Interview:
Elizabeth Olsen

Chris Mirjahangir: This is the full roundtable Q&A with actress Elizabeth Olsen who appears in Godzilla (2014). It was conducted at the J.W. Essex Marriot in New York, New York on May 4th, 2014. It was transcribed by Anthony Romero. I was in attendance, although the questions contained here are by various journalists.

Now first question - Is there a different way to act in a monster movie compared to a independent, low budget, "do it in two takes" movie?


Elizabeth Olsen: Actually we didn't do so many takes. You have the luxury of time to do lots of angles. I don't know, Gareth comes from this same kind of background and understanding that I do. So I actually never felt that odd or out of place. I think my two biggest challenges: one was working with a kid, and then the other was the technical aspect of when you are working with special effects. The timing and the camera movement, but finding the [acting] freedom... and I think those were the two things I learned on the job. The reason I thought doing a movie like this or any of these kinds of big seat, special effects kinda movies is the child-like imagination you gotta have and rooting it in such reality but from a child's point of view almost.

Roundtable Question: So Elizabeth can you expand a little bit on how that challenge was with the kid, like how did you bond and that sort of thing?

Olsen: I had a lot of different actors tell me how difficult it can be working with [children]. I mean we didn't hire a six year old who looked four... we had a four year old who played a four [year old]. So Carson and his mother and I started e-mailing before we were in Vancouver and then I just kinda hanged out with him everyday. I'd go to the parks with him. He's a very open child and very easy to connect with him and we just played a lot. I think Aaron [Taylor-Johnson] did the opposite actually, cause Aaron doesn't get to see him often.

Its a lot of improvising... a lot of using another child when its your close up *laughs*. But I would love to do it again. It keeps you on your feet and it's always going to change and there is nothing you can rely on to be set. It's really fun.


Roundtable Question: Moving out of the indie sect and kinda crossing over to these big iconic franchises like Godzilla and the Avengers, how is it on this side of the fence when you meet people who know the history and love these things so much. What is that experience been like?


Olsen: It's been amazing to do group interviews with people who are a different generation than me, [like] Bryan [Cranston] and Ken [Watanabe]. Especially from Ken's point of view, because the way he talks about Godzilla is with so much love, [it's] so much a part of his country's culture and it represents something so much larger than it has for America culture. But for Bryan it was like his favorite thing as a kid, and I feel like I didn't grow up with a generation that loved Godzilla... I loved Star Wars, that was my Godzilla I guess. It's amazing to be part of the history, especially for this film because we are being supported by Toho *laughs*. We are being supported by the original production company. It has been collaborative and we are respecting the whole origin of the reason why [Godzilla] was made to begin with. I feel our film is empowered with that knowledge.

Roundtable Question: How does Gareth work with actors, because he has to deal with some of the effects things and the cameras and cranes and swooping and [everything too]?

Olsen: I think that's what Gareth's big strength is. I think a lot of times when you make these big films, action films, anything to do with special effects... I think the new trend right now, or has been, is to get these really great story tellers, these really great story driven directors and a lot of times they know nothing about special effects. Or they don't understand the larger picture of everything. Gareth is the opposite. Gareth comes from special effects but loves story driven pieces. Instead of working for a production company, he worked for a special effects company. And so he had confidence in that fully and he had confidence also in working with the actors. So all he was really there to do was to make us feel like he was there for the story. I never felt overpowered or overshadowed by the effects. Also working with Legendary [Pictures] as well, they weren't stepping on his toes. They weren't a very loud presence except for support. That I think is really rare when you make a big studio film.

Roundtable Question: Do you have certain rules when you decide to do a film?

Olsen: I don't know... maybe I'm developing them. I think they are slowly coming together. I think right now its: I just want to make sure the character I'm playing has a rooted, fully fledged out story and is something that I'm always going to learn from. And I think its also important to have a director who you'll know you can learn from and can trust... and simultaneously a production company that knows what they are doing. So I think that's my new "strategy" *laughs*.

