SAN DIEGO — Emma Stone has gone from layperson to expert on the two publishing sensations she's helping to bring to Hollywood this summer and next.
Stone had not read Kathryn Stockett's "The Help" before auditioning for the lead role in the drama about a white woman who rocks the Deep South establishment by chronicling the hard lives of black maids in the early 1960s.
And before earning the female lead in "The Amazing Spider-Man," Stone knew the Marvel Comics superhero mainly from Sam Raimi's three past big-screen "Spidey" adventures and glimpses of the web-slinger on memorabilia.
"I knew Spidey from Halloween costumes and Band-Aids and erasers and pencils and notebooks," Stone, 22, said in an interview at last week's Comic-Con fan convention, where she and star Andrew Garfield joined the filmmakers to reveal footage of the 2012 summer blockbuster-in-waiting.
"I knew that every little boy at school was obsessed with Spidey. I saw all the Sam Raimi movies, but I had not read the comics until I got involved. And now I'm a ridiculously enormous 'Spider-Man' fan. That's what happens. That character is one of the most incredible characters, I think, ever written, comic-book world or literary world. It's just such an inspirational character. I think that's probably the reason he's the president's favorite superhero."
Stone has been on a steady rise in Hollywood, co-starring in 2007's teen romp "Superbad" and 2009's horror comedy "Zombieland," then charming audiences with her first big-screen lead in last year's "The Scarlet Letter" twist "Easy A."
After supporting roles in back-to-back romantic comedies with last week's "Friends With Benefits" and this week's "Crazy Stupid Love," Stone's profile shoots higher with the Aug. 10 debut of "The Help," co-starring Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard and Octavia Spencer.
Stone recalled being as much a novice on "The Help" as she had been on "Spider-Man." She was about to meet with the filmmakers for the first time and happened to give her mom a call.
"I've got a meeting tonight for 'The Help,'" Stone told her mother. "And she screamed so loud my eardrums burst. She said, 'You've got to read this book! You have to go and read this book right now!' My mother is, like, she fainted, she was so beside herself."
"The Help" is expected to be a summer hit driven by the best-seller's female fans, a rarity in a season dominated by action tales and comedies aimed largely at young males.
As Gwen Stacy, the romantic interest for Garfield's Peter Parker in next July's "Spider-Man" reboot, Stone will be in the thick of a fan-boy frenzy. Yet the fact that Peter's a skinny, bullied kid who leaps to hero status through the bite of a mutant spider makes him an idol for everyone, not just comic-book and action fans, Stone said.
"Batman's great, but this isn't a rich guy building a suit. And Superman's great, but this isn't an untouchable guy like we've never seen before on this planet," Stone said. "This is someone you could go to school with and work with, that all of sudden, one day is able to fight off superhuman villains. It's pretty incredible. I get it now. I really do."