[On how she decided to be an actress] My grandmother took me to see David Cassidy in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and I thought, I want to be up there. We sat down and the play started and there was a girl of my age who opened this huge book and started narrating and I thought, ‘This is a job. She gets to wear cool costumes and this is what I am going to do.’ Ever since then I have always known I was going to be an actor.
[On how her mom acted waiting for like 4 years to see her movies released] My poor mother is telling everyone she knows, ‘Jessica is doing a movie with Brad Pitt, with Al Pacino’, and everyone is looking at her two years later going, ‘Sure, sure.'”
My 12-year-old brother came to stay while I was doing press for The Help. He really likes Emma Stone, so I asked her to go over and speak to him. She went over, and he absolutely clammed up, couldn’t even look at her. “There’s a picture where she’s smiling with her arm around him and he just looks like he’s going to faint! It’s my favourite.”
I was a difficult child because I wanted to be the mom.
I don’t look modern. I’m not the girl that would walk into the room and everyone goes, “Oh!”
[on being directed by Terrence Malick in The Tree of Life (2011)] I would have pages of what we were going to convey, but I could say the words in any order I wanted, and sometimes we would say the same thing in many different ways… I think he will always be the greatest teacher I know. I’m trying, in the Terrence Malick kind of way of not planning and just allowing life to happen, trying to find these moments that mirror life and [are] not preconceived in any way. So that has changed me. I try to keep that freshness in things we’ve done.
[on rehearsals] They’ll say, “Save it, save it”. I tell them: “Don’t worry. I have a bottomless well of tears.
Sometimes I’ll have a meeting with someone and they’ll say, “Oh, Sean Penn was just here and was saying the nicest things about you”. You know, when you’re applying for a job? These are like my recommendations. It’s nice.
I get embarrassed really easily. I get embarrassed even when people sing me “Happy Birthday.”
[on preparing for her role in The Tree of Life (2011)] Emotionally and spiritually, I had to figure out what it meant to play the embodiment of grace. And how do I capture that? Okay, so I start studying paintings of the Madonna at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I start listening to music that inspires feelings of love inside me, I start reading books about cultivating joy and cultivating gratitude. I start meditating.
I don’t normally get into this, but I’m a vegan. And I try not to, well, I don’t want to torture anything. I guess it’s about trying to live a life where I’m not contributing to the cruelty in the world… While I am on this planet, I want everyone I meet to know that I am grateful they are here.
When I first moved to LA, it was very difficult. All the casting directors didn’t know what to do with me, with the way I looked. I’m not blonde with tanned skin and tall and skinny. I looked very different – and they said I looked like I was from another time.
Right after The Tree of Life (2011) came out, I started hearing about strategies for my career. And I made a decision that I wasn’t going to do anything based on a strategy. If I don’t continue to challenge myself and risk failure, I have no business being an actor. I’m not an actor to be a personality. I want to see every part I take like a master class. And you know what? I’m going to fail sometimes. And that’s OK. Because when you fail, you learn more.