Emma Stone's work in front of the camera needs no introduction – she's an Oscar winner, after all, for the 2016 musical romantic comedy-drama La La Land, among three total nominations – but behind the scenes, she is also a bona fide producer, now with her own production company to boot.
Stone and her husband, the director Dave McCary, along with producing partner Ali Herting, formed Free Tree in 2020, and Stone turned to her Zombieland and Zombieland: Double Tap co-star Jesse Eisenberg for their first project. Eisenberg, as it were, was preparing to make his directorial debut with When You Finish Saving the World.
"I wish I could say it was Jesse, because we both love Jesse so much," Stone explained during a Q&A following the film's Sundance premiere this week. "But it was really the script. When we read his script, which he didn't know we were reading, we fell in love with this story. It was so original and beautifully drawn and it just felt very powerful and very singular."
When You Finish Saving the World follows the relationship between Evelyn (Julianne Moore), who runs a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse, and her son, Ziggy, a high school student who becomes semi-famous as a folk-rock singer on social media. The film was adapted from Eisenberg's own Audible Originals drama.
"Knowing Jesse for as long as I have, and also knowing Julianne as long as I have – I met them in the same year – these two people were already on the movie and I was like, 'We would be lucky to be any part of this process,'" Stone added. "Because I know both of them and how wonderful they are in such a powerful way."
For Eisenberg, the feeling was very much mutual. "Less so because we're friends and because I love her personally," he echoed in an interview with Variety, "but more because she's amazing at producing. She's an incredibly savvy artist, and savvy not just at her own art, but savvy about understanding what audiences like [and] what works to shape a story."
"She has a sense of the film industry in a way that very few people have. She has a sense of being involved in stories with different auteurs in a way that very few people have," he said. "So, it was complete luck for me.”