Hometown: New York, NY
Why He's On Our Radar: At 35, Corey Stoll is already a cemented celeb in theater and TV worlds, best known for his Drama Desk Award nominated turn alongside Viola Davis in "Intimate Apparel" and playing detective "TJ" Jaruszalski on NBC's "Law & Order: LA." He's appeared in several films, including "North Country" and "Salt," but broke out on screen in a big way this year as Ernest Hemingway in Woody Allen's hit "Midnight in Paris." On Monday, Stoll received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Supporting Male for his work as the temperamental, famed author.
Congratulations on your Spirit nomination the other day.
Thank you, thank you so much.
Were you surprised? Where did you get the news?
You know, I didn’t know when these were being announced so I was just sort of nursing my hangover from the Gothams and got a call from my manager. So it was a nice hair of the dog.
So this whole year’s been a bit insane for you. How did it all start? How did you get discovered by Woody?
I was doing “A View from the Bridge” on Broadway with Scarlett Johansson. So he came and saw the show, I assume for her. He came once and didn’t come backstage. And I was very disappointed because he was one of my childhood heroes. My senior quote in my yearbook was a Woody Allen quote, which was actually horribly mangled by the yearbook staff somehow. It was supposed to be “Eternal nothingness is OK as long as you know how to dress for it.” And they just printed it as “Eternal ‘huffingness’ is OK” without the punch line. So everybody’s like Corey is very strange. I mean the quote was a little strange to begin with… Anyway, I was disappointed that he didn’t come back. Then a few weeks later we were taking our curtain call - and that’s really the only time you can see who’s in the audience. And he was in the third row. He’d come again. And the next day I got a call that I had a meeting.
So have you ever thanked Scarlett for essentially putting you in touch with Woody?
Yes, yes absolutely. I actually got the role while we were still doing the play. So yeah, I did. I asked her, cause I didn’t have any idea what the part was, what the movie was. So I was trying to get as much information from her as possible. So she said, “All I can tell you is he’s really macho.” So I wore my cowboy boots.
Did she give you any pointers on what to expect once you actually got the part?
No, not really. I think she was a little bummed that there wasn’t a part for her. It was really interesting watching that documentary on Woody on PBS last week. Just seeing how consistent he is with the way he works with actors. You hear the same stories over and over again about how he’s as present as you want him to be [because] there are actors who want to go in and do their thing and get out and he’s happy to accommodate that. And for those actors who are a little bit more needy of attention, he can be there for them too.
So you just said that you initially weren’t told what he was interested in seeing you for. When did you first hear that he had you in mind for Ernest Hemingway?
I showed up at his screening room, editing room, and we talked for a couple of minutes about the play, and he said I’d like you to read something. And of course it was this crazy kerfuffle with his assistants trying to find some material for me to read and then he finally gave me this two-page monologue basically and it said “Hemingway.” I didn’t know, is it E. Hemingway? Is this a period piece? Is it like ‘Play it Again Sam’ where it’s like an imaginary companion to the protagonist? And he said just read it like Hemingway. I was like, when is the last time I read a Hemingway book? But it was all in the writing. So I was given five, ten minutes to look it over and I read for him and then he gave me a little adjustment and I did it again and that was it. It was very easy and very not weird like I’ve heard a lot of auditions with him can be.
I can imagine that’s a little bit daunting. I mean walking in and meeting one of your icons for the first time and then also being handed a script and you’re told to speak as Ernest Hemingway. What ran through your head during the audition?
It was a rush. For some people they need to jump out of airplanes or join a fight club - that big sort of crazy adrenaline rush. It was so exciting. I’ve been in very exciting moments too where I’ve flopped and my nerves have taken over, and for some reason in that moment they didn’t. And luckily I didn’t blow it.
Were you a big fan of Hemingway, the way you were of Woody prior to reading the scene?
Not as much. I’ve always counted “Annie Hall” as one of my favorite movies of all time, but I definitely really liked Hemingway. I had a sort of Hemingway phase and a Vonnegut phase. I sort of went through all those phases and I hadn’t gone back to him since high school or college. Then I got to after I got this role. It was such an opportunity to dive in. As an actor, I rarely find the time to really focus and read for pleasure because there’s always something distracting you. Here you have to read this script, here you have to memorize this or that. This was a great opportunity where I had months to read. It was great. I really grew to love Hemingway.