Emma Stone studied British aristocracy to give The Favourite the royal treatment
US actress Emma Stone worked with dialect coach and studied British aristocracy for her role in The Favourite
As the only American cast member in a period movie set in the 18th-century royal court of Queen Anne of England, Emma Stone had to study the ways of British aristocracy.
Learning the rigid palace protocol was fascinating to her, including the custom of never turning one's back on the monarch but bowing backwards out of the royal presence.
She also had to learn to curtsy, shoot an 18th-century gun and ride a horse for The Favourite, which opens here tomorrow. It is nominated for 10 Oscars at the upcoming Academy Awards - including Best Picture, Best Actress (Olivia Colman) and Best Supporting Actress (Stone and Rachel Weisz) - tying with Alfonso Cuaron's Roma for most nominations.
There was also the British accent.
To pull it off, director Yorgos Lanthimos had her work with a dialect coach for a few weeks before she auditioned.
The Oscar-winning 30-year-old US actress said at our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills: "I auditioned for him for my accent. I think he didn't want me to embarrass myself or the film. So I worked on it for a little while and then once I got the part, I continued working with the coach on set.
"And I was lucky because I was surrounded by British people. I had probably the easiest circumstance to be in because everyone else was really from there and could help me."
In The Favourite, Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer) took creative licence with the historical characters of Queen Anne (Colman); Lady Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough who was the Queen's childhood friend and the real power behind the throne (Weisz); and Stone's character Abigail Masham, a cousin of Sarah's reduced to being a chambermaid because of family bankruptcy - though not for long.
A triangle of love, desperation and survival among the three women unravels as Queen Anne shifts her affections from Sarah to Abigail, and the ensuing drama plays out in the royal's court as well as her bedchamber.
Stone's sex scenes were with both Colman and English actor Joe Alwyn, who plays her husband Samuel Masham, and she said they were pretty easy for her.
She added: "I was with Olivia, who is my dear friend and funny, and she makes everything so comfortable. And with Joe, we were just laughing about what I had to do and it was mostly funny and not uncomfortable."
Lanthimos made sure the set was comfortable and private, which Stone appreciated because she thought the sex scenes were integral to the story.
She said: "This film is so well-written that all of the sexuality made perfect sense to me, and there was nothing gratuitous and nothing that I saw as done for any reason other than furthering the story.
"Abigail's relationship with her own sexuality is very removed and I don't know what her actual urges are. I think she is using that as a means to an end, so they are important scenes to see where she is mentally. I thought all of that was really exciting to get to do."
The closeness among the three lead actresses was created in the three weeks of rehearsal before filming.
"It wasn't a traditional process. It was more playing games with one another and clowning exercises that you would learn in theatre school, which meant that we could embarrass ourselves in front of one another and make one another laugh and then felt really safe with one another.
"We sort of linked arms and went into the first day of filming as a bit of a team, like theatre, where when you go onstage, you are all relying on one another in that way."
English actress Colman, in particular, went out of her way to make everyone feel comfortable.
Stone recalled: "Olivia is a real ice-breaker. She doesn't really let things get cold or tense. She invited everybody over for dinner, we did karaoke and we had so much fun together off set too... it just became a warm environment."
Now that she is peaking in her acting career, she is also "really happy" to be moving into another decade.
"I got a little gloomy the week before I turned 30, I think because of all the memories that I have over the last decade. But now I am looking forward to seeing what is going to happen in my 30s and happy to be out of my 20s, that is for sure."
Reflecting on her early days working in a mall in Los Angeles to becoming an Oscar winner for the 2016 romantic musical film La La Land and celebrity face of French fashion house Louis Vuitton, Stone said: "The dream was to get to act. The other lovely things that can come with that are more fantasies, like you don't even know what to expect because it feels so far-fetched.
"And of course, you are still you and it doesn't change you internally, it changes things externally in a beautiful way.
"Internally, you still have the same insecurities to battle with and the same growing to do. So it doesn't fix that for you, but this thing that you dreamed of doing that you are getting to do, being recognised in that way - that is an amazing gift. I don't take it for granted for a second and I don't expect that to last forever."
The writer is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.