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"I like it when people get all high on altitude and give me awards!"
"It's also special when someone honors you, not just for having the best cheekbones or the best ass, but for having something special to give back to the film community."
"Journalism is in my blood and always will be."
"People really like motivated people with good ideas in this business."
"There's just no fear involved with someone you feel you can take leaps with."
"I wanted to somehow creatively communicate their mission and challenges in a different kind of way. So, I started putting together this play..."
"I'm not a doctor, but I'll tell you about some really kick ass doctors that you can learn about!"
Olivia Wilde  

Interviewed by Mark Sells
May 2008

The altitude has been particularly good to Olivia Wilde. Not only was she in Vail promoting her latest film, "Fix," which would go on to win the Vail Film Festival's Top Film Award, but she was being honored as one of the year's most preeminent Rising Stars. Says Wilde, "I like it when people get all high on altitude and give me awards!"

Born Olivia Jane Cockburn into a journalistic household and raised in Washington, D.C., Olivia studied acting at Philips Academy in Andover, MA, refining her craft abroad at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin. While abroad, her rebellious nature led to a new, "wilder" persona. And following graduation, she moved to LA and joined Elisha Cuthbert and Emile Hirsch on the set of "The Girl Next Door," where she made an instant impression. That led to her first breakthrough role, as the seductress, Alex Kelly, on "The O.C." More feature film roles followed, from "Alpha Dog" with Justin Timberlake and Sharon Stone to "Running with Scissors," alongside Annette Bening and Alec Baldwin. As well as the recurring role of Dr. Hadley, aka Thirteen, on the critically acclaimed series, "House, M.D."

Along the way, there were plenty of music videos, Maxim lists, and Abercrombie & Fitch campaigns. But make no mistake about it. Wilde is not just another pretty face. Conscientious about the art of film, the social responsibility of giving back to the art community, and the impact of politics on art, Olivia is well grounded and worldly, no doubt the influence of her parents. Playful and poised, she has all of the spark and edge of a promising young actor walking on the Wilde side.

Reel Questions, Reel Answers

Impressions of Colorado?

So far, so good! Actually, the only other time I've been here was when I was in Aspen for the HBO Comedy Fest and I had a film there...a little indie comedy called "Bickford Shmeckler's Cool Ideas." It was a festival hit - a fun, little movie that Patrick Fugit and I did. And it was the only other time I've been given an award. For best actress. So, I think it must have something to do with the altitude!

The altitude has been good to you!

Yeah, altitude is good. I like it when people get all high on altitude and give me awards (laughs)!

So are you a skier or boarder?

I am a snowboarder. But unfortunately, I haven't. Because I work on the show, "House," we work pretty much every day. And I just had a chance to be here for this day of the festival.

It's been hectic, but it's worth it because it's so beautiful here and the films that are screening alongside our film ("Fix") are all really interesting.

Thoughts of the festival?

I'm kind of psyched to be at a festival that seems to be more than just a 'celebration of film.' It has some social and environmental elements, which are really unique and I'm excited to see how they celebrate film along with things like the Blue Sky award and the support of Project Red, which is something close to my own heart.

For me, this festival is worth coming to just to have our film here. But when they asked me to come accept this award, I'm over the moon. It's exciting that they think I'm a rising star. But they're the real rising stars! They've only been around for 5 years and yet, are forging a whole new path for festivals as far as values are concerned. They are about more than just the industry, which is a really, really good thing.

The great thing about festivals like Vail is that they really encourage you to try something new. They bring it down to what I think the whole process should be about. In other words, you're not trying to make a film 100 million people will love. You're trying to make a film that will maybe fill a theater of 50 people who want to see something interesting. Something that will make them happy. And when that happens, it's such an incredible honor.

If we didn't have these, how would you ever even try anything new?

Talk to me about this rapper fantasy when you were eight years old. How did that not pan out?

It died (laughs). But I really tried. The only rap I got down by heart was the Fresh Prince rap, which I would perform for my family. I would make them all sit in the living room while I did the running man and the whole rap three times in a row.

And then I made up my own rap, which was environmentally aware. Kind of a sing songy rap. And I still remember. I was in 3rd grade and I only had one line in the whole thing. But it had a lot of beat-boxing. I can't do the beat-boxing anymore, but the words were: RE-CYCLE, RE-CYCLE, DON'T USE A CAR, USE A BICYCLE! I think that's pretty good for a 3rd grader!? But those hopes and dreams died when I realized I had a bigger interest in acting.

Both your parents are well known journalists (Leslie Cockburn of 60 Minutes and Andrew Cockburn of National Geographic, both of whom contribute to CounterPunch.org). Where did the notion of acting come from? And do you ever have the inkling to write yourself?

Acting came about when I saw my first episode of "Saturday Night Live" when I was about 8 or so. Probably when the rap dream was dying or being squashed (laughs). And I turned to my mother and wondered, "Is that a job they're doing?" And she said, "That's called acting." "You mean they get paid to do that?" She said, "Yeah." And I was quick to reply, "Sign me up!"

So, I started acting because it seemed fun. And it was the only option because I was so full of energy and my mind was so out there that it was a perfect way to funnel all that energy. My grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents are all journalists. My sister's now a working lawyer and I'm the only one to go in this direction. It sort of makes sense because the acting/film/theater world has become political. And has been the past century.

