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Category: Elizabeth Olsen

Are Elizabeth Olsen and Carey Mulligan paving way for new nudity?

October 27, 2011 |  2:43 pm

Elizabeth Olsen

For the last couple weeks, Carey Mulligan was making the rounds to help publicize her soon-to-be-released film "Shame" before heading off to Australia to work on Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of "The Great Gatsby." In the NC-17 "Shame," directed by Steve McQueen, Mulligan plays the younger sister of a man (Michael Fassbender) with a crippling sex addiction, which seems to be the result of some shared trauma between them. In one particular scene, which audiences seem to respond to as equal parts disturbing and disarming, he discovers her in his apartment using his shower. Her bold refusal to cover up as he talks to her is a signature point in the film.

A few weeks back when Elizabeth Olsen was in Los Angeles for a whirlwind promotional tour for "Martha Marcy May Marlene," the 22-year-old perked up when a conversation turned to the 26-year-old Mulligan. (It should perhaps be noted that both "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Shame" are being distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.)

"I've loved the movies Carey Mulligan has been in in the last year and a half or two years," said Olsen. "She's made cool choices, especially this year with 'Drive' and 'Shame.' That's amazing. Those are two movies it would be great to be a part of. I saw 'Shame' at the [New York Film] Festival. I did like 'Shame.' My personal taste, it's a little too graphic for me. I understand why all of it was there, but..."

Her response naturally (honest!) brought up the issue of Olsen's own offhanded nudity in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." In the film, written and directed by Sean Durkin, Olsen plays a young woman who is in the first stages of regaining her identity after fleeing from a cult. Certain societal norms seem for the moment beyond her, such as when she curls up on the corner of a darkened bed where her sister and brother-in-law are making love, or the way she casually shucks her clothes to skinny-dip in a lake, or unabashedly changes into a dress right in front of her sister.

Whether these high-profile actresses baring themselves marks a shift in the attitudes of young performers to nudity in the movies remains to be seen. Perhaps things are swinging back the other way from the modesty of the past few years, itself a response to the era of ubiquitous screen-capture infamy, when a moment from a film can be decontextualized to its basest, barest essentials and live forever on the Internet. While the bra-in-bed sex scene has become an accepted norm for audiences, are these few performances pointing the way to a new candor?

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'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Sean Durkin on researching cults [video]

October 20, 2011 |  3:42 pm

Elizabeth Olsen and Sean Durkin

In this latest clip from Friday's Envelope Screening Series Q&A for "Martha Marcy May Marlene," writer-director Sean Durkin gives some insight into how he envisioned the group from which Elizabeth Olsen's title character must escape -- the film dramatizes her struggle to shake herself loose from the emotional and psychological grip of a nameless cult.

In fact, the word "cult" is never used in the film, and actor John Hawkes, who plays the leader of the group, has said he preferred the term "community" to describe them. Picking up aimless young people and drawing them into an agrarian commune run on a darkly oppressive power dynamic and subtle mind games, the group preys upon lost souls such as Olsen's Martha.

Doing some research of his own, adding a bit of imagination and with a keen sense for human behavior, Durkin shows just enough of the group at work to create an unnerving disquiet that carries over to after Martha has reunited with her sister (Sarah Paulson), who has no idea what she is truly dealing with.


No sibling rivalry for Elizabeth Olsen

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Sean Durkin on casting Martha [video]

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Elizabeth Olsen on role prep [video]

-- Mark Olsen


Photo: Elizabeth Olsen and Sean Durkin. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times


'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Sean Durkin on creating Martha [video]

October 19, 2011 |  6:00 am

Elizabeth Olsen and Sarah Paulson in Martha Marcy May Marlene
In this clip from the Envelope Screening Series Q&A for "Martha Marcy May Marlene," the film's writer-director, Sean Durkin, and breakout star Elizabeth Olsen discuss how together they created the enigmatic puzzle of the film's lead character.

