Complex – April/May 2006
Olivia Wilde turned heads when she tongued-down Mischa Barton on The O.C., but now this sex-oozing 22-year-old officially steals the show in Alpha Dog. Complex caught up with the No.1 stunna and got her to spill the beans on full-frontal nudity, making out with Mischa, and what’s eating Emile Hirsch (hint: not her!).
For the last several years, Olivia Wilde has inhabited celebrity purgatory. That is, she’s just recognizable enough that when she appears on screens you’ve thought, “Oh, it’s her…that hot girl…the one that looks like Jenna in the face, and Paris in the waist…what was she in?” Then you recall, “Oh, that’s right, she was the lesbian love interest on The O.C… Funny, I’ll never admit that I knew that to another man.” Then your mind drifts, and you think about something else—Jenna or Paris, perhaps—but you never place a name to her seductive face. Well, that, good people, is about to change. Olivia Wilde is set to ascend to the A-list thanks to a key role in the ensemble cast of Nick Cassavetes’s whiteboy Menace II Society, Alpha Dog, in which she holds her own alongside heavyweights like Bruce Willis, Sharon Stone, Justin Timberlake, and Emile Hirsch. In fact, her final scene, in which she emasculates an on-the-run Hirsch for not being able to, um, perform—even after some inspired fluffing—is one of the film’s most memorable moments.
However, Alpha Dog is just the beginning for the 22-year-old Phillips Andover alum, who, surprisingly, comes from a lineage of revered journalists. The Washington, D.C., native is set to star opposite Paul Walker later this year in The Death And Life Of Bobby Z, as well as in Crash director Paul Haggis’s new TV show, The Black Donnellys. Complex had the good fortune to catch up with Young Blue Eyes at a mansion in the Hollywood Hills and discuss her rising star, her naked ambition, and whether Emile is a meal.
Well, let’s start with the scene that everyone’s gonna be talking about, with you and Emile Hirsch in a motel room bed. How was the vibe when you had to do that?
What made me decide to go all out in that scene and take off my clothes was the fact that Nick is so smart and not at all sleazy. I trusted his judgment. He wasn’t gonna make me do it just to add something to the scene. I loved that the scene wasn’t about the nudity; it’s about belittling his manhood. And I love the fact that I’m like sitting back with my boobs out, smoking a cigarette, and completely insensitive and hard. I found that really powerful, as opposed to having it be a more voyeuristic scene about the nudity. It felt more real and interesting, and raw and fun.
How did Emile handle it?
Well, Emile was funny, because he’s so good at staying in character. And he was really serious in that scene. He didn’t want there to be any cuddliness about it; he wanted to be unable to be sexually aroused in the scene. [Laughs] He’s so affected by what’s going on. And it’s hilarious that I completely have no respect for that.
Pardon the pun, but was it hard?
It was a difficult scene to do because a lot of times in love scenes you giggle in between and you’re like, “Hee hee, we’re naked,” but there was no laughing. That scene Nick wrote once he met me and we talked about the character. It was kind of a last minute deal and most of it was improvised. It was just crazy.
It seems like from your background you probably haven’t been in any situations like that in your life before…
Absolutely not. In a sleazy motel room, chain-smoking? I definitely hadn’t been anywhere near that situation, and that’s what made it so fun. I think every character I’d played up to that point was a really big reflection of myself, or a version of myself. And this character was the biggest departure from me.
Really? How was being Mischa Barton’s girl-toy on The O.C. a reflection of you?
Well, The O.C., apart from the sexuality of that character—she was a lot like me in her groundedness and being well-beyond her years.
What about your run on The O.C.? How was it dealing with the news leaking that Mischa was gonna kiss a girl, and then you’re that girl?
People were so shocked, as if that were the first time it had ever been done, and it was the thousandth time it had been done on television. I think the fact that it was Mischa made it an even bigger scandal, because she was a teen icon of femininity and beauty. But I think suddenly everyone was like, Oh my God, she’s daring. Even though I think she had done it before on other jobs.
She’d kissed other girls?
She’d worked with Evan Rachel Wood on Once And Again, a teen show. And I think they had a storyline that was similar.
But Mischa said you’re a better kisser, right?
Yeah, obviously. [Laughs]
What about hanging with the cast of The O.C. How was that?
They all went through an experience together, going from nothing to extreme fame. But they were very welcoming. And no egos about it. I mean, Rachel Bilson, who I’m still friends with, she’s so cool, completely unaffected. We were outside of a Golden Globes party and we were walking to my car and I have this beautiful blue ’58 Chevy Biscayne. She was like, “Can I just ride with you?” She didn’t wanna take a limo. So we got in my car, and about 65 photographers just…
Yeah, Olivia Wilde and Rachel Bilson…
They jumped on top of my car and I’m thinking about my paint job, and I’m like, “This is a 1958, this is an original paint job!” Rachel’s just sitting there and I’m like, What am I supposed to do? I can’t back up or I’m gonna run them over. And she’s just like, smile. She’s so cool. You’d never guess, but this is what happens to her. And with Mischa it’s even more extreme.
So what’s with the ’58 Chevy? Do you have a thing with cars?
I love old cars. I grew up on the East Coast, and I always thought if I lived on the West Coast, the first thing I’d want is an old, classic car. It used to be a ’54 Bel Air that was my dream car, and then I saw this ’58 Chevy, and I was like, this is it. It’s so much better than the Bel Air. It’s a little funkier looking than the Bel Air, and I was like, That’s more like me. [Laughs.] I love it. I love my car.
