On this week’s Little Gold Men, Olsen explains why she was “mortified” to share WandaVision with the world and teases her upcoming turn in Doctor Strange.
VANITY FAIR: Despite her onscreen superhero status, Elizabeth Olsen admits to Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson that she gets “panic dreams” before beginning a new project. That was never more so the case than with WandaVision, the genre-bending Disney+ series that imagined Wanda Maximoff and Vision’s (Paul Bettany) married adventures through a sitcom-style lens. But after the show premiered to rave reviews and an eager fanbase, Olsen’s nerves about launching the Marvel TV empire could melt away, right?
That is, until she suited up as the Scarlet Witch once more for Sam Raimi’s upcoming sequel, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Although writer Michael Waldron has compared the titular character to Indiana Jones, Olsen insists that the final product is edgier than that figure’s action epics. “I think it’s more than a glossy Indiana Jones movie, which I love Indiana Jones,” Olsen says on the latest Little Gold Men episode, adding, “But I feel like it has a darker thing going on.”
This week’s Little Gold Men podcast is a Disney+ double feature, featuring an interview with Sebastian Stan of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (also courtesy of Joanna). She joins Vanity Fair’s executive Hollywood editor, Jeff Giles, Richard Lawson, and Katey Rich in a conversation about Witness, which gave Harrison Ford his only Oscar nomination to date. Other top of mind topics include the lackluster box office performance of In the Heights, Emmy buzz for Bo Burnham’s Netflix special Inside, and Pixar’s newest release Luca, which arrives on Disney+ Friday.
This is a partial transcript:
You’ve talked about Wanda coming into her own power, discovering her power. Something that I think is so interesting is you were doing work as an executive producer on Sorry For Your Loss. And I was wondering what that experience taught you about your power, your ability to have input over your acting choices or your acting roles going forward?
It was incredible. It was truly one of the greatest learning experiences I could have had. I saw how everything can be done if I ever wanted to direct something, which I’m not sure yet. But I have seen how maybe the healthiest way to crew up a show is, to a writers room, to the whole journey in between and editing and color correction and sound mixing. All the things that I had wanted to experience, I got to do that on that show. And it created this neverending voice in my head that now just expresses all of her opinions when I’m on set. It’s great working with. Like, I’m starting to work with another director right now and it’s great just saying, when people sometimes would ask me, “How would you like to work?” I wouldn’t really know how to answer that because I’ve always been malleable to if other actors like working specific ways. I’m cool to kind of be fluid in that zone.
Now I can just say, “It’s really good for me to have all the information, just so I don’t have to ask questions in my head and think, why are they doing that instead of this?” But if I just have the information of “Oh, this is an issue, so we’re doing this instead” then I’m not going to try and make up what the issue is and spend weeks trying to figure out, “Why are we doing it this way?” S I know that that’s now something. I just like having information, even when I’m not a producer. It just helped. I’m sure other actors would be like, “How the fuck would you keep all that straight?” And it actually rests my brain. It rests my monkey brain, I think. to just have facts and information about how everything’s going, why schedules are changing. Yeah, I loved that experience.
So thinking about who you were on that set versus who you were on Age of Ultron, which is so much earlier in your career, how do you compare those two women?
I would say on every single ensemble job that I have done with Marvel, I try and take up the least space possible and let everyone else’s personalities fly. And that’s truly what I’m more comfortable with in that space. It’s kind of in the same way [that] it’s really nice to have one-on-one conversations, but if you put me in a theater with 50 people and having to address a TedTalk kind of thing, that’s my worst nightmare. So I just would rather be small and take up a little bit of space and do my part of the puzzle. I still think I’m going to be like that. And the other big ensemble ones, I didn’t feel that way with Dr. Strange because it wasn’t that kind of a thing. But yeah, between Age of Ultron and WandaVision it’s literally like someone who doesn’t want to peep up and who is so scared to do anything wrong, who just is going to defer to everyone else for information and just do it and just stay in my lane.
Now in WandaVision, it was like I wasn’t a producer on it but it felt like I wanted to be a leader. I wanted to take the opportunity to kind of set the tone of how we treated one another, how prepared we were, how collaborative we could be. And [director/producer] Matt Shakman was the ultimate, greatest leader. I think we didn’t come to work with our sides in our hands. We were giving notes to [creator] Jac [Schaeffer] at least a week before we…And obviously there are things that are always going to be coming up and changing but we didn’t want to do the whole thing where an actor has a brilliant idea at midnight and we have to kind of spend too much time that we do not have discussing that brilliant idea. Just look ahead and be prepared and then be really kind and treat everyone with respect. That just is how we worked and we had a joyful time doing it.
Wanda has always been a character embraced by the fandom, but what does it mean to you, given that you have this different approach this time, to see Wanda embraced by a much larger group of people and awards folks are knocking at your door and all this other stuff?
I feel really grateful. I was mortified when this show was coming out. I was having a lot of weird anxiety about it and felt pressure from the idea that Marvel hadn’t had something come out [like this] and it felt so different. And I was like, “They like the sitcom but they’re not going to like it when we get out of the sitcom.” I had strange, really strange experiences when I was working in England and it sounded like people were enjoying it and I just wasn’t believing it.
So it was really kind of when I wrapped Dr. Strange and came home and I now have this gratitude that I feel like Kathryn [Hahn] and Paul and Teyonah [Parris] had while we were doing press during it coming out. They had this nostalgia of the time we had. And I’m still playing the same frickin character, but like moved on. I just could not sit back and kind of have that gratitude. I do now. And it really feels good, even if nothing happens, to be continued to be a part of a conversation about people acknowledging work that was done. As much as I try not to have an attachment to it, it is a sense of gratitude and you just feel lucky.
Go here to listen to the podcast. Elizabeth is near the end after Sebastian Stan.