adorable way of speaking.
Bell (Emma Stone): I’m a changeable feast, as are all of we apparently, according to Emerson.

Critics have called the film fantastical and sumptuous. It’s the result of a collaboration between Stone and Lanthimos that they both say could be pretty intense.  

To watch a trailer for “Poor Things” click on the video player below:

POOR THINGS | Official Trailer | Searchlight Pictures by
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They admit they do fight, in a manner of speaking. “I mean, fight?” questioned Lanthimos.

“We don’t fight fight; we really communicate, strongly, in those moments,” Stone said. “But I think we always resolve it relatively quickly.”

“We can speak to each other, freely,” Lanthimos said. “So it helps.”

Director Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone discuss their latest collaboration, “Poor Things.” They don’t *fight* fight. 

CBS News

Lanthimos breaks down inhibitions by having cast members play theater games in rehearsals rather than just read through the script. And he likes to keep his set quiet. For instance, he never yells “Action.”

“We like to ease into things,” he said. “In general, we try to create this atmosphere which doesn’t create tension.”

Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo’s dance scene from “Poor Things”:

POOR THINGS | “Dancing Scene” Clip | Searchlight Pictures by
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Lanthimos acquired the rights to “Poor Things” years ago, but when he tried to sell the idea to studios, he got the cold shoulder. So, then he made another film, one with a more conventional artistic vision: 2018’s “The Favourite,” starring Stone and Rachel Weisz:

THE FAVOURITE | “Shooting” Clip| FOX Searchlight by
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“The Favourite” was also a favorite at the Oscars, with 10 nominations and one win, and Lanthimos’ reputation soared.

Smith asked, “Did ‘The Favourite’ give you the juice to be able to do this?”

“Yeah,” Lanthimos replied. “People were asking me, ‘What it is that you want to do next?’ And I went, ‘Poor Things.'”

And his patience paid off; the film has already picked up a number of awards. But Stone says her character was a challenge to play.

Smith asked, “Was there ever a moment when you thought, ‘Ooh, I don’t know if I’m gonna get this’?”

“Yeah. The whole time. Yes, the entire time,” she replied.

Why? “I don’t think there’s been a day on set, of any film of anything I’ve ever done, where I’ve been like, I really got it today. That was exactly what it’s supposed to be!  I mean, I think that’s for any creative person. You see something in your head or you feel like it should be a particular way, and then it has to come out of your mouth and your body and all of that. And it never matches up to what exactly you have in your head.”

The Golden Globe voters thought she got it just right, awarding her best actress in a musical or comedy. But Stone told us that “worried” is her natural state of being, and that she’s been that way since she was very young.   

Does she still have that anxiety? “Oh, yeah, yeah,” Stone said. “Not to the level that it was when I was a kid, because I have therapy or I have tools now to manage it in different ways. And as the years go on, you start to learn more about managing what that is. But, yeah, I mean, that’s my operating system.”

“Have you figured out how to kind of channel it for good?” Smith asked. “Is that possible? If it is, please tell me. Is there a way to channel anxiety for good?”

“Oh, my God, are you kidding me? Anxiety is, like, I feel so lucky to be anxious,” Stone replied. “Because I think it can be sort of like a superpower, sometimes. Anxiety is very activating. It gets you out of bed. You kind of can’t just stay in one place. It sort of forces you to keep moving. I don’t know, I find a lot of positives from it.”

It seems she’s made the best of it. Case in point: her performance in “La La Land,” for which she won an Oscar.

La La Land (2016) – A Lovely Night Scene (5/11) | Movieclips by
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And now Stone and her latest movie are once again in the Oscar conversation. But, she says she tries not to let it get to her.

Asked how she navigates these waters, Stone said, “Just try to hold everything lightly, and not cling too much to any of it. And also, you know, to not take yourself seriously … That’s not really an affliction that I struggle with, taking myself super-seriously, because if you were me, you wouldn’t take me seriously, either! But yeah. I think you can take your work seriously and not yourself seriously.”

She is serious about her partnership with Yorgos Lanthimos. They have another project in the works and more on the way.

“Poor Things” may be called fantastical, but fantastic might also describe the real life of Emma Stone.

Smith asked, “You moved out here when you were 15 years old. Is this career, this life, kind of what you were dreaming of?”

“Oh, it’s so far beyond what I dreamt of,” she replied. “I feel so unbelievably grateful on a daily basis, truly. I really, really, really wanted to be on a sitcom. And I can’t believe that I get to work with people that I admire and adore and trust, and have been able to play roles that are just so far beyond what I ever imagined. It’s nuts. Yeah!

“And I still am open for sitcoms, if you’ve got anything that you’re thinking about.”

For more info:

Story produced by John D’Amelio. Editor: Georg Pozderec. 

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