By any sort of Hollywood metric, Elizabeth Olsen has had a wonderful year. In January, the actress became the talk of Sundance with the debut of the harrowing drama “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and a claustrophobic horror flick, “Silent House.”
In subsequent months she took on roles opposite everyone from Zac Efron to Robert De Niro, and she’ll soon star with Glenn Close in the period drama “Therese Raquin.” And as 2011 inches to a close, her name has cropped up in awards-season talk: She’s already nabbed an ensemble Gotham Awards nomination and could well find herself in the Golden Globe and Oscar mix.
Not bad. But when you consider this is the first year that Olsen has been on the entertainment scene — unless you count long-ago appearances with her sisters in those “Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley” musicals — the 22-year-old’s 2011 goes from generally wonderful to simply magical (and no doubt jealousy-inducing for her peers).
And that’s why we’ve named Elizabeth Olsen one of the actresses we’re most thankful for this year. We recently sat down with her to look back at her accomplishments, to look forward to what she has coming down the line, and to find out what she’ll do if she ends up winning awards this season.
MTV News: You know you might have to start giving some speeches soon …
Elizabeth Olsen: I have zero expectation on any of that. I didn’t even have anything beforehand that I could think the movie would become what it has become, with a great distributor, good buzz. This year has been such a learning experience. It’s been amazing. I feel like I have an understanding of so many different aspects after making a movie. Before I didn’t even know how to make a movie, and then I realized I didn’t even know how to promote a movie, and then I realized there’s a whole process of doing that that’s even longer than making the movie. You just have to be thankful that you have the opportunity to get to do that and people want to talk to you about your work.
MTV: Is there one surreal moment from this year that encapsulates what a crazy run you’ve been having?
Olsen: The first thing that came to my head when you said that was I remember when I finished making [“Martha Marcy”] and I had dinner with my friend in the East Village. I was totally thrown off because I was in upstate New York for three months, and then I was in the East Village on a Saturday night and was so confused that people acted the way they acted. I was like, “Why are people so abrasive? It’s so weird.” I remember telling my friend, talking about making this movie, that I literally had the best experience of my life working on something. And that’s including all the fun stuff you made with your friends in elementary school.
MTV: Speaking of promoting a film, do you read your own press at this point?
Olsen: At this point I’m interested in those things. Give me a couple months and I probably won’t be. I don’t know why. I think those opinions change all the time. Right now I’m just interested because I’m fascinated by the movie so I’m fascinated about what people think and get from the movie, because it is very unique.
MTV: Your co-star John Hawkes has compared your performance in “Martha Marcy” to Jennifer Lawrence’s in “Winter’s Bone.” With “Hunger Games” she’s now made the leap to a high-profile franchise. Is it only a matter of time before we see you in a “Transformers” or a “Spider-Man”?
Olsen: I don’t know, but I don’t think so. I’m just trying to pick whatever’s most interesting to me at that point. I’m not trying to think of things studio or non-studio. There are a bunch of things I’d like to do in 2012 that are all very different from each other. What they all have in common are amazing people to work with and an interesting character to try and create.
MTV: Above and beyond the acting, do you have ambitions to write or direct?
Olsen: No, I don’t. I like doing this. Dialogue I’m very bad at.
I do like writing essays.
MTV: That is kind of nerdy.
Olsen: I know! I like writing essays. I have to write one tonight. So much fun!
MTV: Have you adjusted to being on set away from friends and family? Because that experience can be isolating.
Olsen: I would like to think that I’m really good at adjusting to changes. But I’m not as good as I thought I was. When I was working in Spain, that was really hard. It was a long shoot and it was Spain and I was coming in the middle of shooting, so everyone had already been there for six weeks and no one was going out to explore the city anymore. I was just by myself. But in situations like that, you do call your family. My sisters came and visited me. It was hard to be there and not even have the option of making a quick phone call and meeting up with someone. But now when I look back on being in Spain, I don’t really think of it as being lonely. But at the moment, you know, I thought I really knew what loneliness was. I was like, “This is so lonely!”
MTV: Let’s talk about “Very Good Girls,” in which you’ll be co-starring with Dakota Fanning. When is that shoot going to happen?
Olsen: We have to wait, because it’s set in New York in the summertime. We’ll do it next year. Dakota and I know each other, since we have the same mutual friends and went to the same high school. We’ve had dinner with the director, just chatting and trying to figure out what we can do to maybe change the script a bit, change scenes.
MTV: What was the key thing that attracted you to the role?
Olsen: The thing that’s great about this script is I treat my relationships with my girlfriends as family and as probably the most important relationships in my life. I’ve had the same friends since I was in kindergarten. I feel like a lot of times in film and television, you don’t get a chance to understand that type of relationship. “Sex in the City” is the closest thing you get to it. I think [“Very Good Girls”] is a great depiction of two young girls’ friendship when they’re graduating high school.
MTV: It seems like this role is the closest to your experience.
Olsen: Totally. It’s important to be in a film like that. And everyone involved is going to be great to work with.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”
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