Emma Roberts is hunched over her coral iPhone, which looks like it has been run over by a monster truck and is being held together with tape. She’s tweeting with fans. Questions from around the world are shooting over like flares. “Do you like pickles?” asks a follower, which makes the 23-year-old actress laugh before she scrolls past. (She later pulls out her dog-eared copy of Ask the Dust to check the title before answering a very excited British girl’s query of what she’s reading.)
We are in Los Angeles and have spent the day shooting ELLE Canada’s first live cover. The excitement that comes with doing something experimental is still crackling in the air. It’s fitting that we’re forging into the digital future with Roberts—niece of Julia—because she might just be the ultimate embodiment of modern Hollywood: She’s outspoken, fiercely stylish, glued to her social media, friends with fellow former child star Miley Cyrus and, above all, surprisingly talented.
Born in New York to notoriously stormy actor Eric Roberts and his then girlfriend Kelly Cunningham, Roberts cut her acting teeth on projects like Nickelodeon’s Unfabulous in 2004 and Nancy Drew before branching out to flicks like We’re the Millers and American Horror Story (AHS). In fact, she has done a lot of growing up over the past few years. She fell for AHS co-star Evan Peters and then, last year in Montreal, had a fight with him that led to the actress being arrested on suspicion of assault. (She was released without charge the next day.) When asked about the incident, she merely shakes her head, unwilling, or unable, to talk about it.
Roberts’ rocky entry into adulthood makes her performance in Palo Alto especially moving. In the film, based on James Franco’s book of the same title, the actress plays a teen who is confused about what she wants and what it means to grow up. Her character, April, is caught up in an affair with her much older soccer coach, played by Franco. “You’re young,” he says to her in the film. “You don’t know why you do things.”
Photoshoots >> 2014 >> Max Abadian
Emma was spotted grabbing some lunch with Evan Peters in Hollywood yesterday (April 29) then later that night leaving Chateau Marmont, which she was seen at the same restaurant on April 26th. I have added a photoshoot from 2013 photographed by Don Flood!
To hear the cast tell it, the set of Palo Alto, Gia Coppola’s feature directorial debut, was one big youthquake. “It was a kids’ club; all of us were under the age of 30,” says Emma Roberts. “We all were really young and so passionate about the project, and we all really just came together.” In theaters May 9, the film “is a solid voice in a generation of pit vipers,” declares Keegan Allen. Nat Wolff agrees. “I don’t think there’s anything that’s false [about Palo Alto]. It came from a really real place.”
Coppola (niece of Sofia and granddaughter of one Francis Ford) adapted the screenplay from James Franco’s book of short stories. Centering on a group of wayward suburban high schoolers, the highly stylized film has a dreamy, lo-fi quality balanced with refreshingly awkward dialogue delivered, in many cases, by actual teenagers. Its emotional honesty — due in large part to the closeness between the young cast and their 27-year-old director — strikes a similar nerve to Larry Clark’s Kids and grandpa Coppola’s The Outsiders. “Gia and I are both women so close in age and we really understood each other,” says Roberts, who has known Coppola for years from growing up in L.A. “That’s part of the reason she cast me in the movie. We just had an understanding of working together.”
We’re almost halfway through the year, but Emma Roberts has already owned it. Her stint as Madison Montgomery in American Horror Story: Coven spawned a meme for the ages and fans will be happy to know she’s returning next season for Freak Show. But, before all that, she’s in Palo Alto, Gia Coppola’s film adaptation of James Franco’s book. Roberts plays April, a well-rounded high school student dealing with all the things a teenager of the Internet Age deals with (partying, love, and, you know, this little thing known as life after high school.)
Lucky for Roberts, she’s found her footing at a young age. No one knows what the future holds, but she radiates so much confidence, it’s clear she’s not worried. She’s got an authentic air of joy about her and that smile sure is enviable. Ahead, Roberts on her love of TV, selfies with James Franco, and ignoring bad advice.
Let’s start with Palo Alto: What about April intrigued you? Why sign on to this story?
“I read the book and was a big fan. At the time I read it, I was 17, [and] it felt very original — like something I hadn’t read in a long time. It was really capturing youth in a way that I felt was really honest, instead of using the formula that books about teenagers use. I really liked that; I liked that the script stayed really true to the book. But, it also had this real Gia flavor to it. It was going to be something that would be creatively so fun to be a part of. I really wanted to work with James on something, so that was really cool too.”
How did April challenge you?
“Well, I’m so not like her at all, and I wasn’t when I was younger, so it was really interesting to play a character who was so opposite of me. I’m really outgoing and loud and she is really soft-spoken — and, a lot of the time, doesn’t even respond to people in the movie. So, when we were doing a lot of ad-libbing scenes, I would have to remind myself that I wasn’t myself and to not laugh like the loudest person in the room, and to not comment on something. Instead, I would sit and observe. It was cool to play more of a looker than a talker.”
The introvert versus the extrovert? That’s great. The ad-libbing was so seamless! What scenes?
“Most of it was ad-libbing! In every scene, in pretty much every take, things were different. The script was the bones of it, then once they cast everybody and saw our interactions, they encouraged us to ad-lib. Gia would have me do something and not tell Jack so we would get a reaction out of him. We wouldn’t know and it would make the scene have a whole other layer to it, which is cool.”
Emma attends Lanvin And Living Beauty Host An Evening Of Fashion on April 26, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. Check out MQ and HQs below!