prac­ti­cal magic

How play­ing it safe is El­iz­a­beth Olsen’s se­cret to suc­cess.

Elle (Canada) - - Celebrity - By Sarah Laing Pho­to­graphs by Michael Schwartz

El­iz­a­beth Olsen doesn’t like speed. Like­wise “adrenalin or kicks.” In fact, she’s a self-de­scribed “very safe per­son” whose def­i­ni­tion of dan­ger­ous driv­ing in­volves lip-synch­ing to Pre­tenders songs in the car and film­ing it on her iPhone for her friends.

Which is why she is more sur­prised than any­one by how much she loved learn­ing how to snow­mo­bile for her new film, Wind River. “Go­ing 60 miles an hour slid­ing on ice isn’t my idea of fun,” says Olsen over the phone from Park City, Utah, where pro­duc­tion on the in­die thriller is set to be­gin in a few days. “But I got used to it and loved it. It’s ab­so­lutely breath­tak­ing 10,000 feet up here in the moun­tains.” Olsen—just back from a three­hour ex­cur­sion with her co-star Jeremy Ren­ner and the film’s stunt co­or­di­na­tor—says that it was one of those days that re­mind her why she does what she does: “It’s pretty fuck­ing awe­some.”

That’s an­other thing: Olsen pep­pers her con­ver­sa­tion lib­er­ally with the f-bomb, but she does it in such a mat­terof-fact, low-key way that you stop notic­ing it un­til you, say, tran­scribe a con­ver­sa­tion and see how of­ten it comes up.

“Low-key” also de­scribes ELLE Canada’s day shoot­ing the ac­tress in New York: In fact, one staffer, on her way into the stu­dio, passed a young woman in a trench coat wait­ing in the lobby and it only hit her about five min­utes later that that was our cover star. And that may be ex­actly how Olsen wanted it. “A lot of the time in my life, I try not to take up space—I just want to dis­ap­pear into a wall,” says the 27-year-old. “And then even­tu­ally, when I’m around peo­ple I feel con­fi­dent with, I’ll take up more space.”

As the younger sis­ter of a cer­tain Mary-Kate and Ash­ley, the world’s most fa­mous twins, El­iz­a­beth Olsen didn’t quite grow up in the spot­light, but she cer­tainly felt its glare. (Al­though she’ll be the first to tell you she had a “beau­ti­ful” child­hood in Los An­ge­les filled with happy times play­ing out­doors, bak­ing cook­ies and tak­ing full ad­van­tage of be­ing the youngest of four.)

Olsen stud­ied act­ing at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts af­ter high school. In 2011, her per­for­mance as a young woman who’d es­caped from a cult in Martha Marcy May Mar­lene earned the then 22-year-old crit­i­cal ac­claim and in­die-dar­ling sta­tus that had noth­ing to do with her fa­mous last name.

Fast-for­ward five years and Olsen has man­aged to strike an en­vi­able bal­ance in Hol­ly­wood. She has scored her­self a steady pay­cheque with an on­go­ing role as the Scar­let Witch, a quirky sor­cer­ess in the Marvel h

su­per­hero pan­theon. Olsen orig­i­nated the role in last spring’s Avengers: Age of Ul­tron and reprises it this spring in Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War, out May 6. (“So, so fun” is how she de­scribes her ex­pe­ri­ence.) And while she’s thriv­ing in big-stu­dio pro­duc­tions (she was also in 2014’s Godzilla), she still man­ages to squeeze in smaller films, like this spring’s Hank Wil­liams biopic, I Saw the Light, dur­ing her months off.

“The only thing I care about is if the team is great, the script is good and the char­ac­ter is some­one I can con­nect to in my gut. Af­ter that, it’s just a fun fuck­ing job,” says Olsen, who does say she prob­a­bly would have made more “in­ter­est­ing” de­ci­sions af­ter the suc­cess of her first role if she’d be­lieved the next-big-thing hype around her. “I don’t have any re­grets—I was just so happy to be work­ing—but I was forc­ing my­self not to give power to ‘the sys­tem.’” And then, with a flash of the level-headed prag­ma­tism Olsen dis­plays over and over again in con­ver­sa­tion, she adds: “But the sys­tem does have power, and I’ve learned how to use it. It’s smarter than to ig­nore it.”

What Olsen means by “us­ing the sys­tem” isn’t as mer­ce­nary as it sounds—it’s just be­ing choosier about dir­ec­tors and pro­duc­ers than she was when ev­ery­one kept telling her Martha Marcy May Mar­lene would change her life and she couldn’t quite be­lieve them.

