Her sisters might make the headlines, but Elizabeth Olsen prefers to fly under the radar.
THE SUNDAY TIMES STYLE – It’s cold in Hollywood. On a backlot in Studio City that has more in common with an Essex construction site, I’m shivering in a temporary office, waiting for a gofer who I’m told will take me to Elizabeth Olsen. I watch the back of a tall brunette in a backwards baseball cap and Timberlands and contemplate where Olsen could possibly be in all this prosaic functionality. Ensconced, I suspect, in one of those “better” places reserved for cast, sipping something hot with almond milk. Only when the runner turns around to approach me… She is Elizabeth Olsen. “I’d love to say I drink coffee with almond milk,” she says, her voice low, wry and husky, “but it tastes f****** disgusting.”
On the Hollywood behavioural spectrum, the 29-year-old Olsen — Lizzie to those who know her — is at the end marked “very unshowy”. “When I get photographed, it’s never leaving a cool restaurant,” she says drily. “I’m always at the grocery store buying toilet paper.” This is all the more impressive given her lineage: her older sisters are twins Mary-Kate and Ashley, 31, the child TV stars turned fashion designers of The Row — their diffusion line, Elizabeth and James, is named after her and her brother. I’ve been warned not to talk too much about her sisters, but when I do, Olsen gets it: “Of course people are curious. When you have a public figure in your family, people forget that you have, like, 800 other members of it.” She has made occasional appearances on the brand’s front row, as well as at Miu Miu — Mrs Prada gave her the seal of approval when she cast Olsen for an ad campaign in 2014, a signal that she was the Chloë Sevigny-like girl of the moment. More recently, she has starred in H&M’s SS18 campaign film dancing the tango with Winona Ryder.
In general, however, the younger Olsen has eschewed all Hollywood peacockery. In fact, in the seven years since her breakthrough lead as the escapee from an abusive cult in Martha Marcy May Marlene, which led to a Bafta rising-star nomination and a quiet reputation for dark indie films, the only scandalous headline she’s had is (and I paraphrase): “Elizabeth Olsen is so low-key.” “‘She’s high-strung but low-key!’” she drawls, nailing the sarcasm. “‘She has a hundred neuroses, but so low-key.’”
She takes me to her new “office”, a prefab that resembles a halfway house, empty but for a hefty brown sofa that looks like vintage DFS; she curls up on it cupping a grim-looking takeaway tea. From here she will be executive producing and starring in a 10-part dramedy about a grieving widow called Sorry for Your Loss, for Facebook’s new streaming platform, Watch. As this is a #MeToo world, the team have just watched a video on harassment in the workplace and listened to a talk by a lawyer. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is really f****** thorough.’ Apparently even if someone overhears something really inappropriate that’s still considered harassment. Even though it’s not told to them directly. I was, like, ‘This is crazy shit.’”
Olsen admits she is one of the least likely people to collaborate with a social-media company: “I told them, ‘I’m not gonna create a Facebook page for my character.’” Until recently she was a confirmed iPhobe, but she reluctantly joined Instagram two years ago and now has 1.1m followers, which she finds amusing: “I don’t understand the acronyms, but I figured that #WCW was Woman Crush Wednesday.” She posted a picture of her “inspiration”, former jailbird Martha Stewart. “All I want to do is be a homemaker. I started baking bread in January,” she declares rather maniacally. “I want to make my own yeast next.”
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