With her talent and film career firmly established, Elizabeth Olsen’s focus shifts to forging her path and making her own rules.
With a film career firmly established, Elizabeth Olsen sets about forging her own path.
atthe Cannes Film Festival premiere of Wind River, the directorial debut of Central Texas native Taylor Sheridan, Elizabeth Olsen climbs onstage inside the iconic Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes. Looking old-school glam in a plunging blushcolored Miu Miu gown, she takes in the scene, smiling as the audience delivers its enthusiastic applause and Sheridan introduces the film. It is not Olsen’s first time at Cannes, but from her perspective, it might as well be. “The first time I was here, I didn’t soak it in,” says the actress during our beachside stroll the next day. “I was overwhelmed, and I don’t have very many memories of being present.” This time would be different, she determined, starting with the decision to clutch her pink heels in her hand while onstage. “During Sundance, I had a bit of a panic attack when we were onstage. You have all the lights on you, and there’s really no point of focus. I hate it. It freaks me out. So, I thought, ‘I’m going to take my shoes off.’ And I remember every moment,” she says. As not even a 2am post-premiere photo call manages to rattle the actress, you get the sense Olsen knows not only how to navigate the chaos that is the world’s most renowned film festival, but is also competently steering a career that, in the past seven years, has launched her to fame far beyond what maybe even she expected. “Now that I feel a bit more solid about what I’m making and I have a very clear intention for myself, I’m a happier person,” explains the 28-year-old. “I’ve started to figure out how I want to function as a human being in the world and balance it with work.” She may feel like she is only now coming into herself, but from the outside, it seems like Olsen has always had a strong sense of direction. While the actress has, in the past seven years, made an impressive 18 films—ranging from wellreceived indies like Martha Marcy May Marlene to major blockbusters like Godzilla and The Avengers films—her love of acting and performing was established long before her 21st birthday. The youngest sister of twins Mary-Kate and Ashley made her on-screen debut at age 4 in her siblings’ films, before deciding at age 7 she would not pursue the same path as her famous sisters. “I did try and audition when I was younger. I thought, ‘Well that sounds fun. I see what my sisters do.’ I went on a few auditions, Spy Kids being the first one, and they asked me to read the script. It looked bigger than the Bible to me,” Olsen recalls. “I didn’t understand why I would ever read something that big. I realized I would miss out on after-school sports and forfeit things I enjoyed doing at a young age. My dad had me write a list of pros and cons, and the cons side was bigger. I decided to stick to my after-school activities.” Despite the 15-year hole in her résumé, Olsen never gave up acting. “The [activities] my family [came out to support] me in were probably painful to watch,” she laughs. “From ballet recitals to plays to some experimental things—it was constant. But [these] were hobbies, not a job.” They were, however, the things she cared about the most. After high school, Olsen enrolled at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she learned the discipline of the craft, even spending a semester at the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia. “All these teachers [were] trying to scare [us], letting [us] know that [acting] is hard and you’re going to be rejected 99 percent of the time. Every time someone said it to me, it was a challenge, like, ‘I’ll show you.’” That, she did. Olsen’s breakout role came as the titular character in Martha Marcy May