Olsen: A sisterly sensation

10 Actors to Watch 2011: Elizabeth Olsen

Elizabeth Olsen, the younger sister of twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, chose a different route to a career in acting than her older siblings.

Shunning child roles, the creation of designer backpacks and paparazzi stampedes, Olsen focused on stage work and the academic rigor of attaining a degree from New York U.’s Tisch School of the Arts.

That strategy has already begun to reap rewards. Her performance in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” has won critical acclaim and awards buzz.

In “Martha,” Olsen plays a troubled woman who recently escaped from a cult. Through flashbacks, an intimate character study unfolds, revealing past emotional trauma and its continued impact.

Olsen says she was not daunted by the role’s complexity.

“I was cast just 2 1/2 weeks before shooting,” she says. “If I had more time to think about it, I might have freaked out.”

She had been auditioning for parts only seven months before she read “Martha.” “It was the only script that required me to do work,” she says. “That really excited me.”

Years earlier, Olsen decided she would study acting before diving into it.

“I knew no matter what I did, whether it was good or bad, I was always going to be compared to my sisters,” she says. “I just wanted to make sure that whenever I put myself out there I would feel as confident as I could.”

Olsen is completing three of the last five classes needed for her degree.

“I’ll finish the other two when the time is right,” she says. “I will finish — that’s very important to me — but I’m not giving myself a deadline so that I can still work in the meantime. But I’m so close.”

Lucky break: “‘Martha Marcy May Marlene.’ It was my second movie but the people I got to work with were people I want to work with for the rest of my life.”
Favorite film: “I can watch ‘Gone With the Wind’ and ‘Annie Hall’ again and again.
Career I’d like to emulate: “Kate Winslet. I think she’s been able to balance all different types of genres, and also different media. I think she chooses really smart work.”

Benedict Cumberbatch | Jean Dujardin | Luke Evans | Josh Hutcherson | Felicity Jones | Taylor Kitsch | Brit Marling | Elizabeth Olsen | Octavia Spencer | Shailene Woodley

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • The Lion King

    Average Movie Ticket Price Falls 4% in Third Quarter of 2019

    Average ticket prices for the third quarter have dropped 4% to $8.93, down from Q2’s $9.26, the National Association of Theatre Owners announced today. However, compared with the third quarter of 2018, ticket price has risen 1.1% from $8.83. The summer box office is down 2.13% from 2018, though the third quarter box office is [...]

  • Tilda Swinton to Preside Over The

    Tilda Swinton to Preside Over Marrakech Film Festival

    Tilda Swinton, the iconoclastic British actress and producer, is set to preside over the 18th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival, succeeding to American director James Gray. Swinton, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA award for best supporting actress for “Michael Clayton,” has been leading an eclectic acting career. She has collaborated with [...]

  • The King Netflix

    Middleburg Film Festival Brings Hollywood to Virginia

    For the last seven years, audiences have flocked to the Middleburg Film Festival. Running October 17th – 21st, and situated in the wine-country hills of historic Middleburg, Virg., the festival usually highlights some of the year’s buzziest titles, and 2019 is no exception. “We’re a smaller festival with fewer overall screenings than other events, so we [...]

  • Kelly McCormick and David Leitch'Fast &

    'Wheelman' Director to Helm 'Versus' From David Leitch, Kelly McCormick (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Wheelman” director Jeremy Rush is in negotiations to helm the action movie “Versus,” with Kelly McCormick and David Leitch producing. Rush will direct the Universal movie from a script penned by “Three Musketeers” scribe Alex Litvak and “American Assassin” writer Mike Finch. Plot details are being kept under wraps, though it will follow the genre [...]

  • Taika Waititi Jojo Rabbit Premiere

    Why Director Taika Waititi Decided to Play Adolf Hitler in 'Jojo Rabbit'

    “Fox Searchlight blackmailed me into doing it,” Taika Waititi told Variety of playing Adolf Hilter in “Jojo Rabbit” at the film’s premiere at American Legion Post 43 on Tuesday night in Hollywood. Staying mum when asked which other actors had been on his wish list to play the role, Waititi explained why he eventually decided [...]


    Brazil’s Pandora Filmes Readies Country’s First Classic Film Streaming Platform

    Brazilian distribution company Pandora Filmes was founded by André Sturm in 1989 as the country’s first independent distributor of foreign and domestic, classic and contemporary arthouse cinema. Still pushing the envelope three decades later, Juliana Brito is representing the company at this year’s Lumiere Festival, looking for classic film titles to fill out the catalog [...]

  • Hannah Minghella

    Bad Robot Poaches TriStar Pictures President Hannah Minghella to Lead Film Unit

    In a surprise announcement Thursday, J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot revealed it has lured away Sony Pictures executive Hannah Minghella to lead its film division. Minghella will report to Abrams and Bad Robot co-CEO Katie McGrath. She will oversee both development and production. TriStar executive vice president Nicole Brown will take up the mantle in the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content