The mouthful of a title comes from the three names Olsen's character goes by in the film (Martha, Marcy May and Marlene), creating a head-spinning confusion for her own sense of self, as once she breaks away from the cult she had fallen in with she struggles to rediscover who she really is inside. The film's buzzing, jangling power comes in no small part from Durkin and Olsen's ability to put the viewer right inside the young woman's head, making her interior struggles understood often without words. 



No sibling rivalry for Elizabeth Olsen

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': John Hawkes on playing 'evil' [video]

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Elizabeth Olsen on prepping for the role [Video]

-- Mark Olsen


Photo:  Elizabeth Olsen, left, and Sarah Paulson in a scene from "Martha Marcy May Marlene"

Credit: Associated Press

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': John Hawkes on playing 'evil' [video]

October 18, 2011 | 12:18 pm

John Hawkes as cult leader Patrick in Martha Marcy May Marlene
This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Actor John Hawkes, an Oscar nominee this year for his role in "Winter's Bone," continues his streak of quietly authentic performances in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." In the new film, which opens Friday, Hawkes convincingly conveys a sense of still, inner menace to become a commanding presence as the leader of a self-styled agrarian community (most would call it a cult) that ensnares a young woman (Elizabeth Olsen) by leaching away her sense of self.

Though he shows flashes of violence and a darker malevolence, Hawkes' character wields his power over his young charges largely through words and mindgames. Hawkes' performance of the obscure Jackson C. Frank folk tune "Marcy's Song," which was filmed live with the actor accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, is at once intimate and chilling. 

In this clip from last Friday night's Envelope Screening Series conversation, Hawkes talks about how he and writer-director Sean Durkin worked to keep his character from seeming like an overt villain.

[For the record, 2:13 p.m., Oct. 18: A previous version of this post had the title of the song Hawkes sings in the film as "Martha's Song."]


No sibling rivalry for Elizabeth Olsen

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Elizabeth Olsen on prepping for the role [Video]

Sundance 2011: "Martha Marcy May Marlene" breaks out -- and faces some obstacles

-- Mark Olsen


Photo: John Hawkes as cult leader Patrick in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Credit: Jody Lee Lipes/20th Century Fox

'Martha Marcy May Marlene': Elizabeth Olsen on role prep [Video]

October 17, 2011 | 12:57 pm

John Hawkes, Elizabeth Olsen, Louisa Krause and Christopher Abbott appear in "Martha Marcy May Marlene"
This year's Envelope Screening Series kicked off Friday night with a showing of "Martha Marcy May Marlene" followed by a Q&A with the film's writer-director, Sean Durkin, and three of its stars, Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes. One of the breakout hits to emerge from the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the film has since accomplished the rare feat of also screening at the Cannes, Toronto and New York film festivals.

The film covers the initiation and aftermath of a young woman (Olsen) being inducted into and escaping from a small, back-to-nature cult (though that word is never used) overseen by a darkly charismatic leader (Hawkes). Once she makes her getaway, the woman lands with her long-estranged sister (Paulson), who has no idea what her sibling has been through.

Powerfully quiet and disconcerting for its nerve-jangling sense of unease, the film purposefully leaves viewers with questions as to just what has happened to the girl -- how and why did she end up there in the first place -- as well as whether she is now, or will ever be, truly free of her torments. In the clip below, Olsen and Paulson talk about how they grappled with the delicacies of crafting performances that would allow open spaces for viewers' own interpretations.


Elizabeth Olsen: Hollywood gets young women wrong

Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins: This year's Sundance "It" girl?

Sundance 2011: "Martha Marcy May Marlene" breaks out -- and faces some obstacles 

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: From left, John Hawkes, Elizabeth Olsen, Louisa Krause and Christopher Abbott in a scene from "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Elizabeth Olsen: Hollywood gets young women wrong

August 16, 2011 |  6:01 pm

There is no shortage of young women on the big screen these days, with the "Twilight" movies in full flower and Disney Channel "it" girls like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez solidifying their move into features.

But at least one emerging actress from that demographic says that the abundance of personalities doesn't mean Hollywood accurately portrays women in their late teens and early 20s.

