TAK­ING CHARGE With a film ca­reer firmly es­tab­lished, El­iz­a­beth Olsen sets about forg­ing her own path.

With her tal­ent and film ca­reer firmly es­tab­lished, El­iz­a­beth Olsen’s fo­cus shifts to forg­ing her path and mak­ing her own rules.

Boston Common - - CONTENTS - By Carita Rizzo / Pho­tographed by John Russo Styled by Jac­que­line Zenere / Art di­rec­tion by James Aguiar


at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val pre­miere of Tay­lor Sheri­dan’s Wind River, 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 Mar­lene, about a young girl who, after sev­eral

”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. I’ve started to fig­ure out how I want to func­tion as a hu­man be­ing in the world and bal­ance it with work.”

years of liv­ing with a cult, man­ages to es­cape. The film, which gar­nered nu­mer­ous crit­ics’ awards and brought her to Cannes for the first time, launched a note­wor­thy ca­reer out of the gate. “I’m so lucky [direc­tor] Sean Durkin wanted to go with some­one who had lit­er­ally no film ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Olsen. “I think the rea­son Sean liked the idea was be­cause I didn’t know what I looked like on cam­era, and I didn’t care about what an­gle of my face looked good. It added to the awk­ward­ness of Martha.” The ex­pe­ri­ence, which Olsen says took place dur­ing a rest­less time in her per­sonal life, ce­mented her love for act­ing. “My fa­vorite thing about work­ing and be­ing on set as an ac­tor is hav­ing to be so present in what you’re do­ing,” she says. “It’s such a re­lief—it’s al­most med­i­ta­tive. The only thing that mat­ters is the mo­ment.” Her glo­ri­ous de­but was more luck than strat­egy, Olsen ad­mits. She ea­gerly tried out for guest roles on TV pro­ce­du­rals like CSI and Blue Bloods early on in her ca­reer, read­ing ev­ery script that came her way. “[In the beginning] I was like, ‘What? You want to hire me? Sign me up!’ I was a mess,” she laughs. “But, now, there’s more of an in­ten­tion be­hind it. I’m happy to go from one project to the next, but there has to be a rea­son to do it. And if there isn’t, then I’m go­ing to be un­em­ployed and fig­ure out how to keep my­self busy.” She was im­me­di­ately drawn to no-non­sense FBI Agent Jane Ban­ner in the thriller Wind River, which re­cently hit the­aters and re­quired learn­ing how to op­er­ate a gun and as­sert author­ity in dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions. “I’m scared of ev­ery­thing, and I get to play some­one who is in con­trol and con­fi­dent,” she says. “To get to find that in­side of you is a thrilling thing to do.” Olsen also looks for films with so­cial com­men­tary, like In­grid Goes West, where she stars as a so­cial me­dia in­flu­encer who be­comes the ob­ses­sion of a men­tally un­sta­ble fan. “I’m hop­ing to gen­er­ate a bet­ter through line within the work I’m in­ter­ested in and the work I find in­trigu­ing,” she says, “which doesn’t mean it’s all se­ri­ous and poignant mes­sages. I also think a sense of hu­mor is im­por­tant.” The world of so­cial me­dia is still a mys­tery to Olsen, who only started ex­plor­ing In­sta­gram as a way to re­search her char­ac­ter. Even the idea of a public per­sona ap­pears to per­plex the ac­tress, who, early on, re­ceived tips from her sis­ters about life in the spot­light. “They’re very tight-lipped—no­to­ri­ously so—and I was not car­ing what I was say­ing [in in­ter­views] be­cause I’d as­sumed no one would read it,” says Olsen. “That’s when we’d have con­ver­sa­tions. They’d say, ‘You know, even if you don’t think any­one’s go­ing to read this ar­ti­cle, some­one might pull the quote later for [some­thing else].’ It’s all part of how you hope some­one in­ter­prets you, and how they frame who you are and the work you do.” That ad­vice is now what keeps her from di­vulging much about her pri­vate life, which, ac­cord­ing to news sources, cur­rently in­cludes mu­si­cian boyfriend Rob­bie Ar­nett. “If it only in­volves me, then I’ll share it, but if it in­volves an­other party, ever, then I won’t,” she states. “I don’t want to tell any­one else’s story.” Olsen’s story is that she is lay­ing down roots. For the past 2 ½ years, she has lived in Los Angeles, where she was raised, and feels like it is home. “In New York, I felt so con­fined to such a small space, and I would feel guilty if I wasn’t out all day,” she says. “[Here] I have friends over for din­ner more nights than I don’t. I take ad­van­tage of hav­ing a deck. I cook more than I ever did in New York. I don’t feel bad about be­ing in my home.” So much so that she even­tu­ally sees her­self fill­ing it with a fam­ily of her own. “I just bought a house for the first time. It’s very ex­cit­ing. I’m ren­o­vat­ing it right now, which has been so much fun and stim­u­lat­ing cre­atively,” she says. “But I was also think­ing, ‘There’s this small room up­stairs, which would be good for a kid.’ I don’t know where things will lead, but I do think about it in that way: ‘I think I could raise kids here.’” That, how­ever, seems to be way off in the fu­ture. At this point in time, Olsen looks for­ward to an­other mile­stone. “Your 30s sounds like the best decade for a woman. I can’t wait!” she ex­claims. “I still deal with so many anx­i­eties of how I come across. I’ll go home at night, spin­ning with a guilt com­plex of, ‘Did I say some­thing stupid to that per­son who I re­spect? Do they think I’m a freak?’ I don’t want to think like that any­more. What’s so beau­ti­ful about be­ing older and wiser is you are sit­ting heav­ier in your shoes with your feet on the ground.” Or, as the case may be for Olsen, with your shoes clutched in your hand.

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