If you happen to be awake and watching the right TV channels around 5:30 a.m. PST on January 24th, you’re going to hear Emma Stone’s name get read out loud as Best Actress nominee for La La Land. Bank on it. Stone’s performance as a struggling L.A. actress-playwright in the dazzling original musical comedy-drama from writer-director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) is such a heartfelt, endearing, fall-in-love favorite–she’s already copped the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival–that additional awards glory is all but a lock. It couldn’t happen to a more unique talent. If Hollywood—let alone the entire U.S.A.–still values such an old-school commodity as “the girl next door,” Stone is it. If you live in a super cool neighborhood, that is.
Smart, sunny, unpretentious, fearless and radiating a best-friendable quality on screen and off, Stone has only been a bona fide movie star for six years, since she broke out in the sharp-tongued high school comedy Easy A. Since then, she’s been aces in a superhero franchise (The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel), romantic comedies (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) and two Woody Allen movies (Magic in the Moonlight and Irrational Man). She voiced a character in a big animated hit (The Croods), won attention in an ensemble cast (The Help) and landed a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nom in a quadruple Oscar winner (Birdman). In 2014, she even won over hardboiled Broadway critics and audiences when she starred took on the Sally Bowles role in Cabaret.
In interviews she won’t talk about her personal life (including, say, the fact that she and ex-Spiderman actor Andrew Garfield ended their relationship last year), and in general she seems more interested in pushing her boundaries than her fame. Like starring opposite Ryan Gosling (for the third time) in a jazzy original song-and-dance love story musical. Wait—a smirk-free, unironic homage to such movies as Singin’ in the Rain and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in 2016? We’re talking big ambition, daring, tons of prep and nerves of steel. At 28, she’s been canny (and lucky, like pretty much every celebrity before her) in being drawn to interesting roles and projects–how about we ignore her misstep in playing a part-Hawaiian, part-Chinese character in Cameron Crowe’s whitewashed Aloha, okay?–so much so that it’s clear how she’s in it for the long haul.
The evidence? For one thing, she dodged a reported offer to star in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. She also nixed a shot at being among the all-female ensemble in the Ghostbusters remake because, as she told WSJ Magazine, “a franchise is a big commitment–it’s a whole thing. I think maybe I need a minute before I dive back into that water.” Since then, though, she has stepped up to playing the title role in Cruella, another of Disney’s live-action money machines, all about the exploits of the wicked Dalmatian-hunting villainess Cruella de Vil.
She may have other award-yielding roles in the offing, including tennis champion Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes, with Steve Carrell playing ex-pro and full-time attention hound Bobby Riggs, as well as costarring with Rachel Weisz in a British historical 18th century costume drama The Favourite. She could even tackle an action role in the next few years. Don’t put anything past her.