Magazine Scans > 2022 > Harpers’ Bazaar – UK (June)
HARPER’S BAZAAR: Elizabeth Olsen is ready for me. In a cosy room of a London hotel, she gets up from her chair to greet me, refreshingly bright-eyed for a Monday morning. She introduces herself warmly as “Lizzie” and asks if I want anything to drink. It’s immediately clear that there aren’t many parallels between her and her antiheroine alias, the Scarlet Witch (also known as Wanda). For one thing, Olsen is very funny; she’s also supremely likeable. But she does hold herself with a certain soft power, today dressed in a grey Barbara Bui suit, an acid-pink knitted rollneck and chunky black lace-up shoes from Clergerie.
Elizabeth Olsen is ready for me. In a cosy room of a London hotel, she gets up from her chair to greet me, refreshingly bright-eyed for a Monday morning. She introduces herself warmly as “Lizzie” and asks if I want anything to drink. It’s immediately clear that there aren’t many parallels between her and her antiheroine alias, the Scarlet Witch (also known as Wanda). For one thing, Olsen is very funny; she’s also supremely likeable. But she does hold herself with a certain soft power, today dressed in a grey Barbara Bui suit, an acid-pink knitted rollneck and chunky black lace-up shoes from Clergerie.
However, in her latest film, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Olsen reveals that Wanda has found some kind of resolve, no longer overwhelmed by the strength of her powers of chaos magic, or the trauma she suffers in Avengers: Endgame following the death of her husband, Vision. “It was so fun for me because all these years I’ve been playing a character who is struggling; now, she has clarity for the first time – she knows exactly what she wants, and she doesn’t want to apologise for it,” she says, adding, “I think there’s a womanliness that comes with that: a strength in feeling completely entitled.”
A benefit to being part of the Multiverse was working with Benedict Cumberbatch, an opportunity she very much relished. “I’m such a fan of his. He’s one of the greatest actors around right now and I wanted to see his process. I hope to work with him in a non-Marvel way as well, because I would like to have another, more heady experience with him.” It’s likely they’ll encounter each other within the Marvel Universe again too, because although she hadn’t anticipated working on this many Marvel projects, she says, “I think Wanda’s always around the corner, so I don’t feel bad saying goodbye to her.”
She’s the youngest of four: a brother called Trent, and twin sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley, who happened to be two of the most well-known kids in the world when Olsen was small, starring in the beloved sitcom Full House and coming-of-age films including Passport to Paris and When in Rome. “I always felt that having older twin sisters was an advantage,” she says. “I felt very clear about how I was going to navigate lots of things because of watching them. I also felt very protected.” Being just two and a half years apart meant that they were a tight trio, but as she notes, the bond between twins is unrivalled. “There’s something that I’ll never experience of that connection, but I feel lucky to be witness to it. I actually think it’s an amazing feeling, being the younger sibling to twin sisters. If I was spoiled by one, the other wanted to match it. I loved it.”
I had this need to be the hardest-working student when I was in school
While her sisters pulled away from the film industry as they got older, going on instead to establish their luxury fashion label The Row in 2006, Olsen was set on acting. “I always knew that it was what I wanted to do, I just had a lot of insecurities about wanting to do it,” she says, noting that she never felt inclined to join her sisters on the global stage as a child “because I really liked school”. But her sisters’ early success impacted how she approached the job: she studied her craft meticulously, enrolling at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she took classes at the Atlantic Theater Company and spent a semester abroad studying at the Moscow Art Theatre School. “I’ve always felt that presence, which made me work harder, and maybe have a chip on my shoulder to be over-prepared and disciplined, so I could feel like I was earning it,” says Olsen. “That feeling definitely settled five years into working, but I had this need to be the hardest-working student when I was in school.”
This self-assurance is essential when it comes to producing, which she first delved into for her 2018/2019 series Sorry for Your Loss. “I’m addicted to it; and when I’m not even producing, I pretend I am – I’m probably awful to work with! I say ‘awful’, but people say that it’s fine…” She adds light-heartedly, “But I really overstep as an actor. I want to know about full plans.” Right now, she is searching for projects that resonate with her, particularly smaller, localised plots that have the power “to make people feel something larger than everyday life”.
Last year, Olsen was nominated for an Emmy for her mini-series Wandavision, and for the awards ceremony, she wore a white dress designed by her sisters. “There’s something about it that feels like women holding hands and family standing together or something,” she says wistfully. “I just love clothes that make me feel confident and strong. It’s like armour.” Usually opting for comfortable, neutral pieces “because I like blending into walls”, Olsen doesn’t usually enjoy flashy, red-carpet moments. “It’s kind of fussy. I don’t really know how to pose for a picture, so I’m always standing like a stick person or I’m kind of moving my body through space awkwardly because I don’t know how to make clothes look cool on a red carpet.”
This is also the reason why she didn’t gel with social media; having dabbled with Instagram between 2017 and 2020, she says she has deleted the app for good. “I thought, ‘What am I trying to say? What am I trying to share?’ You have this influence, and there’s financial power in that kind of influence. That didn’t make me feel great,” she shares. Olsen does, however, see the benefit of an online presence to shed light on good causes, as she works primarily with two charities: the Latitude Project, in aid of Nicaraguan communities in need, and Stuart House in Los Angeles, which cares for victims of sexual assault under the age of 18. Of the latter, she says, “It’s an amazing space, covering everything from forensics to therapy. You’re with these kids at the same appointment every week, so you get to see their growth.”
It is rare for someone as prolific as Olsen to remain as down-to-earth as she is, but knowing what she wants – and, equally importantly, what she doesn’t want – has given her the wherewithal to forge her own path. “I’m not trying to stop anyone from going into my bubble,” she says, “but I also have some barriers.” This is her superpower – more understated than magic, but no less potent.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is out in UK cinemas from 5 May.
Wow, she’s so awesome i like her so much. I learned a lot from her and because of her I’m boosting my confidence. You did a great job lizzie keep it up and do what makes you happy love yah! <3