Elizabeth Olsen On Parties, Her Famous Sisters And Her New Movie 'Silent House'
March 7th, 2012 4:30pm EST
2011 was a triumphant year for Elizabeth Olsen and 2012 is poised to be even bigger. Her debut film Martha Marcy May Marlene showed her talents in a big way, immediately distinguishing Olsen from her sisters Mary Kate and Ashley. She was nominated for many awards for her portrayal of an escaped cult member.
Her first film of 2012 is the horror thriller Silent House. Filmed seemingly in a single 88 minute take, the camera stays on Olsen as she hides and runs from people invading her remote home. Olsen reflected on her introduction to Hollywood and the world with a cool poise showing she knows exactly how to handle herself in this business.
Q: How did you summon and maintain the emotional intensity for the duration you need to?
EO: Well, eventually it became a muscle. I actually, it became detrimental in my personal life because I remember having a meeting with someone at NYU. They weren’t understanding. I took the semester off but then they told me that I didn’t have my papers in on time but I did and this is such a personal story, but anyway. I did have my papers in on time. My advisor didn’t file them when they were supposed to be so it was documented that I didn’t have my papers in on time. So they expected me to pay for 40% of my semester. And I was just like, “Wait, but I filled out paperwork before. I don’t understand.” And I was having this conversation with this woman, eventually it all got cleared up, but I’m sitting there and immediately tears come down my face. I’m like, “I’m so sorry. I don’t usually, I’m really good, I can’t believe I’m crying right now.” It was because my body was literally pushed so many times and there are so many easy buttons to get me emotional. I was so mortified that I’m dealing with something business/work oriented and I just made it so personal really fast. So it became this automatic muscle and I think I have snot come before tears so I got a sinus infection at the end of filming. But you just play with your imagination.
Q: Did you also want to layer in without telegraphing her secrets that are revealed throughout the film?
EO: Yeah, there are a few moments that I specifically chose that I don't think anyone else would notice, maybe unless they saw the movie a few times. But there are those moments that I personally thought this girl’s living in the present moment and right now she’s just scared of this thing that she thinks is after her and she’s unaware of what’s going to happen. A lot of times I didn’t need it but then there are some moments, like just for instance, I don't know, just some moments that you kinda just wanna make a moment of her clearly kind of being dazed somewhere else and then coming back to the present.
Q: Did you talk about it specifically with the directors?
EO: We didn’t talk about it. That’s just what I chose to do. I mean, to tell you the truth, we really were focused on everything technically so everything else you just tried to make it work.
Q: Has your family seen the movie?
EO: No, I saw a screening of it with my best friend Clay and we saw it but that’s it.
Q: So dad hasn’t seen it?
EO: Dad hasn’t seen it. Dad will see it. Mom, I don’t want her, my mom’s terrified of scary movies but she’ll probably see it just ‘cause she loves me. My brother’s a big horror movie fan so he’ll see it. My younger siblings, my sisters probably will see it, my younger siblings have yet to be allowed to see a movie I’m in.
Q: Does that inform your future choices?
EO: Yeah, exactly. I’m like, “I just want Cory to see me in something.”
Q: How was the Vanity Fair party?
EO: It was fun. I was with my best friend Clay and we just would move from different groups of people. I knew some people there and so you talk with those people and then they’re going somewhere else so then you’re like wander over and you’re like, “Now I don’t know what to do. I’m just kind of standing here with my best friend and we could be doing this somewhere else but we’re just walking.” Then you run into someone you know or a friend of someone you know. It was definitely interesting. Everything’s a first right now so I’m just kind of like going with it and accepting that just be happy and wear a smile and be thankful that you get to be here and be gracious.
VIDEO Silent House (Clip Reflection) VIDEO
Q: Does anyone make you starstruck?
EO: Tom Colicchio. Oh no, Catherine O’Hara. I literally had the biggest moment in front of Catherine O’Hara, because my best friend Clay the week before, she thinks we’re crazy. She probably thinks we’re on Glee. I don't think she knows. She had no idea who I was and it was so embarrassing. The week before, my friend Clay goes, “If we see Catherine O’Hara, I’m going to die.” And we’re like, “Why would we see Catherine? Like that’d be cool but we probably won’t get to see her.” She just is right there and we go, like at the same time, we both open our eyes and cover our mouth and she’s just like, “How.” And we’re like, “No, no, no, we’re like the biggest fans. Like we have senses of humor because of you. Like we love you. We’ve been quoting you since we were in elementary school.” And she was like, “Okay. Okay. Nice kids.” She thought we were crazy. We were like, “No, we’re serious.” She’s like, “Okay.” It was such a weird moment.
Q: You can design your own career at this point. How do you want to do that? Will you do big blockbusters or stay in indies?
