Three years ago Elizabeth Olsen burst upon the scene with breakout turns in two Sundance films, “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Silent House,” making her a certifiable indie sensation seemingly overnight. Since then she’s made good on the buzz appearing in a number of indies including “Liberal Arts,” “Red Lights” and “Kill Your Darlings,” all of which debuted at the festival where she got her start.
The next few months mark a surprising change of pace for the actress as she moves on from low budget indies to higher budget studio fare starting with this month’s “Oldboy” remake that opens this Friday, directed by Spike Lee. She’ll continue her rise over the next two years by appearing in Gareth Edward’s hugely anticipated take on “Godzilla” in 2014, and as the Scarlet Witch in Joss Whedon’s sure to be record-breaking sequel to “The Avengers.”
Indiewire sat down with Olsen in New York to discuss the daunting challenge of remaking Park Chan-wood’s revenge classic, that film’s infamous twist, and her deep love for blockbusters.
The “Oldboy” press notes allege that this was a risk for you to take on. Did you see it that way?
I sought the part out. It wasn’t an offer. I read the script before I saw the movie and it was shocking to me, it was unbelievable. I was like, “How has this story not been told yet? This is such an amazing idea.”
So you hadn’t seen the original?
No, and then I saw the movie and was like, “Oh my God, this is the most perfect film ever made.”
To me it’s just a story that should be told and told again in 10 years because it’s cool, it’s shocking. If people don’t know it, they should know it. It’s such a fun ride as an audience member to be surprised like that and have such a great twist at the end.
When you first read the script, did you know the twist going in?
No I didn’t. Someone connected it to “The Sixth Sense” earlier today, “Bruce Willis is dead?” It maybe has that kind of feel to it. That’s how I felt with the Korean film.
What was your gut reaction when you first finished the script?
I was heartbroken, I wasn’t grossed out.
For Josh Brolin’s character?
Yeah, and for her. It was so sad to me. I felt so bad for them.
Given that you thought the original was the “most perfect film ever made,” why remake it?
Because I’d never seen it. I wouldn’t of seen it (the original). Maybe I would have because my brother might have made me see it at some point, but I just think people should see it. I don’t have any qualms about it for some reason.
The remake factor?
Yeah, I don’t. Maybe it’s because I just did “Romeo and Juliet” and there are like eight film versions out there. Maybe because good stories deserve to be retold.
So in essence you feel you’re doing a service: making folks discover the original via this Lee’s film.
Yeah, why not.
You’re not an actress afraid of tackling dark, psychologically troubling fare. What do you attribute that to?
It has to do with “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” I really wanted that job and then I got it and things came of it that I didn’t understand at the time, how it all worked. It’s an accessible thing to me and it’s also fun to me to play characters that have some sort of layered psychological damage that are things that maybe an audience doesn’t know. It’s kind of like getting to plant seeds here and there. It’s really clever. There’s something that’s like detective work that I enjoy. I think there’s just something fun about it.
Fun and all, I still imagine roles like this one and the one you play in “Martha” put you in a pretty dark head-space.
They do but you end up having more fun on those sets because you’re going to this dark place and you got to laugh about it. They end up being the most enjoyable experiences. “Oldboy,” hands down next to “Martha,” was my favorite experience on a film. Those two projects were just so much fun because of the crew, because of the director, because of the cast.
Over the next few years you’re gradually making this transition from indie queen to blockbuster ingenue. Was this always the plan?
You want to know what happened? This is what happened: I was confused why I wasn’t auditioning or was being put up for these movies —
The bigger stuff?
Yeah. It was because somebody told me, “Well, the only movies you’ve done are independent films. They don’t think about you because they don’t think you want to do them.” I was like, “Are you guys crazy?! I grew up being obsessed with ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Lord of the Rings’…What are you talking about?” So I was like, “Get me in those rooms, I want to talk to these people who make these choices.” You just put it out there. The energy you put out there is what people receive. I met with Legendary at one point and I loved them, and I love what they do, I love their films. Then later down the line they had “Godzilla” and I thought it was a hilarious idea but then I see this clip of a film that’s not made, and it looks like the best movie ever and I get to be the in that movie. That’s exciting to me. I love the “Iron Man” movies, I love what Marvel does. So to me it’s, “Yes absolutely, want me to dress up and play make believe like a child? Yes please.”