7:17am PT by Scott Feinberg
Toronto 2011: Olivia Wilde on Celebrity Mania, Sexiest Lists, and Playing a Bisexual Stripper in 'Butter' (Video)
A few days ago, I sat down in a Toronto hotel room with Olivia Wilde -- the actress best known for her starring roles on TV's The O.C. (2004-2005) and House (2007-2011) and in the summer movies TRON: Legacy (2010), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), and The Change-Up (2011) -- for an extensive interview about her life, work, and worldview.
Wilde, 27, is just about the hottest thing going at the moment -- not only in terms of her looks (although she is incredibly beautiful, as has been noted by many men's magazines and even Megan Fox, who is no slouch herself), but also in terms of being in-demand for a number of very exciting projects (including Butter, the indie comedy that premiered at the Telluride Film Festival earlier this month and screened at the Toronto International Film Festival last week). It wouldn't have surprised me, therefore, if she acted as if she had better things to do with her time than stop and reflect for 20 minutes -- but she could not have been lovelier. As you can see by checking out the video of our conversation (above), she is humble, smart, and funny. And, as you can see by checking out Butter (which will receive a limited release from The Weinstein Company this fall to qualify for awards consideration, and will then open more widely in 2012), she is fearless as an actress: in this particular film, she plays a tattooed, thong-clad, bisexual stripper who is more than a little deranged -- think Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (1987) morphed with Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen (2003) -- and, in just a few minutes of screen time, all but steals the movie (and its outtakes).
Here are a few excerpts of our conversation...
On getting into acting, with her parents' encouragement, as a kid "It was very therepeutic. It was a way to focus my unbridled energy on something creative. And it was really positive for me... I mean, I really think that many kids are overmedicated when, really, a focused artistic activity could be quite therepeutic in itself. So I'm really glad that they did that instead of putting me on lots of drugs!"
On going to Hollywood 10 years ago "I'm really happy I didn't hit it big then. Gosh, that would be unhealthy... I was very lucky."
On dealing with celebrity "It's really happened on a weird level only recently. I try to laugh at it... I mean, I understand how strange it is, the nature of celebrity, the nature of being chased by, like, twelve paparazzi every day. I mean, I don't do anything interesting. I try to warn then -- when I know they're following me, I say, like, 'I'm going to get my dry-cleaning. I just want to be clear so you don't waste gas money, 'cause it's expensive!... You gotta laugh... I understand that it's fleeting, and I'm not under the impression that this will, kind of, sustain itself at the weird level that it is now. Hopefully they'll realize how boring I am and they'll move on.'"
On appearing on -- and not infrequently topping (see Maxim in 2009) -- most beautiful/sexiest lists "It was in my, you know, early, early twenties when that kind of stuff started happening, and I was like, 'This is so weird'... I haven't gotten one of those things in a while, which either means I'm getting uglier or, you know, they've realized that I'm not into it. You know, anytime someone uses a superlative to describe you, a lot of people are gonna disagree, and, you know, that's all you hear. When someone says, 'You're the best!' all you hear are the people going, 'No you're not!' And it's a weird feeling. I would never elect myself as one of those, you know, sexiest, prettiest, whatever people. You have to say, 'Thank you, it's very nice,' but not cling to it."
On transitioning from TV to film "I think there has been a transition. I always did both at once -- I was doing The O.C. at the same time as shooting Alpha Dog and a few other indies... But, at this point, I have transitioned into films, and the people at House have been so supportive of that -- I mean, really gracious. I owe my film career to them, because they could have easily said, 'No, you may not have a few months off to shoot this movie.'"
On how she landed her first big film roles "It's always something you don't expect. For instance, my role in Cowboys & Aliens -- Jon Favreau gave me that role because he was stuck in a hotel room in Hawaii, and his kids were watching that movie I did called Year One with Jack Black, which didn't do very well -- but apparently all the money we've made was from Jon Favreau's kids ordering it on Pay-Per-View... and Jon was forced to see me act, and he liked the character, and that's why he gave me Cowboys. So, like, you never know what leads to what. He'd never seen House... he didn't even know about it!"
On playing a tattooed stripper in Butter "Just me in my natural state! This is a wig. I'm covering all of my neck tattoos right now. [laughs] I really loved the script for Butter -- it was on The Black List (an industry insiders' list of the best unproduced scripts) for years... [Brooke] was my favorite character -- this amazing, sardonic, weirdo stripper -- a very pragmatic, smart, girl... This movie is probably something I'm more proud of than most of the other things I've done because it is a little-movie-that-could. It's brave material -- it's strange and heartwarming, but also very offensive -- and that's why I love it."
On the road ahead "If I'm lucky, I'll be able to continue mixing my acting life with this humanitarian work that I'm so proud to be a part of... In terms of Hollywood, I'm really excited to be developing some of my own material, and to be directing and producing. I just directed a short which is called Free Hugs, and it's a comedy, kind of in the vein of Bridesmaids... Sun City Picture House is an incredible documentary I'm so proud to be a producer of that is about the building of a movie theater in a refugee camp in Haiti... so I'm really into documentaries, but I'm also into directing narrative... I'm writing a feature-length script at the moment, which is funny -- well, hopefully... the great thing is, because I'm in the place where I can be a little pickier, I can only do things that really fascinate me now... I'm getting to work with some people that I've admired for years, and it's just so much fun... the great thing about having a higher profile is you can help these movies get made... that is a wonderful power, and if I can help do that now, at this point, then I'm very proud to do so!"