Emily Jean Stone is born to Jeff and Krista Stone, co-owners of a golf course. "From the time I was 4, I just knew that I wanted to act," she tells the Chicago Sun-Times. Her dad, a film buff, weans her on classic comedies such as his favorite, The Jerk, starring Steve Martin. "I wasn't really a tomboy, but I was loud. And bossy," she tells W magazine. "I wanted to be Steve Martin. Or John Candy."
While at the all-girls Catholic school Xavier College Prep, Stone regularly performs improv comedy as part of the local Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. By age 12, Stone convinces her parents to home-school her so that she can go on auditions. Her tactic to convince them? "I made a foam-board presentation," she explains to PEOPLE.
Accompanied by her mother, Stone, 15, heads to Los Angeles to pursue acting. "I went up for every single show on the Disney Channel and auditioned to play the daughter on every single sitcom," she reveals. "I ended up getting none."
Stone finally gets a minor break: She's selected to appear on the VH1 reality show In Search of the Partridge Family, which auditions contestants for an update of the '70s singing-family series. Stone ultimately wins the role of daughter Laurie, but the show never makes it past a pilot. "It was ridiculous, I will say now," she tells the Arizona Republic. "But it introduced me to some…important people."
Stone scores modest parts on shows such as Malcolm in the Middle before landing a regular role on FOX's short-lived series, Drive. Around the same time, she also tries out for NBC's Heroes. "It was down to the end, and I went in after Hayden Panettiere left the room," she recalls of auditioning for the role of the indestructible cheerleader. "As I passed her, I knew she had the part. I was so bummed out, but a week later, I got cast in Superbad."
Stone steals the show as Jules, the object of Jonah Hill's affection in the bromantic comedy Superbad. The newcomer wins accolades for being "as quirky and interesting as the boys," says the San Francisco Chronicle. The film grosses an impressive $121 million-plus at the box office.
On the heels of Superbad, Stone appears in The Rocker, alongside The Office's Rainn Wilson and Teddy Geiger, whom she begins dating off screen. The romance soon fizzles, but Stone continues making her mark in The House Bunny and the blockbuster flick Zombieland, with Woody Harrelson.
After appearing alongside It girls Amanda Seyfried and Kristen Stewart on the cover of Vanity Fair's Young Hollywood issue, Stone lands her first lead role in the hit comedy, Easy A. Film critic Roger Ebert says the film "takes the familiar but underrated Emma Stone and makes her, I believe, a star." She receives a Golden Globe nomination for playing Olive, a high school student who lies about losing her virginity.
Stone fulfills a childhood fantasy, hosting Saturday Night Live. "It's the greatest week of my life," Stone, 21, tells The Hollywood Reporter during rehearsals. "This is my biggest dream. This alone…this week."
Stone beats out a slew of young actresses for the role of Peter Parker's love interest Gwen Stacy in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man. "She's one of the most spirited people I've ever met and just incredible fun to be around," leading man Andrew Garfield gushes to PEOPLE, feeding into reports that the costars are an item. "On top of which, she's beautiful and talented and kind of impossible to dream up."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library; Seth Poppel/Yearbook Library; Everett; Gary Gershoff/WireImage; Everett; Bauer Griffin