In Gia Coppola‘s new film Palo Alto, Emma Roberts plays shy teen April, a student caught in a love triangle between her (much older) soccer coach (played by James Franco, whose collection of short stories inspired the movie) and her sensitive, brooding classmate Teddy (Jack Kilmer). The character’s an extreme contrast from the girl who greets me on the phone when I dial in for our interview; 23-year-old Roberts is bright, bubbly and immediately admits she’s never actually harbored a crush on a professor ("I always thought older guys were gross!" she laughs).
While her stirring performance in Palo Alto is earning rave reviews, Roberts is perhaps best known for her turn in American Horror Story, which begins filming its fourth season, Freak Show, this summer. She’s also a style star to be reckoned with; while her red carpet ensembles are the stuff dreams are made of (Chanel, Dior and Balenciaga, anyone?), she puts equal thought into her downtime outfits, mixing casual denim and Cali-cool separates with decidedly high-end accessories—like her beloved Chloé Susanna boots. Over the course of our phone convo earlier this week, Roberts and I chatted about everything from Instagram to undercuts to the Marni shoes she’s dying to own (and needs your help—yes, yours!—to track down). Read on!
Lucky: So, Palo Alto—had you read James’ short stories before being cast? Were you guys friends before filming?
Emma Roberts: I didn’t know him at all—but had always wanted to work with him, because I’m a huge fan. I actually went to Book Soup and bought his book the day it came out, and I read it in three days. I remember calling my manager right after I finished and telling him, "If this ever gets made into a movie, I have to be in it." At the same time, I kept telling him that I had to find a way to work with James. Then three years later, I asked again, and it turns out there was a script in the works and that James was attached to star. It’s a good thing I kept harassing everyone about it!
In the movie, your character April gets involved with her soccer coach. Have you ever had a crush on a teacher in real life?
Never. In school, I was always the girl whose friends were like, "Oh, how hot is our teacher?" And I would be like, "Ew—he’s 30!" I always went for the sort of quiet, sweet, sort of shy guys my own age—guys like Teddy in the movie, actually—and thought older guys were gross.
What was the funniest or most memorable thing that happened on the set?
It’s funny, people keep asking me that. I actually called James yesterday and left a voicemail—I was like, "Help! I need a funny anecdote!" He hasn’t gotten back to me yet on that. Honestly, it was just such a special project all around. It felt like summer camp. All of us, even Gia, were under 30, just coming together to work on this project we were all so passionate about. And we spent so much time together even when we weren’t on set—we’d go to In N’ Out at the end of the day, we’d drive the guys to the set in the morning.
When I spoke with Gia, she told me that you guys used a lot of her clothes as wardrobe for the movie. Did you wear anything of hers that you didn’t want to give back after filming wrapped? Overall, what was your favorite look you got to wear on the set?
We were constantly fighting over the clothes, actually, because we have such similar tastes. The white A.P.C. coat that April wears was my favorite. We bought it for the shoot and only got one, and Gia took it at the end of filming. So I was really sad to give that up—and by that point, it had sold out, so I couldn’t even buy another for myself!
You’re super-active on Instagram—over 1.4 million followers! If you could take a selfie with any one star, who would you pick and why?
Well, I got my selfie with James, so that’s a big one I can cross off my list! Hmm…I’m really into cooking and food right now, so probably Mario Batali.
What are your favorite accounts to follow on the platform?
I follow a lot of food-related ones—I’m always on the lookout for new restaurants to try, so Instagram helps inspire me. For fashion, I really love Wildfox Couture and Brandy Melville. And Stone Fox Bride is amazing—the engagement stories are the best! I follow Cara Delevingne, too.
Let’s talk about American Horror Story for a bit. Before you got that role, were you already a fan of horror movies and TV shows?
I’m definitely the girl who watches a scary movie and then can’t sleep for months afterwards, so no! For some reason, though, I was really into American Horror Story from the beginning. I wouldn’t even TiVo it—I’d watch it live, which is a big deal for me. I remember telling my boyfriend at one point, "I’d kill to be on this show." And it was crazy—not very long after that, I got a call from Ryan Murphy, totally out of the blue one day, and he told me that he had a role he thought I’d be perfect for. I couldn’t believe it. It was pretty surreal.
One of my favorite things about the show is how a lot of the stories and characters are based on real people. I can’t wait for Freak Show to start filming—and to get my American Horror Story makeover again. I have no idea who my character is yet, but by the time they’re done with your hair, makeup and wardrobe, you’re unrecognizable—it’s a total transformation. Plus, this season’s set in the ’50s, and I’ve always wanted to do a period piece!
Your character Madison became a meme last season with that "Surprise, bitch!" line. How many times—ballpark here—have your friends emailed you that GIF of Madison in the red dress?
Literally thousands. I mean, I’m still getting them now.
Your hair’s been blond and brunette, short and long. Is there any style you’re eager to try next—and is there one you’d never, ever consider?
I have to say, I really love being blonde—so I’m probably keeping that for the time being. Although from time to time, I do wonder what it’d be like to do the whole French, super-dark, super-short cut with little bangs—very Juliette Binoche. As far as one I’d never try, I just can’t get on board with the half-shaved head, the undercut. You won’t be seeing that one on me anytime soon.
If you could swap wardrobes with any other star, who would you choose and why?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. Are we talking for street style or red carpet?
I’ll let you pick two, just because you asked.
OK. For street style, Sienna Miller, because I literally love everything she wears. And for red carpet, I’d say either Cate Blanchett or Lupita Nyong’o.
You wear some pretty excellent dresses on the red carpet yourself. Tell me a bit about the process of collaborating with your stylists, Emily Current and Meritt Elliott.
A lot of it has to do with my mood. For the Palo Alto press tour, for instance, I knew I wanted to wear a lot of black. I’d been steering away from wearing black for so long, just because it’s all I used to wear when I was younger! But it felt right for now, and it felt moody and dramatic, so we started discussing designers we liked—Saint Laurent, Balenciaga—and pulled from them. Also, I tend to focus a lot on the dress and not on the hair and makeup look—so for these looks, I knew that I wanted beauty to play a bigger role.
Day to day, though, it’s a joke how often I wear jeans. I’m literally in a t-shirt, jeans and boots every single day. I’ve been living in my Chloé boots—you know, the ones with the studs—for so long that they’re actually falling apart. So I’ve retired them for now, and just got this amazing Rodarte pair to wear instead—they’re black and white with a snakeskin panel in the front.
So shoes are your shopping kryptonite, then?
I was literally shopping online right before you got on the phone with me! I’m trying to find a pair of red leather Chloé boots right now—and there are these Marni creepers I’m dying to get, but they’re sold out everywhere! They’re black with gold cutouts. I’m at the point where I might just tweet a link to see if people can track them down…
Lucky fully supports using Twitter for shopping assistance—and it works more often than you’d think. PSA time: If anyone can find these creepers, please tweet @RobertsEmma!