Roundtable Question: What is it like playing husband and wife with Aaron in this movie and having to transition to brother and sister in [The Avengers: Age of Ultron]?

Olsen: It's awesome! We only did a few of scenes together for this film... but we spent time together in Vancouver and got to know his family. You know, we just spent time together and to play really tight twin brother and sister it's really lucky it's not just some guy that I just meant or something. I like the fact, I think we both like the fact that we have this other film in our repertoire.

Roundtable Question: What's your process in preparing for a film like this? You were saying Godzilla is not of your generation, so did you go back and watch all the other Godzilla [films]? I mean even the same with the Avengers, have you read the comic books?

Olsen: Godzilla, not so much. Even Gareth would say if you want to see a Godzilla film, just see the 1954 original. In his mind, there's not really any reason you would have to go see anything else. Preparation for this film, largely was just making sure that the family wasn't too stereotyped but broad enough because it needs to be to reach a world audience. But also specific enough and rooted and grounded in a relationship you can get behind. And so that was more of a conversation that never stopped between Gareth, Aaron and I.

And then with Avengers, I mean, for me it was like throw it all in and I just read - still reading - just comics and also love looking at fan pages for something like that. I think for something like a comic book character that's something else. I'm creating Elle Brody, but I'm also the first human interpretation of the Scarlet Witch. So you want to be able to honor cartoons and comics and fans and all of that, but bring your own thing to it that you are recreating. So that's been a really fun process... [chatter in the roundtable] ... yeah, but it's awesome because she's dope *laughs*.

Roundtable Question: At the end of Captain America [The Winter Solider] what is your character doing with those blocks?

Olsen: What am I doing? Just... just whatever it looks like. I don't know if I'm allowed to say anything I'm so terrified of everything Marvel. *laughs*

Roundtable Question: There's a sniper!

Olsen: *laughs*

Roundtable Question: Are we going to see the happy go lucky role from you? I think we talked about this on Oldboy?

Olsen: I love comedies, and I love romcoms, and I love bad ones... I am... I am... yeah, I have looked for them. I have been talking to the right people. The hard thing for me is that I look either my age or younger and a lot of times, I think the role is either late 20's ~ early 30's for these really great comedies and so I'm just not there yet. It's hard for me to play opposite men in their mid-to-late 30's... it just looks wrong I guess. Oh well, I'll grow up one day. *laughs*

Roundtable Question: Was this your first time doing CGI?

Olsen: Yep, absolutely. Yeah it was definitely my first time doing something like this. I didn't have any green screen to work with though, it was all just an eye line and an imagination.

Roundtable Question: So when you get on set with Johnson are you already like a pro? You are already like yep, camera swoops?

Olsen: No, it's such a different world. It's so crazy. The main difference is in Godzilla you are reacting to something that is not there, and in something like the Avengers you are approaching and almost interacting with something that's not there. *laughs* That's what the main difference is for me right now.



Roundtable Question: What was it like seeing Godzilla put all together?


Olsen: It was amazing. I had such a great time watching it. I was shocked because I feel I'm usually pretty distant and critical when I'm watching a film that I'm in... but I don't play such a huge role that it's distracting for me. And so I just got to sit and relax. I really cared about everyone and cared about the world and figure this thing out and getting to watch what all the other actors were doing and how it translated from the script I read to it being on screen and [me] not being there for any of it. And then also just seeing how all the monsters were interacting and kinda wild and amazing and I really loved it.

PERSON DETAILS

ELIZABETH OLSEN

Youngest of the Olsen sisters, Elizabeth Olsen has been known primary for indie projects. Godzilla marks her first major franchise role, although will be followed by a starring appearance in Marvel's The Avengers: Age of Ultron as the Scarlet Witch.

Date: 05/11/2014
Interviewer: Chris Mirjahangir (group interview)

 

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