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EASY A

"A" List Acting Talent
On paper, Olive was a dynamite part: intelligent, funny, observant, surprisingly tough and heartbreakingly vulnerable. The big question for the filmmakers, then, was who could make this vital role come alive on screen. The success of the project depended on the perfect casting for Olive.

"Olive is an extremely smart girl,” explains director Gluck, "but she doesn't annoy you with her smartness. A lot of people and characters that are really smart who know everything and talk like adults are so annoying that you want to punch them in the face. This is a girl who is smart like a whip, but doesn't know she's smart, and if anything, she's embarrassed by the fact that she's smart. You feel for this girl so much, because she's trying to figure out who she is.”

Naturally, Gluck and the producers had no shortage of actresses who were eager to take on such a well-written role. "Everyone wanted to play the part,” the director recalls. "I got calls from what seemed like every actress between the ages of 16 and 28. As soon as I heard that Emma Stone wanted to do it, I was very excited. We met really quickly, and she had no problem auditioning for me. A lot of this movie takes place with Olive speaking into her computer's web cam. After her audition, Emma went home, did a scene into her webcam and emailed it to me. I took the disc with that scene to the head of the studio and said ‘This is the girl.' She was by far, always my first choice.”

Stone says she had been sent the script by a friend before it had been bought by anyone, and when she read it, she knew she had to do it.

"I instantly related to the character,” recalls Stone. "Olive uses all these big words and makes silly puns, and she's well aware that what she's doing is kind of dumb, but she can't stop herself from doing it. I do the same thing. There were so many things that made me feel a kinship with the character, that I felt that whether or not it was me, she deserved whoever it was that played her be willing to understand her. I think it would be easy to go very goofy with her, or read her the wrong way, and I was afraid that if it was the wrong actor, they wouldn't be true to this amazing character.”

In her first meeting with Will Gluck, Stone found that the two of them were very much in synch about the character. "Will told me he wasn't looking for someone to become Olive,” explains Stone. "He was looking for someone that was Olive, because Olive becomes whoever is playing her. I understood that there was no becoming this girl. You either were or weren't Olive. I'm so thankful that they gave me the chance.”

With Stone in place as Olive, the filmmakers began the process of finding the actors who would surround her. When they were done, they found themselves almost overwhelmed at the level of talent who eagerly agreed to be a part of the project.

"A great script attracts a lot of great people,” says Zanne Devine of the supporting cast of Easy A. "I think a lot of our actors are going to surprise people, because they're playing characters very different than audiences are accustomed to.”

Co-stars Aly Michalka and Amanda Bynes, who play Rhiannon and Marianne, respectively, readily admit that the differences between their characters in Easy A and their past work are a big part of what drew them to their roles.

"Rhiannon is crazy,” says Aly Michalka of the character she portrays. "She's a girl who is very aggressive and passionate about whatever she believes in, or whatever her opinion is. She is definitely very foulmouthed and will say anything that's on her mind, which can sometimes be either offensive or abrasive, but she always means well. She just doesn't really have any sort of a filter. But she loves her best friend Olive, and like best friends sometimes do, she loves to give her a hard time and push her buttons.”

Known primarily to younger audiences for her work on the Disney Channel sitcom Phil of the Future and as a platinum selling recording artist with her sister as the pop-music duo, Aly and A.J., Michalka enjoyed pushing the envelope with Rhiannon. "I love that she's a strong character. She's similar to me in that she's a great friend, and very loyal, but we're definitely very different in the way we speak and handle ourselves. Rhiannon also dresses a lot more provocatively than I do. She wants to get attention from people and wishes she was twenty-five, even though she's still a teen.”

When it came to the tightly wound, evangelical Marianne Bryant, Amanda Bynes found inspiration in a character very different than the kind of young woman she typically plays. "I'm used to playing the goofy, funny girl,” says the actress, "and Marianne is the very religious, uptight girl who think she rules the school. A lot of her actions come across as kind of mean, evil and totally judgmental, but she thinks she's coming from a good place, because she claims to be doing the work of God.”

Bynes says that although Marianne's actions are kind of questionable, there was still something likeable and relatable about her. "Everybody has met that girl who is a ‘type A' personality, and just wants to be right, be better than everyone and always wants to one-up everyone,” says Bynes. "She's a fun character to play.”

In directing the actresses, Will Gluck found it easy to forget his talented cast weren't simply wonderful actors, but stars to the world outside a film set. "We got a good reminder when we were shooting on the street and there over 100 kids mobbing Emma and Aly, trying to take their pictures and get autographs,” recalls Gluck. "They've established themselves so well in their characters that you sometimes forget they have such a big following.”

Two other actors with big fan bases were also more than happy to take on new character challenges with their roles in Easy A.

For Penn Badgley, best known for his role of Dan Humphrey in the hit series Gossip Girl, playing the part of ‘Woodchuck Todd' was so tempting, he arranged to fly between the west and east coasts to accommodate the shooting schedules for both the film and his series.

Laying out the role's particular appeal to Badgley, Gluck explains, "The first time we meet Penn, his face and body are all painted blue. The second and third time you meet him, he's in a woodchuck costume. The sixth time you meet him, he's wearing a lobster hat. It's not what you expect from Penn Badgley.”

"It really does run the gamut,” agrees Badgley, "and that's one of the reasons I wanted to play the part. Ideally, for most of the film, you don't really know what my character is doing in the movie, but it all makes perfect sense at the end. I had a lot of fun being the strange, irreverent guy who does these seemingly inconsequential things throughout the movie, but what made me really want to play the role, was the substance and importance of the character. It's not necessarily a complicated role, but it's one that could be easily misconstrued and played inappropriately if taken in the wrong direction.”

Adds Gluck, "There are certain guys in high school that can be the mascot, can hang out with the athletes, can hang out with the nerds. Todd is the kind of guy who straddles all those different subsets of high school and kind of skates through.”

"Yeah, he just does it,” agrees Badgley. "But I think it's more than just being an agreeable sort of character. He's like ‘I'm a teenager, I'm living in Ojai, I'm just waiting to go to college and for my life to begin.' I think that's the way he feels, and he's having fun while he does it. If everyone else thinks he looks like an idiot for doing what he do

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