September 11, 2011 8:45pm PT by Scott Feinberg
Toronto 2011: Elizabeth Olsen, Mary-Kate and Ashley's Younger Sister, On Journey to Oscar Contention (Video)
Elizabeth Olsen -- or "Lizzie," as the 22-year-old introduces herself to me before our interview in Toronto on Saturday -- looks like a star. It's not just metaphorically, in that she's very beautiful, but literally, too, in that she greatly resembles her older twin sisters, Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen. Mary-Kate and Ashley have been famous for the better part of the last quarter-century; Lizzie, meanwhile, has managed to retain her anonymity and attend summer camps, go to college, and live a relatively normal life. For better or worse, though, thanks to a little movie called Martha Marcy May Marlene, Lizzie's life is about to change.
Lizzie won the starring role in Sean Durkin's low-budget indie thriller last year. It was just the second film she had ever worked on (the other, Peace, Love, & Misunderstanding, is also playing here at the Toronto International Film Festival), but she did a fantastic job in it playing a girl who is drawn into and then runs away from a cult. It premiered to great acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival back in January.
Fox Searchlight, which bought Martha at Sundance, will release the film on October 21, and plans to keep its star in the public eye as much as possible over the coming weeks and months. Their hope is that, based on the strong critical response to the film, the exposure might help Lizzie become one of the youngest best actress Oscar nominees in history.
Over the course of my 16-minute conversation with Lizzie -- which you can see in its entirety by clicking on the video at the top of this post -- I was greatly impressed with how composed, articulate, and downright likable she is. These are all attributes that will serve her well over the long, hard slog that is an awards season campaign.
Among the topics that we discussed:
-- What it was like growing up in the Olsen family (aside from her sisters, her oldest brother is an aspiring screenwriter; her mother was a professional ballet dancer; and her dad who is a top amateur golfer).
-- What interested her as a kid ("I have, like, this masculine aesthetic... when I was in high school, I preferred to read Bukowski, and Palahniuk, and men who... write about sex addicts and alcoholics").
-- How she got the part in Martha (she'd only been reading scripts for six or seven months when she received "the movie with the M's" and was soon thereafter commuting between the upstate New York sets of Peace and Martha).
-- What she drew upon for her performance (including the true story of a girl that Durkin knows who endured something similar to what Olsen's character goes through).
-- The chronological way in which Martha -- which jumps between a farm and a lake house -- was shot.
-- Her nude scenes in Martha ("When it's necessary, it's necessary").
-- Oscar buzz ("It's crazy!").
-- And her family's reaction to the film ("They haven't seen it... none of my family has seen it. My dad's gonna see it with me tomorrow [Sunday], and then everyone else in my family is gonna see it at the premiere").