Interview: Olivia Wilde

Chelsey scored an interview with Olivia Wilde after wrap up of her latest film Cowboys & Aliens.

Hi Olivia. Cowboys & Aliens required you to ride a horse, shoot a gun and be outdoors? Sounds like a fun.

It was so much fun. As a kid you pretend to be a cowboy or a cowgirl, but when I started acting I thought the western movie genre was pretty much done. I mourned the genre and thought 'How sad. I never got to be a part of it. They still make Elizabethan dramas, but no westerns'. I was so grateful for this project because not only is it a great, gritty western and action-filled sci-fi, but the female role is just as exciting as the guys. She's not just the prostitute or the ranch wife. She is along for the ride. She's a gunslinging, horseback riding member of the cowboy posse. 

The cliche is westerns are for boys.

That's silly. It's crazy. Growing up I identified with Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and John Wayne. I didn't have any female characters to identify with. When that is the case, it doesn't usually become a genre for that group. Women maybe didn't have someone to look up to so they probably didn't get into the genre. For me, I loved it and yearned for a female character. I hope my character, Ella, will do that and help girls embrace the western genre as much as the boys. Girls love horseback riding and shooting guns and all of these things as much as boys. 

The role was a big challenge for you. As well as the physical elements, you had to speak Apache.

It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. But, I had great linguists who worked with me. Jon (Favreau) and I agreed that if it didn't sound right I wouldn't do it because I'm a stickler for accents and language. 

Did you learn a few Apache lines phonetically, then act out the scene?

It is quite difficult to pronounce it correctly and if you get it wrong, what you are saying means other things. Even learning a few lines was quite difficult for me. In the script it just said 'speak Apache'. Then we had to work out what she would say to them. I was coming up with things like 'Maybe she is describing a place beyond the stars'. You can't say to an Apache linguist 'Here's the line. Translate it into Apache'. They have to understand the concept you are going for and then they find the words for that. It was a cool back and forth. Jon would always say 'Olivia, do you realize if you get it wrong there's only about 10 people in the world who will know' but I was like 'I know, but I can't offend those 10 people' (laughs). We worked on it and they kept it in the movie which shocked me. I was really proud. 

How was it being the only woman on set?

I don't think they saw me as a woman. I think they quickly forgot I was a girl. That was great. That's what we needed. It was really fun to be running around with the boys and riding horses and shooting. I would always fight to be able to shoot more and we always wanted to spin our guns around our fingers. It wasn't easy because the old Peacemakers we were using were heavy. In every scene we'd be spinning our guns and Jon would say 'Cut! You can't all spin your guns'. We'd say 'Who gets to spin their gun?' and Jon would say 'Daniel'. We had a lot of fun together. It was like we were playing a game. We were also committed to making it historically accurate. We did a lot of research and reading and I spent a lot of time at the Autrey Museum. 

So you handled all of the testosterone on set?

Yeah. Even though we are playing cowboys, actors are actors. At a certain point I don't think we are separated by sex. There's something inherently unifying about the fact we are pretending to be other people. Besides, they're not that macho. They put make-up on every day (laughs). They may look manly (laughs). 

Ella is a strong character. It is obviously important to you that girls have strong female role models?

I think there aren't enough female role models for young women in westerns, sci-fi and action movies. It hurts me to see often the only woman in a movie is in a low cut top with her boobs out and lips and the hair. There's not enough for women to aspire to when that's the only option. Although, there have been some in the past. Sigourney Weaver had a huge impact on me in Alien. I think that role was written for a man and she flipped it around. That's what it took to break ground and prove a woman can be an action hero. Angelina (Jolie) has proven it to an extent. Salt was written for a man. She flipped that. It takes those types of pioneers. Look what Kristen Wiig has done with Bridesmaids. Studios said women can't open comedies, but she developed this material and blew it out of the water. It had a huge box office opening. Risks need to be taken and you also have to develop your own stuff. 

Are you developing your own projects?

Yes. I'm working on it, but I've also been working with the best and collaborating with them. On Tron and Cowboys & Aliens I was really involved in the creation of my characters. The same with The Change-Up. I got in early and helped with the writing. I'm teaching myself lessons so I can develop my own material to create better female characters. I write a lot on my own. I write non-fiction articles for different magazines and the Huffington Post. I'm just starting to write my own screenplays. I wrote a short I'm directing this summer, but I'm only acting in a small part. I'm writing a longer feature as well. I'm glad I've waited until now because I'm now working with enough amazing people to learn from them. 

What's your short about?

