When Olivia Wilde answers a question, she doesn’t beat around the bush. Unlike other actresses, a conversation with her feels like you’re having an actual conversation instead of one where the subject has been carefully trained to say the same sound bites over and over again. As the 29-year-old star explained to us at the Toronto Film Festival, “I am just very much myself” when talking to journalists.
In her newest film, “Rush,” which premiered at TIFF last week, Wilde plays Suzy Miller, a model who was married to Formula One racecar driver James Hunt. The movie is based on the true story of Hunt and his rivalry with fellow driver Nikki Lauda. Despite Hunt’s on-track accomplishments, it was his lifestyle out of the driver’s seat that earned him the biggest headlines. While he certainly didn’t hide his partying ways, it did a number on his marriage with Miller, who would eventually leave Hunt for legendary actor Richard Burton.
Wilde sat down with Moviefone to talk about playing the elusive Miller, her thoughts on turning 30, and why she’s so open with the press. Oh, and she’s really not a fan of plastic surgery for young women (keep reading; she’ll explain).
Moviefone: It must be tough acting alongside Chris Hemsworth. How do you concentrate without looking into his dreamy blue eyes?
Olivia Wilde: I know! Well, luckily my character was looking into his dreamy blue eyes so I had an excuse. But he’s fantastic. He’s such a sweet person. He’s just a nice guy, really hardworking, and really grateful of everything he has. He was embodying James Hunt. He worked very hard to get the role and he was completely committed. It’s always nice when another actor is upping their game. It makes you want to up your game. It’s like OK, let’s play ball. And we were both working in accent and doing a period piece and playing real people; there’s a lot of pressure. But because he was totally committed it helped me be the same.
The film premiered in England a few days ago. I assume it’s pretty nervewracking watching yourself attempt that accent in front a room full of Brits.
Yeah, I was nervous before. I was like, What if I hear everyone laughing at my accent? I don’t know, every actor worries that when they do an accent people will scoff. And yet, they were very kind, which made me happy. I got lucky. It helps that my dad has an English accent. I also knew when filming, I was very conscious of wanting it to be perfect. And the crew gave me the thumbs up — we shot in England, so it was helpful.
Did you meet Suzy Miller?
I didn’t meet her, no. She’s sort of elusive. She approved of the film — she gave us her blessing — but it might have been difficult for her to be around it.
Yeah, it seems tough to find information about her, other than she was married to James Hunt and Richard Burton.
She’s kind of an enigma. It’s interesting because she was in the limelight quite a lot but you can’t really find a lot. I had this theory, which is baseless [Laughs]: Maybe [Richard] Burton helped her get rid of a lot of stuff that was available. Like, at that time people were doing that — killing stories, getting rid of existing photographs and things like that.
Yeah, celebrities were able to do that then.
Because they weren’t on the Internet! They weren’t everywhere at once. You could just get negatives. So I wonder if there was some sort of deal made, because it’s difficult to find a lot about her.
It’s interesting to think there was a time you could do that.
It’s like remembering a time when there was fact-checking [Laughs].
But I feel like you personally have a pretty good relationship with the media. You’re pretty open about discussing anything.
I think so. I think being raised by journalists gives me a little bit of insight into what it’s like to interview people. But I don’t have an automatic defense mechanism. I sort of give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they do the same for me. But so far, I think the terrifying thing about it is that it can all shift. If someone decides that they can make you a villain or a victim, that can be done in an artificial way. It’s such a strange thing. So I think I have been lucky. I am very much just myself. But you never know. In a way we’re all cast members of a soap opera.
So I recently read your column where you gave advice for turning 30 years old.
While it was definitely directed more towards women…
[Laughs] It was. But guys can get something out of it.
Well, I was going to say, the one thing I thought was really good advice for anyone under 30 was to not freak out about the great things that other people have done prior to that age — just concentrate on yourself.
Yes, yes. Because that is the first thing that occurs to you. [Thirty] is a milestone that you’d always imagined you’d crossed with a lot of accomplishments under your belt. And no matter what you’d done, you’re still going to expect that you would have done more. But there’s people like Albert Einstein and Emily Bronte and Orson Welles. There’s just an incredible list of people who have accomplished a lot.
Do you still find yourself having to keep that emotion in check, not wanting to look at other people’s accomplishments before they were 30?
Yeah, I think I sort of went through that. In your late twenties, you sort of think, What am I going to have accomplished by the time I am 30? You feel like you should be doing something that’s going to change the world — something so profound. And aside from discovering the theory of relativity, what do I expect from me? [Laughs] What can I possibly do? So that’s why I put that in there. I just focus on being a good person, and personally, that’s been helpful. But yeah, I check in and remind myself of that.
The second piece of advice on there that I thought was interesting was about not getting plastic surgery at a young age. I feel like a lot of actresses don’t openly talk about that.
Yeah! Because I don’t think they want to be judgmental of friends. They don’t want to say “You’ve done something wrong.” People understand that the pressures are immense. I think it feels presumptuous of young actors to say, “Why would you ever do that?” And then, who knows, when you get to 50 you might feel so overwhelmed that you need to do this because you’ve changed dramatically and the public expects you to look one way.
So I think that’s why people keep quiet about that. I wrote it because I am sort of tired of being quiet about it because I am just so sad about how much younger people are when they start getting surgeries now. I just see people every day with weird little Barbie noses and plumped-up lips. It makes me sad because you’re not even giving yourself a chance to see what you look like when you’re older! I feel like everyone gets better looking.
I also think there’s a pressure in Hollywood, particularly among actresses, that once you become older that people don’t want you as much because you’ve aged.
And that’s silly. I mean, I have the most respect of people who have taught us what actual beauty looks like at an older age. Like Vanessa Redgrave. Vanessa Redgrave is still stunningly beautiful and has had no work done and looks like a woman in her 70s should look. But there are very few people who allow us to even see that, because they’ve all been altered. I mean, I don’t want to be a hater, I am not a hater. Just love yourself.