EO: Well, what’s happening right now for me is that I’m first off so excited that right now I have choices. So I’m going through this thing where I’m like, “I’ll do that and I’ll do that and I’ll do that.” I kind of want to do everything because I’ve never been in a position like this before so it’s really exciting. So I’m doing a small part in this Allen Ginsebrg movie Kill Your Darlings. I’m in four scenes. I can’t wait to work on it. So that’s cool. Then I get to do a movie with Glenn Close for three months of my life and I’m very excited to do that, and that’s a period piece. I’m just trying to do things right now that are something that I’ve never worked on before, that’s a challenge and that is interesting to me and it’s with people that I respect and want to work with. And I’m also well aware that the life of an actor goes in and out and goes up and down. So right now I feel very lucky to be working and I’m going to keep trying to work until I have so many misses that I need to try and work again back up. But I’m very well aware that it’s going to be a roller coaster and right now I just feel so lucky that I’m in a position where I get to work on things that really get me going. And I also don’t have children and I don’t have to pay for a mortgage and things like that, so I can make choices to do independent movies because I just take care of myself. So I’m also lucky in that way. “Because I don’t have a child,” that sounded weird.
Q: But you don’t have to do something for the money.
EO: Yeah, I don’t have to do something that I don’t want to do which I understand. Like when I’m a parent, I’m going to try to do as many animation movies as possible. Are you kidding me? I’m going to pay for tuition very easily.
Q: Growing up in fame firsthand, what were your feelings about that were it to happen to you? Did you not want it or prepare for it?
EO: Yeah, I think both of those things. I don’t really want it to infiltrate my personal life and for the most part I don’t do anything that - - like I don’t really live in a part of L.A., I didn’t grow up in a part of L.A. where are like hotspots, so so far it’s fine. I’m very well aware of what reality is and I’m very well aware of what these other things are and that’s work. Even if you’re going to a party, that’s work. It’s not your life. It’s definitely not my reality. I’m seeing my little sister play in her championship basketball game tonight. That’s my reality. So I don't know, you just try and work and know that that’s why you’re doing your job.
Q: Your first films have been so impressive, what kind of training did you have before movies? Did you go to acting school?
EO: I very consciously chose to focus on theater when I was in high school because I wanted to be an actor. I kind of thought the idea of doing film work was very intimidating to me because it is a much more public thing that you’re choosing to do. So theater to me just felt like something that I wanted to do when I was in high school. So I went to a conservatory. I worked obviously at school and I did camps my whole life and I also did acting classes when I was a little kid with professional child actors, but I didn’t do that myself. I just enjoyed doing it. Then when I was 17 I went to Strassberg school in New York for a summer and then I went to NYU at the Atlantic Theater Company. Then I went abroad to the Moscow Art Theatre School and I understudied off Broadway for a semester while I was in school. That’s how I got my equity card. Then I understudied on Broadway. So my entire sophomore year, I understudied and was in school fulltime doing conservatory. That was really an informative time because my school then became very active in letting me audition for things, because the Atlantic Theater Company is a great theater company of its own in off Broadway theater in New York that does amazing material. They would have me understudy or audition for understudy parts that they were producing and so I got to meet casting directors that way and then I got to meet an agent that way. Then I started auditioning for things once I stopped, because at NYU you have three years of a conservatory training and I decided I didn’t want to try and work until at least those years are done. So then I started auditioning and then that is just what happened. That is two years ago.
Q: Were you an acting geek?
EO: I am a theater nerd and I didn’t realize I was until I went to theater school in college.
Q: What other passions do you have?
EO: Yes, I’m a huge foodie. I love cooking and I love going to restaurants. So that’s something that I actively do. For my birthday, my mom went to Williams Sonoma and she bought me pots. I couldn’t be more happy to have a new set of pots because I was using really bad ones before that made everything burn and it was so frustrating. That’s a big passion of mine. I also just like traveling. If I get the opportunity to I try and take it, especially if someone else is going to send me somewhere I will take it. So I love traveling and I really like being a student.
Q: What’s your dish?
EO: My best thing? Well, I started doing dinner parties when I was 17. I did dinner parties for my friends seasonally which is kind of weird. So I try and cook based on whatever the season is. I haven’t been doing as much cooking now but during the summertime I would just get so many heirloom tomatoes and cook them three different ways. Or I really like making this one pasta soup with raw zucchini. You just make zucchini look like pasta and you marinate it in a sauce and it just becomes a pasta.
Q: Theater nerd question, what’s your dream role?
EO: Yeah, I have a few. There’s a Eugene O’Neill play called Strange Interlude and it tracks the life of a woman from about 20 until 50. So I think I have to be a little bit more in the middle of those ages to be able to play that part. That’s a big one. I’d really love to do a Sam Shepherd play and I’d really love to do something by Martin McDonagh, whatever it is, whether it’s television, a movie. Seeing his plays in a theater is so fun for me and I just think he makes it a ride, so those and I also love Lucy Thurber who’s not an unknown but she does awesome, awesome plays that are kind of removed from reality a little bit. I got to do a workshop of hers when I was in college at a theater festival and I’m a big fan of hers.
Q: What’s your dream country to visit?
EO: Well, I really want to go to Rome, Italy and Greece.
Q: Favorite L.A. restaurant?
EO: Ink, have you been there? Unbelievable.
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Photo Credits: Andrew Evans / PR Photos