I think there's a great way to educate and inform the masses with acting that sometimes, you know, reaching some people you can't reach with just print work or documentaries so in a way it seemed almost my route of journalism. So, in answer to your questions, it was kind of a detour from the rest of the family, but at the same time, coming full circle because I now enjoy doing things that have some sort of effect on the world, a positive effect. And I think it's great that so many actors take advantage of that opportunity?almost as a responsibility to give back in that way. It's a long-winded way of saying I did because of "Saturday Night Live," but found a way to make it useful.

Journalism is in my blood and always will be. We'll just see what happens with that.

What does it mean for you today to be recognized as a Rising Star?

I guess it means that they have some sort of faith in me, which I'm so dumbfounded by. I don't know.

The heat is on!

Yeah. Now I feel I have to do something!

It seems as though this festival picks films that are innovative and unique and truly independent. And I hope they pick their rising stars with the same criteria. If they do, then I take that very seriously and it's the way I want to lead my career. With those same aspirations.

It's also special when someone honors you, not just for having the best cheekbones or the best ass, but for having something special to give back to the film community.

With many movies under your belt and a regular on the hit series, "House," what do you hope to accomplish as an actress?

A year down the road I'm going to produce my first film, which is great. "Fix" was my first foyer behind the camera as well as in front of a camera. And really, the first time being with a project from its conception to its premiere. Then, doing the festival route, which I find so fascinating.

It's obviously more work than being in a film, but totally addicting. And I want to do it again soon. I want to do it with another project I'm just as passionate about. And there's something I've been working on for a few years that on my next hiatus from "House," I'll hopefully get to put into works.

Now that you've had some success, is it easier to get personal projects off the ground?

Well, the thing that happens as you get older and more recognition is that people trust you with more projects, with more money. So, you can say, "Look, I have a good idea. Just trust me and give me that money and I'll make something interesting." That gets easier and easier as your name becomes more recognizable, which is the great thing with TV. You become familiar enough to the masses to be able to sell something to them.

And I feel so lucky. I enjoy television, not just as a vehicle to get to that point, but to be in a role on a show that I really love ("House") and one that gives me time to do interesting films when I'm not working on set.

Like "Fix."

Well, with "Fix," we shot on the weekends when I wasn't doing "House," so there's a way to make it all work in this business. As long as you've got a will, there's definitely a way. And people really like motivated people with good ideas in this business.

So what was it like working with your husband (Tao Raspoli) on "Fix?" Was there any tension or was it kind of an extension of...

The great thing about it was that a large part of it was unscripted. It was a liberated set with so much improv. You had to be very comfortable and trusting of your fellow actors and director. I already felt comfortable with him. And comfortable being vulnerable in ways that I had never been before - sort of unattractive and dorky. Letting my real dorky side come through instead of the fake one you put on for everybody, including the one for interviews (laughs)!

Is that so?

(Laughs) Just kidding. It's really different shooting with someone who knows you, who really knows you, because you feel you can take risks. You can be bad and they'll just say 'Great. Fine. Now, do it again.' And they don't judge you. You're not worried they're calling the studio and saying 'she was a mistake!' There's just no fear involved with someone you feel you can take leaps with.

I always grew up with my parents working together on different projects - books, documentaries, articles, etc. And it was wonderful to know that I could do the same thing with Tao and be successful. People thought we'd fight the whole time, but amazingly, we had a good flow of communication.

Well it could go both ways, right? It could either be really good or could be really bad and I guess I wonder if you know, if he's directing you, does he have more sort of inside information to kind of get emotion and things like that out of you?

It's interesting. When someone gets to know you, they can catch you being false at any moment. And he really knew when somebody was real and when they weren't...which was good. In fact, he caught me a lot of times when I didn't know he was filming!

One of the things that I admire about certain actors and actresses is there stewardship. (Giving back to the community and to those in need). What can you tell me about Doctors without Borders?

Doctors without Borders is unlike any other humanitarian organization in that it goes into different countries that have been hit with natural disasters or poverty due to political strife, or what have you, and they train local doctors to get the community to a healthier state of being. They are always first to arrive and always stay the longest in a crisis area.

I first learned about them because my mother was working in places like Somalia and Rwanda and all over the world and she would always come back and say how they're the one organization that is always there, always working and helping. And that really stuck with me.

So much so, I started raising money for them in different ways. The first thing I did was a fundraiser, where we raised fifty thousand dollars in one night through a very small, dinner gathering in Venice at my house. We sold some art and exchanged stories. And it gave me faith in the whole Hollywood community because there were a lot of actors and producers there who really surprised us with their generosity.

After that, I decided that I wanted to somehow creatively communicate their mission and challenges in a different kind of way. So, I started putting together this play that we're working on now - a testimony based play about 8 workers and what they go through to show the sacrifice these doctors make and the effect it has on them personally, as well as the people they're helping.

So I got involved in a creative way. And then when I joined "House," it suddenly made more sense that I was doing something for the medical field. Especially playing a doctor on television where people recognize you as Dr. Hadley (Thirteen) and ask you for medical advice.

An 'actress slash pretend doctor?'

Right! Sometimes people forget. They're like, "Is this lump normal?" (laughs). So, it's great because I can say, "I'm not a doctor, but I'll tell you about some really kick ass doctors that you can learn about!" I love Doctors Without Borders.

Olivia Wilde Interview (CONTINUED)



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