Elizabeth Olsen on Silent House

The star of the single-shot horror film on who screwed up the longest takes, and practicing her "awards face."

Fred Topelby Fred Topel


Elizabeth Olsen made an impressive debut in the film Martha Marcy May Marlene. She impressed a room full of journalists even further when she gave interviews in L.A. for her new film, Silent House. The horror film follows Olsen’s character as she’s chased through a house, seemingly in one single 88 minute take. We got a lot of questions in and Olsen seemed calm, thoughtful, practical, no entourage, on time and just sure of herself and her place in Hollywood.


Crave Online: What was harder, remembering dialogue for long takes or hitting all the marks involved?

Elizabeth Olsen: If you’re an actor, just know your lines so you can’t ever say that that’s hard. It was difficult to go through a scene so many times and record it 100% and what would happen is we’d have an 11 or 12 minute take and something would go wrong at like 10 minutes and made every single thing you did completely unusable. So that was the hardest to think, “Can’t you just use a little bit of that?” “No, because technically we can’t use it. That’s not where our stitch is.”


What was the dumbest, most frustrating mistake?

There was one thing that every single department, because this was hard for every department involved. This was hard for lighting, for focus, for everything. For sound. Sound was just like, “I give up. Like I don't know what I’m supposed to do right now. We’re literally in the pathway of an airport.” One time we were doing the very last scene, and this was actually from the ending that we had for Sundance because we did reshoots, so the ending’s changed since then but the last scene, the last shot was actually on a Polaroid. Literally it’s a second and we finished and we’re like, “Good, we got it.” I hate saying this because it’s like “oh he did it” but one of the props people had to put the Polaroid in a certain place. Right when the camera got there there was just a finger pulling out. It was the last second of the whole film! Really if we had a lucky day, we had two usable takes on a lucky day. So if you get that close… so that was the most frustrating mess up but Michael felt awful. He felt so bad and you can’t blame anyone. It was very difficult to be props people and do anything with continuity for this film.


This past year has been such a dramatic introduction to your work, especially for those of us who go to film festivals. Did you expect it to be this whirlwind coming out when you started making movies?

No. When we made Martha, I was just like, “Oh cool, I get to work on some good material.” I also was completely unaware, totally unaware of what happens after you make an independent film. I didn’t actually understand all the festivals. I didn’t understand buying and selling and releasing and how you release it. I didn’t understand any of that so it’s just been a year of first everythings. I know I’m in a very odd situation where the first movie that I’ve ever worked on ever without ever having to do a Law & Order or anything – I auditioned for them. They didn’t cast me. It’s very odd and lucky and I couldn’t expect any of it, so it hasn’t changed my life that exists. It’s changed my work life but everything else has maintained, stayed the same. I wish I could say that I’ve made money and can buy a home but I can’t.


Is auditioning easier now?

I love auditioning. I’ve always liked it. It’s so funny, now I don’t really audition. You have meetings and I’m like, “I’ll read for you. Do you want me to read for you?” Because I like it. I think it’s an important part of the process where you get to say, “This is what I’ve thought. Do you jive with it?” You should have those moments but I guess you don’t when you just meet someone because sometimes you can figure out just by meeting someone if you guys will be compatible working wise which I guess is just as important.


Did you practice your Awards face for when they show your clip and cut to you while everyone applauds?

No, because I always think it’s weird when you see someone really self-conscious. That’s what makes me uncomfortable so I just keep saying, “Lizzy, just listen to whatever it is. The camera’s right in your face but just keep on listening.”