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Olsen, the star of Sundance hit "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (more on that film, which looks to be a breakout this fall, in the weeks to come), says she feels frustrated by what she sees as Hollywood's binary depictions of young women.

"A lot of times with female relationships and young women [in the movies], it's either 'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants' or catty b--," Olsen, younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, said this week over lunch in New York, where she lives and attends college. "I just have a problem with that. They're supposed to be either as perfect as how they're portrayed on Disney or as mean as they're portrayed in high school movies. And in real life it's neither of those."

Her own solution, she said, has been to take on a new role, in a movie called "Very Good Girls," that she believes avoids both cliches.  A dramatic comedy from Naomi Foner (mother of Maggie Gyllenhaal and screenwriter of "Running on Empty"), "Girls" will star Olsen and Dakota Fanning as teenagers the summer after they graduate from high school.

"This is a very real story of two best friends, about  a real and very raw relationship, and the healthy way that young women interact with each other," Olsen said. (She dismissed the early log line, which had the two lead characters each seeking to lose her virginity, as being unrepresentative of Foner's script. "That happens in the movie, and that's fine for a log line, but that's not really what it's about," Olsen said.)

The Sean Durkin-directed "Martha Marcy," which follows a young girl in the weeks after she escapes from a cult, opens Oct. 21, and the Fox Searchlight film is likely to garner its young star some Oscar buzz. While the films marks Olsen's screen debut and is certainly the most anticipated of her upcoming features, it's hardly the only place she'll appear: The 22-year-old has already shot four other films, including the dramatic comedy "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" opposite Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener, and she plays Josh Radnor's younger friend and love interest in the college-set "Liberal Arts."

"Good Girls" was scheduled for an early fall shoot, working around Olsen's class schedule as a senior at New York University, but now may not happen right away, conceded Olsen. In part, she intimated, that's because of the same frustrations that prompted her to take the role in the first place. "It's difficult," Olsen said. "A lot of people don't want to finance movies like that. Unless, of course, there are vampires or something weird that can animorph."


Martha Marcy May Marlene breaks out--and faces some obstacles

Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins: This year's Sundance It Girl?

Selena Gomez starts to move away from her Disney roots--sort of

— Steven Zeitchik, reporting from New York


Photo: Elizabeth Olsen in "Martha Marcy May Marlene." Credit: Fox Searchlight.

Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins: This year's Sundance 'It' girl?

January 21, 2011 |  5:25 pm

Getprev Every year, the Sundance Film Festival seems to unearth an "It" girl: She's the one with a number of films premiering who transforms overnight from an unknown to an up-and-comer.

A couple of years ago, that girl was Carey Mulligan, then a little-known British actress whose turn in the indie film "An Education" went on to earn her an Oscar nomination. 

This winter? Everyone in Park City seems to be buzzing about Elizabeth Olsen, the 21-year-old younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley whose only prior film credits include appearing alongside the twins in some of their children's films back in the 1990s. It appears, however, that she's studied acting seriously, having attended both New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School.

Olsen -- who goes by Lizzie -- appears in two films at this year's festival. The first, a horror film called "Silent House," played to a full house of press and industry folks after midnight on opening night. In the movie, the actress plays a young woman fixing up her family's old home with her dad and uncle -- before long, she starts hearing noises and seeing visions. Suffice it to say, things get bad.

Olsen's other movie, "Martha Marcy May Marlene" (say that twice), premiered Friday at the Eccles Theater and stars Olsen as a girl who escapes from a cult and finds refuge with her sister and brother-in-law at their yuppie lake house.

On Friday, Olsen shuffled between screenings of both films ("Silent House" was shown again later after its midnight debut), and was asked by audience members how her Sundance indoctrination was going.

"I'm really excited, and I hope the two movies promote each other," she said, beaming.

More daunting than your world acting debut? Keeping up the hysteria required to last throughout an entire film like "Silent House," she said.

"It was so exhausting," she admitted. "I got bad migraines from crying too much, and sinus infections from all the snot."

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Elizabeth Olsen attends the premiere of "Martha Marcy May Marlene" on Jan. 21. Credit: Jemal Countess / Getty Images.


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