So you pulled off The O.C., and at the same time, you were filming with this huge ensemble cast with people like Justin Timberlake, Emile, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis. Did it ever get like The Real World with that many big personalities involved? Like, were there any fights?
No, everyone was just so fucking happy to be in this movie. And there was so much respect. I think Nick is an amazing director for many reasons, but he’s a very good team leader. And he was really good at getting everybody to feel like they were responsible for this film. I would say, “Well you know Nick, I’m not carrying the film…” and he would be like, “Yes you are, everyone is carrying this film on their backs.” It made me wanna take risks and do things you weren’t necessarily prepared to do.
Some of the guys at Complex went crazy over you in Alpha Dog and sent some questions they want you to answer. You’re gonna need a sense of humor for some of these. You ready?
Ready. Hit me.
Were you heated Amanda Seyfried from Mean Girls only had to show half a breast, when you had to go full frontal?
[Laughs] I was totally impressed with her work, with that scene. She’s this young, beautiful temptress. What I think was funny about the difference between the female characters in the movie is there were the pretty girls—I think Dominique Swain, Amanda, all those girls were the pretty girls. And my character was like, she’s just insane. I mean she’s not ugly, but she’s kinda crazy messy, like really raw.
Yeah, she’s over the top.
Right. There’s the scene with my parents where you realize I’m not from a trailer park, which you might have predicted. But I’m not, I’m just from this suburban, white middle-class family, which is kinda what the movie is about. About being from these very cookie-cutter homes and pretending you’re from this rough neighborhood. So the difference between our characters is so great that it definitely didn’t heat me because I thought of her as being a completely different creature in the movie. But I liked that. I think the thing that made my character fun is that nothing was halfway. Everything was extreme. It was like, if I was gonna be drunk, I was gonna be wasted. If I was gonna be laughing, I was gonna be screaming. If I was gonna be yelling, I was just like, gonna be destroying.
So guys are gonna want to get the DVD and watch the outtakes of you…
Oh God, I hope there’s no outtakes [Laughs].
Okay, back to the questions. If Emile Hirsch is the Alpha Dog, does that make you the Alpha bitch?
[Laughs] So many people have made the Alpha bitch connection that I was wondering when it was gonna…umm, yeah, okay. Well, to turn that into a serious question: I do think there was something cool about that relationship, between Emile and myself, where if he was the powerful guy, I was his equal. For some reason, he got all these guys to do what he wanted, even though they’re not weak people. The only person he doesn’t have power over is this girl, me. So in that sense, yeah—if he’s the Alpha Dog then I’m the Alpha bitch. It doesn’t sound quite as insulting. [Laughs]. That’s the sequel, Alpha Bitch.
Okay, this one is pretty raunchy. They say a Manwich isn’t a meal, but the real question we’re finally seeing in Alpha Dog is, Is Emile a meal?
[Laughs] I can’t even answer that; it’s just such a mouthful. No! That’s the wrong way to say it!
Can you describe the scene where you’re lying in bed naked with Emile? Were there a lot of people there? Because you hear that when there’s nudity involved they usually close the set.
They say that. “Closed set” means there’s only 60 people instead of 100. It’s so funny: I swear on a closed set there’s extra people who you didn’t think were working on the movie, and then you look around and you’re like, What does that guy do? “Oh, we need him to hold the guy who holds the guy who holds the light.” It’s like, Sure.
Okay, so that character’s completely unlike you. But when you were growing up in D.C., you were probably more advanced-looking for your age than most girls. Did you get into trouble?
Yeah, I got into a lot of trouble, but I was always very serious about becoming an actress. And even when I got into trouble, I was very solid in that I knew where I was going. I may have jumped on different paths, and taken the scenic route, or taken an elevator instead of the stairs, but I’ve gone to the same floor. I had this direction that I was dead set on going in, and I was very passionate. So even though I went through my rebellious stage, it wasn’t like completely losing it, or a lost stage at all.
Well what would you do that was bad?
I couldn’t understand not being able to go and do whatever I wanted at anytime. I remember once I told my parents I was going to a friend’s house and instead went to New York, and just hung out with musicians and friends of mine. Another time I went to Philadelphia and lived with some street musicians that were drumming on the sidewalk and I thought that was pretty exciting. I never left out of resenting my home life; my parents were really cool about giving me independence. But it was as if I just couldn’t stay in one place for too long. I just wanted to explore all the time.
So you never got grounded?
No, I got grounded. My parents were definitely not happy with me. But you know, I didn’t understand boundaries. And then when I was 13 I got a tattoo to be rebellious. And my mom, when she saw it, I didn’t get the reaction I wanted. She was like, “Wow, if I was gonna get a tattoo, I probably would have gotten something else.” And I was like [gasp]…
What did you get?
It’s a dragon spitting fire, and the fire is also a shark. It was my 13-year-old vision of wind, fire, and water [Laughs].
Where is it?
It’s on my lower back. Very lower back, very lower back.
And you did this when you were 13?
I always thought I was gonna die young so I had to do everything really fast. But it’s not a bad way to live, it’s not a bad philosophy. It’s very much in thinking of living every moment to the next. So it’s never been a bad thing. It’s gotten me into trouble, but it was never a bad thing.