Complex role adds to young actress Elizabeth Olsen's career
BY GENE TRIPLETT
Many a seasoned actress might be daunted by an identity-challenged character named “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” not to mention a player who’s still in drama school.
But Elizabeth Olsen, 22, slipped into the title role of Sean Durkin’s psychological thriller like a practiced pro.
“It’s so easy for people to write others off who do become part of a cult,” Olsen said in a phone interview from a publicity tour stop in Dallas. “It’s really easy for someone to say, ‘Oh, you know, clearly they’re easily influenced, they’re more likely to (give in to) peer pressure.’ But the truth is that it can happen to anyone who’s trying to fill a void or be part of something larger than themselves.”
She was speaking of Martha, a young woman who escapes from a cultlike farming “family” in the Catskills and attempts to re-enter the normal world at her sister’s posh lake house in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” a film by first-time writer-director Durkin.
“I think initially the first thing I responded to, which I found really fascinating to explore, was kind of her growing paranoia,” Olsen said. “And that was something that was kind of like the launching-off point, where I just felt like I had so much compassion for her. … Instead of trying to figure out where it came from, and instead of making something like a clinical choice or creating a victim, I thought it would be really interesting to try and figure out how you could stand behind someone and defend them, in this story in particular.
“And so that was really what was the goal for me, was to not make her the victim and make her stronger than people would imagine.”
Serious about acting
The film also marks Olsen’s big-screen debut, although she’s no stranger to acting in front of a camera, having grown up playing herself in a series of direct-to-video films starring her famous twin sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. But interviewers are instructed by Olsen’s publicists not to ask about her siblings, as she’s obviously determined to stand on her own as a serious performer.
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