VARIETY: Elizabeth Olsen is one of creative leaders honored for Variety’s 2022 Power of Women presented by Lifetime. To read about her work with the Rape Foundation and Stuart House, click here.
When audiences last saw Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Disney’s May box office juggernaut “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” it certainly looked like Olsen’s time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was over. Definitively, actually: An entire castle collapsed on Wanda, a building brought down by her own powerful magic after she sacrificed herself to destroy the Darkhold — the evil book that had corrupted her, turning her into a nearly unbeatable villain for most of the movie.
For Olsen, 33, who burst into the movie world with 2011’s Sundance Film Festival sensation “Martha Marcy May Marlene” — and saw her profile skyrocket as Wanda (aka the Scarlet Witch) in six Marvel movies, starting with a mid-credits cameo in 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” and later the hit 2021 Disney+ TV series “WandaVision” — the character’s heel-turn into darkness took some adjustment. “Well, this is quite a leap from the woman that I’ve been playing!” she remembers thinking after learning she was to go malevolent in the Sam Raimi-directed sequel to “Doctor Strange.”
But she got into it. “At least in my experience, it’s been hard as a woman to express rage,” Olsen says. “It’s one of the most amazing feelings, because it’s so specific: You can know exactly why you’re angry.”
Over a long lunch on an unbearably hot September day near her home in Los Angeles, Olsen — who radiates tranquility — doesn’t disclose what makes her feel rage. “Oh, those are fun secrets to keep,” she says with a smile. “But I do have rage. I feel like the moment you, as an actor, reveal things about yourself that are kind of your ‘fuel,’ for lack of a better word, then your fuel’s exposed and it means less.”
In her years in the MCU, Olsen’s Wanda has lost her parents, her brother, her husband and her two sons, all of whom exist somewhere in the multiverse. She’s got a lot to be angry about. According to Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, Olsen’s skills are why Wanda’s arc has been so complex. “We only even would have dared attempt something like ‘WandaVision,’” Feige says, “because Lizzie is such an outstanding actor.”
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