After her breakout role in last year’s excellent Martha Marcy May Marlene, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Olsen went from being "the younger sister of Ashley and Mary-Kate" to full-fledged star in her own right.
In her latest role, Lizzie plays a college coed named Zibby who falls for one of her university’s alumni (How I Met Your Mother‘s Josh Radnor). In addition to Radnor, who wrote and directed Liberal Arts, Lizzie also shares screen time with Allison Janney and Richard Jenkins. Not too shabby for a relative newcomer. (Also of note: The film features a laugh-out-loud funny cameo by Zac Efron as a hippie student on the Kenyon College campus—you’ve got to see it to believe it.)
The movie tackles the conflicts of age differences in relationships, the merits of classical music and the questionable popularity of teen vampire novels. I had a chance to hop on the phone with Lizzie to discuss Liberal Arts, her culinary hobbies and what it’s like to raid MK & A’s closets.
Lucky: What originally drew you to the part of Zibby? She’s sort of an old soul, but one who has these very childlike moments sometimes.
Elizabeth Olsen: It was funny, actually, because I had just done three psychological thrillers back-to-back when I got this part. The number one thing that drew me to her was the syntax in which she spoke. I just loved the way Zibby was written, and how her dialogue was written. She just had an abundance of theories she wanted to share. It was really nice to play a character that was more fun than tormented for a change!
You’re currently enrolled at NYU Tisch. Did you draw at all on your own college experience for this role?
Yeah, I’m gonna finish up school this winter. But no, I think our college experiences were very different. [NYU's Tisch] is an acting school in New York City, and if my friends and I ever talk about plays, we’re usually talking about the difference between Pinchot and Stoppard and Mamet, you know? The college in Liberal Arts, which is in Ohio, reminded me more of my own high school back in Los Angeles, actually…and the person I was in high school. Someone who was really stimulated by literature and books and essays. We all had more literary discussions back then, I think.
In the film, Zibby convinces Josh Radnor’s character, Jesse, to read a series of young adult vampire novels. Any chance you’ve read Twilight?
I have never read any of the Twilight books. I’m not much of a reader when it comes to young adult stuff…I never read YA novels. Honestly, if I have the time in between school and scripts, I have to read a classic. My guilty pleasures are more of along the lines of what you’d see on Bravo. I love Top Chef, and the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. But you know what? I actually don’t feel guilty about watching them.
Speaking of Top Chef, I hear you’re not so bad in the kitchen yourself…
Well, with cooking. I’m not big on baking, or making desserts. Right now, I’m obsessed with making this corn-avocado-serrano-pepper salsa, which is great on chicken breasts. Next, I really want to learn how to make cooked okra. It’s really hard to do without it going all slimy, though. Maybe if I roast it instead? I don’t know. I also want to start making shishito peppers.
Josh Radnor wore so many hats for this film: director, star, screenwriter. What was it like working with him?
Seriously, I don’t know how he does all that. It was great because the movie is fully his vision. He’s incredibly specific about what he wants. So you know that you’re serving a vision that is whole, that’s completely his own. And Josh was there the whole time during filming, from beginning to end. I think there’s a comfort in that. Plus, he’s just such a funny guy! I loved spending time with him.
Let’s move on to fashion. What’s your personal style like, and how does it stack up to your sisters’?
I could never compare my fashion sense to my sisters’. They’re years ahead of me. They actually start trends, trends that end up becoming popular three years after they’ve worn them. I’m just lucky that I get their hand-me-downs. For me…I just really just like anything that’s comfortable. I tend to live in loose button-ups, pants and shorts. Things like that.
Do you have any favorite labels right now—besides The Row, of course?
Besides The Row, I really love Proenza. I also love wearing Dior and Chanel. I mean, I really don’t wear designer clothes every day…they’re so expensive. But to dress up for a red carpet, those are definitely my go-tos.
What’s the best hand-me-down you ever got from Mary-Kate or Ashley?
Hmm…you know, it’s probably something I’ve already grown out of. Most of what I’ve taken are showroom samples of theirs. So it’s probably some sample that one of my shorter friends has now!
Finally, did you hit up any shows or presentations during New York Fashion Week?
I went to my sisters’ show, which was so beautiful. But that’s it.
Liberal Arts opens in select theaters tomorrow, September 14.
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- NYFW Spring 2013 Street Style
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