It's called Free Hugs. It's a comedy in the vein of Bridesmaids. It's about an angry, bitter girl learning to love again. It's not about me (laughs). Everyone thinks it is about me (laughs). It's not. I wrote it a long time ago. It's a female driven comedy for women. Men will like it too, but it's very silly and it will be fun to do. 

You have become Hollywood's 'It Girl'. The past year we have seen you in so many different genres and big films.

I like doing all sorts of different movies. I went from Cowboys & Aliens to The Change-Up just a couple of days later. It was such a different tone, but that's what I love. I love working all of these different muscles so you end up being in shape as an actor. I think if you stick to one thing, you become quite weak. To go from playing Ella to this completely different woman in The Change-Up was amazing for me. 

How do you feel about your status in Hollywood. You have become quite bankable for studios. Do feel any pressure?

No. It is an opportunity. I don't see it as pressure. I can now get films financed that need someone bankable. I think once you carry your own movie on your own, that has to be terrifying. I haven't done that yet. That opening weekend must be terrifying. 

When you go to the director and writers and tell them you want to work with them on the script, how do they react?

I never try and disrupt the structure of the movie or get more scenes or lines . It's not about that. It's about making it more truthful and interesting. I think being raised by writers, I have a respect for the craft of writing. When I got the role in Cowboys & Aliens the writers on Tron phoned Alex (Kurtzman) and Bob (Orci) and said 'Get ready, she's going to want to talk. She's going to want to stay for hours'. Luckily, they like to talk too. So I sat there with Alex and Bob and they'd say 'We are so happy you are into this! We want to keep developing Ella'. I learned so much from them. Once you prove yourself a little bit, people don't think you are in idiot. On Cowboys & Aliens Harrison, Daniel and myself sat with Jon, Bob and Alex for three weeks going over the script. We read scenes and really hashed it out to develop the story. When we got to the set, we could play. It was a very playful set. 

When you see the title Cowboys & Aliens it sounds like it is a slapstick comedy, but it's not.

Yeah. We spent a lot of time laughing and there are some funny moments, but we also took the film very seriously. Everyone worked so hard. It wasn't treated like fluff. We knew we weren't making a gimmicky movie. People in the past have made some gimmicky westerns. We were not one of them. This was not Jonah Hex. This was a real western and we were very serious about that. The tone on set was very committed. 

Your character is very committed. Commitment often means sacrifice. What is sacrifice to you?

I can only strive to be as selfless as some of the characters I play like Ella. The willingness to sacrifice yourself for the ones you love or a cause is something few of us can do. When push comes to shove, are you willing to throw yourself in the fire to save people or to stop violence going on before you? Sacrifice is certainly something tied to the ideal I have for humanity. I strive for selflessness in my own spiritual path. It's no surprise I have now played two characters (Tron and Cowboys & Aliens) that have been driven by it because I'm trying to get close to it. 

To get where you are today in your career, have you had to sacrifice?

I was very driven from a young age and serious about what I wanted to do. I worked hard. I worked professionally when I was 18 which meant sacrificing the life and partying people have in their teens and early 20s. I still had fun. Making movies was fun. I'm very lucky to have been supported from a young age to follow this path and get the education I needed. The only things I have sacrificed are the things I've been more than willing to have lost. As my acting career progressed I have had to sacrifice my privacy and that's something I realize now is this unspoken contract when you get into this business. But, it's something you can't let corrupt you. I have learned this from people like Harrison and Daniel. You have to have a level head about it. With fame, you can choose to throw yourself into it or keep a distance. Sometimes it comes after you, you try to hide, but they find you and make things up about you (laughs).  

Daniel says he doesn't watch his own films. How about you?

I definitely watch my films, but I don't necessarily do it to watch my performance. The thing about film that is different to theatre is when you rehearse for theatre, you are present for everybody's work. You watch everybody's process. You have a sense of the entire production. In making a movie, you may finish all of your scenes and you never saw somebody else's work because they had a parallel story. For me, when I watch my own movies, I often sit there and I'm like 'Oh, that's what they were doing. That's cool'. The same with TV. I'll watch House and be like 'Oh wow, Lisa has a really interesting storyline. Oh, that's cool what Hugh is going through'. The fascinating thing for me is not my work. The fascinating thing is watching this incredibly Herculean task of putting a movie or TV show together.

 
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  • Wice says
    She looks gorgeous and she's not bad as an actress so it's a pity that the reviews for this movie have been pretty abysmal. Rotten Tomatoes, for example, gave it a rating of only 44% or 2 stars. It fared little better on imdb. I know it's unfair to judge on what others have to say, but regardles I'm going to - this might be one for a wet night at home rather than a night out.

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