Emma Stone ditched 'judgment and shame' for 'Poor Things' role

Emma Stone stars in "Poor Things." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
1 of 5 | Emma Stone stars in "Poor Things." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Emma Stone said the role of reborn Bella Baxter in Poor Things, in theaters Friday, inspired her to eliminate self-conscious qualities from her performance.

Bella is brought back to life by Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) and remains childlike in her adult body.


"It was actually more of an undoing than a doing," Stone, 35, said in a recent Zoom press conference. She developed Bella "by trying to remove as much judgment and shame as possible."

Set in Victorian Scotland, Bella leaves Godwin's lab to experience the world. Initially partnered with Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo), Bella also explores her body's sexual capacity.

"More than anything, it was letting go of things, because Bella is pure joy and curiosity and doesn't have shame [or] trauma," Stone said. "She just lives in a place of discovery."


Throughout her journey, Bella develops more sophisticated speech and even posture as she grows more comfortable in her body. As Poor Things filmed scenes out of order, Stone said she did work with director Yorgos Lanthimos to track Bella's progress.

"We just parsed out how she would develop in these stages so we could jump from day to day," Stone said. "If we needed to change where we are in the story, we knew how she would be developing."

Beyond physical manifestations, Stone said she and Lanthimos avoided overanalyzing Bella. Poor Things reunites the star and director of The Favourite, as well as screenwriter Tony McNamara, who adapted Alasdair Gray's book.

"Neither Yorgos nor I really like to talk a lot about the psychology of the character and what's happening internally," Stone said. "The exterior is there and that's my work to do more internally."

Another external attribute Stone said was helpful was the costuming by Holly Waddington. Stone said viewers can track Bella's growth by what she's wearing from the beginning to end of the movie.

"At the beginning, she's quilted and she's in silks and she's being very taken care of," Stone said. "When she goes out on her own adventure, she's dressing herself so it's just pieces she's pairing together in her own way."


Stone said that by the end, Bella matures into "more structured clothing."

Bella's unwillingness to humor snobs or sexist men makes her stand out in Victorian society. Though Godwin and Duncan prove to be possessive in their ways, Stone said Bella's education in gender dynamics is only one part of her story.

"But, all of those male characters are fascinating in their own ways or have their own layers to how they experience her, what they offer her, what they teach her and what she teaches them," Stone said.

Despite the lengths she went to to create Bella, Stone said she rejects the notion that it was hard work.

"There are days where you're really hard on yourself and you care a lot about what you're doing, but to say, 'Oh, it's so hard to be an actor' is crazy to me," Stone said. "Sure, I found some days hard but not really."

Stone said the challenges of portraying Bella only enhanced the joy she found in bringing the character to life.

"She was such a joyful character to play that even when it was a more challenging day or I was being hard on myself or whatever it might be, it's always a gift," Stone said.


Latest Headlines