Elizabeth Olsen: ‘I Could Have Asked Mary-Kate And Ashley For Help’

As the younger sister of fashion’s most famous siblings, Elizabeth Olsen has grown up on the sidelines of the spotlight. Now she talks about how she’s finally making it on her own…

Forget fighting for the hair straighteners or bickering over the boy next door – if there was ever a person to put your sibling rivalry into perspective, it’s Elizabeth Olsen. After all, imagine growing up in the shadows of TV-twinset-turned-trendsetters Mary-Kate and Ashley? But somehow Elizabeth has managed to outshine them both. Not that she’s making a big deal out of that. “People I think expect some sort of rivalry. In fact, I think they really want it but unfortunately, it’s isn’t there. Never has been, never will be,” she explains quietly in a central London hotel. “I don’t think any of us are wired that way.”

Maybe not, but when we catch up with her in a London hotel, we can’t help but suspect that her calm confidence has something to do with the fact that, well, she’s worked for this success. Rejecting help from the agents who’d represented her sisters in favour of studying theatre at New York University, Elizabeth, 26, first hit our screens back in 2011, when she starred in Martha Marcy May Marlene. And now, after four years of indie flicks and edgy film festival favourites, she’s finally made the move to Hollywood stardom – thanks to leading roles in last year’s Godzilla alongside Aaron Taylor Johnson, and now as the Scarlet Witch in the hotly anticipated Avenger’s sequel, Age of Ultron opposite Scarlett Johansson and, er, Aaron again.  

Starring in The Avengers sequel with Aaron Taylor Wood. Which looks fun Starring in The Avengers sequel with Aaron Taylor Wood. Which looks fun

Hi Lizzie! Congrats on your Avengers role! On a scale of one to ten, how nervous were you before you started filming?

Well, we were in Italy and the only actors we me, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Jeremy Renner, so it was actually fine. It felt like I didn’t have to be too terrified and overwhelmed and I kind of got to work non-stop for those first few weeks. because there are only three actors there.

Action movies sound like such hard work – how did you get in shape for the role?

It’s weird, I’ve never had to fight in a movie [before]. And it’s something I’ve really wanted to do. So it’s been challenging but also something I’ve really enjoyed. It was like a boot camp. In the morning, work on the movement, then you do accent work and then you go to set and then at night, you work on movement again. Because we’re doing a lot of action and fight sequences and there was a lot of work involved. And no time for feeling overwhelmed.

If Elizabeth's hair is anything to go by, GHDs are available for superheros too If Elizabeth’s hair is anything to go by, GHDs are available for superheros too

You’ve been pretty famous for the last few years but this film is set to send you stratospheric. Are you ready to be recognized whenever you walk down the street?

I think that [depends on] your choices in life. I’m not too bothered, because I don’t go to events that I don’t need to be going to. Even when I’m invited and I really want to see that person’s movie, if I’m not involved, I’m not going to go [to the premiere]. If you’re putting yourself out there in a sort of way, that welcomes it.

You’re not on Twitter or Instagram – is that because you’re keen to protect your private life too?

It’s interesting when people complain about their private space when they take a picture of themselves getting on a plane. It’s like, ‘well everyone knows where you’re landing. You just put it on your page so why are you mad that they’re there when you get there?’ There’s a way to go about it. Obviously certain things are out of your control, but if you don’t draw attention of yourself, you should be alright.

Your sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley are obviously hugely successful – has seeing what went through helped you to cope with the attention?

I think they know how to handle it and I just try and do what they do, because they are very private and they have made their lives very private. [It helps because] they don’t do films [any more], so they don’t have to do a lot of interviews. They just do interviews for their fashion lines, so it’s a more controlled environment than it is for me.

Elizabeth and Aaron are totally superhero BFFs these days Elizabeth and Aaron are totally superhero BFFs these days

Did they inspire you to get into acting?

No, because I was too young to really appreciate what they were going through [when I was younger]. I think it made me wise to the industry, but they were just my sisters to me. We had a normal childhood, we did sister stuff together. I never really saw it that way. We all had our different interests and I was probably busy with my own stuff at the time. I was always doing musical theatre camps from a young age. And always messing around in front of the mirror, singing and practicing songs I’d heard.

Still, it must be hard when people suggest your recent success is because of them?

There’s no nepotism involved. I worked hard for it and gained my own confidence so I never have any insecurities about that. I could have asked them to pull a few strings for me but it was never needed.

So are you more famous than them now?

[laughs] I just think we’re all doing our own thing. Working away. It’s a job at the end of it all. I think people forget that. It’s just a job.

By Corinne Redfern