Just turned 19, tiny, pale-skinned actress Emma Roberts is in amused agreement with her "Valentine's Day" director Garry Marshall when she's told that he said her age group "makes love with its thumbs."
"Our generation is definitely all about the texting and the e-mailing and the BBM-ing and the IM-ing; it's endless. I think a lot of things get misconstrued, because tone of voice is so important," she says, by turns claiming she doesn't text as much as she used to, then declaring she still loves it. "There should be a sarcasm font . . . because I'll make a sarcastic comment and the other person thinks I'm being rude when I'm not."
She pulls on her coat as the temperature creeps down on the patio restaurant of a West Hollywood hotel. An avid reader, she says she enjoys the works of Joan Didion and Molly Jong-Fast -- as well as Chuck Palahniuk and Nicholas Sparks, two authors whose books it's hard to imagine peacefully coexisting on the same shelf. Roberts dabbles in painting, assembling collages, writing and music, but says she's doing less of that these days. Despite her handful of releases (including an album featuring offbeat singer-songwriter Jill Sobule), she's uncomfortable performing in front of crowds.
"And doing a music video is so embarrassing. I don't think I'll be doing [another] album unless I write it for someone else. I have stage fright. I can't ever do theater because I would pee my pants," she says, laughing. "It's way too nerve-racking. There's a comfort in being able to mess up when you're on a movie set."
"Valentine's Day" traces a number of mildly intersecting plot threads involving breakups, makeups and start-ups. The cast includes Jessicas Alba and Biel, Taylors Lautner and Swift, Roberts' Aunt Julia and Shirley MacLaine ("It was amazing to be in the same room with her. . . . She's cool; you can tell she's seen everything").
"I'm kind of excited to see how it all ties together," says Roberts, who's the daughter of actor Eric Roberts. "Because everyone kind of crosses over into each other's stories. It'll be cool to see what everyone did with their parts." Did her scenes overlap with Julia's? No, but "it was nice to visit her on set before I started working."
When asked about her favorite films, apart from Sofia Coppola's oeuvre, Emma Roberts sings the praises of romantic films giddy ("What Happens in Vegas") and sad ("The Notebook"), as well as her aunt's "My Best Friend's Wedding." Those leanings, and Julia's enthusiastic endorsement of Marshall, brought Emma into the horde of actors in the film.
"I'm a huge fan of movies like 'Love Actually' and 'He's Just Not That Into You,' and this is very similar to both. So I thought it would be a really fun movie that I'd want to go see," she says. (So did a lot of other folks: The movie pulled in an estimated $52.4 million over the weekend.) Roberts shrugs off the notion of some researchers that rom-coms can be harmful. "I don't think [the genre] is accurate of everyday life, but, at the same time, everyone's had that one romance that is kind of like the one in the movies and that's why it's so special."
Not that she's ever had a storybook Feb. 14 herself.
"I've never had a boyfriend on Valentine's Day. I've never been on a date on Valentine's Day. I usually hang out with my girlfriends and we go and get sushi and see a movie and like, do nothing," she says. And this year didn't seem to be looking much better -- while the young star is seeing someone now, she was headed off to London this weekend to do press for the movie. "I'll be probably just with friends. I'm not going to do the 'significant other' thing . . . Valentine's Day doesn't like me."