Some­thing that she says she won’t re­gret hold­ing out on is so­cial me­dia: Olsen has fa­mously been dis­in­ter­ested, and that’s not chang­ing any­time soon. She doesn’t have a pres­ence on it and has no plans to start, de­spite the grow­ing pres­sure for ac­tors to have huge num­bers of fol­low­ers. “I just have an old-school mind­set. Also, girls I look up to, like Jen­nifer Lawrence, Rooney Mara and Ali­cia Vikan­der, don’t have it, and it hasn’t af­fected their ca­reers re­motely.”

Olsen ac­knowl­edges that celebri­ties can use so­cial me­dia for things like draw­ing at­ten­tion to pet causes and con­nect­ing di­rectly with fans, but it’s that “celebrity” fac­tor that gives her pause. “I’d rather live as pri­vate a life as I can. I’m not try­ing to be a mys­te­ri­ous per­son, but I’d rather be seen as an ac­tor from job to job,” she says. “I’ve never lived my life try­ing to be an in­flu­encer; I’m happy keep­ing my own opin­ions for fun din­ner con­ver­sa­tion.” For Olsen, the “sac­ri­fice” of open­ing her life up to pub­lic scru­tiny out­weighs the po­ten­tial for do­ing good. Nor does it seem to be a tempt­ing av­enue for set­ting the record straight when it comes to her love life. (Since break­ing off her en­gage­ment to ac­tor Boyd Hol­brook in 2014, Olsen has been “linked” to Chris Evans, Alexan­der Skars­gård and, most re­cently, her I Saw the Light co-star Tom Hid­dle­ston.)

Olsen says it’s just some­thing that is “in her bones” and in­flu­enced heav­ily by her no­to­ri­ously pri­vate older sis­ters. “From an out­side point of view, peo­ple have an in­ter­est in peo­ple they’ve seen grow up,” she ex­plains. “But no one in my fam­ily has ever cared to feed into that or make it more in­ter­est­ing than it is be­cause, re­ally, it’s not.”

Un­sur­pris­ingly, Olsen also isn’t a huge lover of fan mail. “When I’m film­ing on lo­ca­tion, our pro­duc­tion of­fice is listed and peo­ple send stuff. It makes me un­com­fort­able. I don’t want peo­ple to know what I’m up to or where I am.”

It’s also why Olsen is still rent­ing in L.A. (She lives with a room­mate, a bestie since mid­dle school whom she loves to cook for, FYI.) “The mo­ment I own a house, it be­comes pub­lic knowl­edge,” she says, go­ing on to de­scribe the “crip­pling” na­ture of pa­parazzi in L.A., where, af­ter be­ing spot­ted, she won’t go home for sev­eral hours in case they fol­low her. “It’s pretty vi­o­lat­ing. At night when you can’t see any­thing be­cause the flashes blind you, that’s re­ally dis­con­cert­ing.”

It’s no won­der, then, that when it comes to her style, Olsen talks about want­ing to feel “safe” on the red car­pet in front of pho­tog­ra­phers. But that’s some­thing she’s work­ing on over­com­ing. “I’ve been very con­ser­va­tive, but I’m try­ing to al­low my­self to feel con­fi­dent with be­ing sexy,” says Olsen, who shopped for flan­nel shirts and cargo shorts in the boys’ depart­ment at Gap when she was a kid be­cause be­ing a tomboy made her feel “tough.” There was also an An­nie Hall phase in high school where she wore sus­penders and blaz­ers.

“Now I like be­ing a woman and I like wear­ing dresses, but my com­fort zone isn’t frilly and girlie,” says Olsen, who ad­mits she felt a lit­tle “un­com­fort­able” with the pas­tels and ruf­fles she wore for our photo shoot. “Diane Keaton is sexy as hell, and I haven’t seen her neck in years,” she says, laugh­ing. “I think feel­ing em­pow­ered as a woman is so dif­fer­ent for each per­son. It’s a per­sonal pref­er­ence.”

An­other woman Olsen ad­mires in­tensely is the “in­cred­i­ble” Scar­lett Jo­hans­son, her co-star in Cap­tain Amer­ica: Civil War. “She has had the ideal ca­reer,” says Olsen. “She’s still able to work with the Coen brothers and Spike Jonze and be the lead fe­male in one of the most suc­cess­ful ac­tion films around.”

Be­fore ScarJo-level world dom­i­na­tion, how­ever, Olsen needs to learn how to use her iPhone. “I need help! For the long­est time, peo­ple would send me text mes­sages and it was all just alien faces. And then my friends were like, ‘Lizzie! Up­date your emo­jis!’”

The one as­pect of the wired world she is all about? A “very prac­ti­cal” (of course) app that sends a masseuse to your house on de­mand. “That’s pretty fuck­ing cool to me! What more do you need?” n

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