Emma Stone on the duality of Cruella, and steering clear of Glenn Close's 'untouchable' performance

The memory of Glenn Close's maniacal and campy 1996 performance of Cruella de Vil is so indelible, Emma Stone wasn't even going to attempt to recreate it.

As the younger version of the spiky Disney villain in Cruella , Stone knew she had to do something very different.

“She is so amazing and so sort of untouchable as this character that I knew I could not do any type of version of Glenn Close's Cruella because, first of all, I would suck at that, “Stone told news.com.au over Zoom.

“And secondly, it just felt like we were telling such a re-imagining of the story, and it's a different era of Cruella that it just felt like it only made sense to do my own version of it, otherwise it would just pale in comparison to hers.

“She is the greatest and I'm such an enormous fan so I wouldn't even want to attempt that. ”

Stone is certainly no amateur. The Oscar-winning actor has built up an impressive career since breaking out in Seth Rogen's buddy comedy Superbad in 2007.

From award contenders such as La La Land , Birdman and The Favorite to box office hits such as Crazy, Stupid, Love and Zombieland or the mercurial Netflix sci-fi series Maniac , she's proven herself a commanding and versatile artist.

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But for Stone, 32, Cruella held a different appeal, especially when she first signed on to the film five years ago, coming off the very ingenue-like Mia in La La Land .

“Probably because of the age range I've been in, [a lot of the characters I’ve auditioned for] have been written as a kind of ingenue. So, it's very exciting for me to play a character that isn't always coming from a good place and it's the classic 'heart of the story'.

“I got told that a lot when auditioning, that” she's the heart of the story '.

“It's exciting to me when the character is complex and flawed and more human. Obviously, someone like Cruella, she's a little bit larger than life than your typical human being. She is much more in the villain sphere than just a complicated female character.

“And that's what makes it fun, it's that she felt like a true Disney character, but also we were able to go deeper and ground her a little more. “

Directed by Australian Craig Gillespie ( I, Tonya ), Cruella is a sassy and brassy origin story with a punk soul and a lot of attitude.

The movie, set in 1970s London, pits Cruella (Stone) against the Baroness (Emma Thompson), a showdown between the new wave and the establishment, in a story framed within the fashion industry.

When we first meet Cruella, she's still Estella, a young woman who grew up on the streets with friends Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) after a family tragedy. She has grand ambitions to be a fashion designer, and a preternatural talent.

It's in that journey in which Estella takes her steps to becoming Cruella, and it's a duality that's not only manifested in her infamous black-and-white coiffure but in the internal battle between good and bad.

“There were different ideas behind [Cruella’s] duality from the beginning, ”Stone explained of the evolution of the script which underwent several iterations. “There were ideas that she genuinely is two separate people or that she is the same person but has this personality flip.

” Ultimately, the way I see her is she is always Cruella but is suppressing or repressing [that side of her nature] when she is Estella. So, it's nature versus nurture happening within one person, but it's not a full split. One’s just being kind of held down.

“But even as Cruella, she can connect to people in moments. She had a mother that she loved so deeply, and she felt love from that woman, so, I think she would have to have that inherent within her. “

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Of course, the thing with origin stories for iconic characters is that where they end up – as in, the villain or hero they become – looms large over the story because of their status in pop culture. And everyone knows that Cruella is no hero.

Stone said that Cruella is a cautionary tale in many ways and while seeing a young woman take charge of the men in her life and being unapologetic about her ambitions is inspiring, her approach doesn't always pass muster.

“There are things about her that's definitely not aspirational but there are elements like her creativity or how she doesn't care what people think [that are]. But she takes it a bit too far in the film.

“I hope [kids] walk away going, 'Well, if I 'm in charge and powerful, and I'm a woman, I'm also going to make space for other women to be in charge and powerful'. It doesn't need to be a competition like [Cruella and the Baroness], where only one of them can survive and be on top.

“That's part of the cautionary tale.”

Cruella is in cinemas now and on Disney + 's Premier Access ($ 34.99) from Friday, May 28

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