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Olivia Wilde is among the most in-demand actresses in Hollywood today, and in Magnolia Pictures’ Deadfall, she shows a new set of acting chops.
Starring opposite Eric Bana and Charlie Hunnam, Wilde plays Liza, a young woman on the run from a casino robbery with her brother Addison (Bana). After a car crash and the death of their driver, the duo is forced out into the biting cold of winter to continue toward Canada on foot. During their trek, audiences see glimpses of an unusual sibling relationship peppered with sexualized nuance.
“Liza was so different from anything I’d ever played before, and I think I was really attracted to playing someone a little more broken,” Wilde tells THR. “I had spent many years on House playing this very tough woman, I had played tough women in movies, and I realized that was something I was gravitating toward because it’s probably something I aspire to.
“But I’m interested in exploring people who really don’t have their act together completely,” she continues.
Jay (Hunnam) is a recently released convict and former boxing star who finds Wilde on the verge of death in the cold. He ultimately winds up wrapped in Addison’s twisted plan.
“What I thought was really interesting was that he had been a guy who had dedicated his entire life to a very specific dream, which was becoming a world class athlete, and obviously that required all of his time and energy,” says Hunnam. “Then that whole dream had been taken away from him, and now he was coming out of prison and he didn’t know who he was or what his life was gonna be. I thought that was an interesting psychological jump-off point for a character’s story.”
Wilde says she worked closely with Bana to develop a have-they-or-haven’t-they dynamic to keep the audience guessing.
“Eric and I wanted to underplay this ambiguously incestuous relationship that our characters had,” says Wilde. “We wanted it to be hinted at but never confirmed and never explained. It’s kind of unnerving because you’re not quite sure why she’s seducing this other character if she’s clearly in love with her brother. Is that something she resents? Is she voluntarily doing that, or is he forcing her into it? All of these questions kind of added intrigue, and Eric and I agreed that it was best if it was subtle. But it’s enough that it’s kind of creepy.”
Director Stefan Ruzowitzky adds, “I always thought it was more interesting if it’s a little bit open. There are indications, and they definitely have a relationship that is too close and is sick in a way. Whether they have sex, I don’t know. I think Olivia rather thought, ‘yes they do,’ but I think that’s not the point. Something like that, if it’s getting too outspoken, it’s dangerous that it’s getting cheap. I think it’s more interesting if it’s in the head of the audience.”
Hunnam had his own methodology on the Montreal set, keeping a safe distance from his co-stars, which included Kris Kristofferson and Sissy Spacek as his parents.
“I didn’t really know Olivia and Eric Bana’s characters in the film, and I’ve become very estranged from my parents,” he says. “I wanted to go and hang out with Kris, have a beer and talk to him about all the great stories. The guy’s such a legend. But I felt very strongly that I needed to keep my distance and not get too familiar with them.”
Bana, who describes Ruzowitzky as “a real actor’s director,” also steps outside his comfort zone as Addison, a controlling psychotic with a sometimes-sweet side.
“Eric is perfect because Addison, yes he is a psycho, but at the same time, we like him and he has style and he’s elegant,” says Ruzowitzky. “Eric is quite an elegant person and so, I think it also is necessary to have an actor who actually is not usually playing the bad guy, but rather the hero.”
“Addison now is more like Eric Bana than he initially was,” he adds. “That, for me, is the best way to work with actors; to make the part work for them, specifically.”
Deadfall opens in select theaters Dec. 7, but audiences can expect to see a lot more of Wilde in the coming year(s). Among her (many) credits for 2013 is The Longest Week, opposite Jason Bateman; Black Dog, Red Dog, with James Franco and Chloe Sevigne; Better Living in Chemistry, with Ray Liotta and Sam Rockwell; Spike Jonze’s Her, opposite Amy Adams and Rooney Mara; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, co-starring Jim Carrey and Steve Carell; Ron Howard’s Rush, opposite Chris Hemsworth; and Drinking Buddies, with Anna Kendrick and Jake Johnson, which she cites as the project she’s perhaps most excited about.
For more on Wilde’s whirlwind year (and whether she’s ready for a break), watch the video below.
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Santa Barbara International Film Festival