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Olivia Wilde of FIX - Interview
You just don’t bring up that Olivia Wilde was named #1 in Maxim’s Hot 100 list of nice looking ladies.
I don’t know if this speaks to the fact I don’t read Maxim or that the only reason I know who she was, before seeing the wonderment that is FIX, was that she sat in on a press conference for TRON LEGACY at Comic-Con over the summer. So enamored I was to speak to Jeff Bridges that I completely gave Wilde the Heisman as I used my one question to talk to The Dude. I felt bad for doing that, as every geek in the room wanted to talk to Jeff about his role in the new TRON iteration but when I had the chance to talk to Olivia about this film I knew I had to address her presence there over the summer.
I only wish all my interviews went as well as my talk with Olivia as chatting about how a movie that had to be shot on the weekends, being directed by your husband Tao Ruspoli and what that did to the relationship, and what this film means to her overall aims as an actress. Sure, playing a part in next year’s behemoth in-making, TRON LEGACY, won’t hurt but she handles herself with the kind of openness not usually seen from actors of her caliber. Just a delight.
FIX is now playing and will soon be available through Netflix.
CHRISTOPHER STIPP: Hi, Olivia.
OLIVIA WILDE: How are ya?
CS: Doing fine. How are you doing?
WILDE: Pretty good. Exciting weekend.
CS: I would imagine.
WILDE: Yeah, we had a great premiere.
CS: Where was the premiere held?
WILDE: The premiere was at The Tribeca Grand Hotel
WILDE: It was really, really fun.
CS: Which gets to the first question I have is that when I was researching this, this isn’t something that was one 6 months ago. It seems like this movie – I should say it’s been out there for a while – but it’s seems like there’s a story why it’s taken so long for it to come out.
WILDE: I think it’s like any true independent film. It’s a bit of a process to get widespread distribution because no sacrifices were made in making the film. We weren’t trying to be commercial. We were sticking true to the type of film we wanted to make or I should say, Tao wanted to make. So when you have a film like that and haven’t made any sacrifices, you have to stick to your guns and keep it small. And the great thing about film festivals is they really appreciate that. The true indi, art house, honest film. So we went around the world, went to 35 different festivals and won big awards at about 14 of them and won best actor (tape is blank here Christoph). For a lot of independent films the last step is finally getting distribution and the great thing about film festivals is that they do provide a home for independent films and for people to see them and we were such a smash hit at these festivals, starting at Slamdance in 2008, it garnered a lot of attention and now we have theatrical distribution in New York on November 20th at the Village East for one week and if that goes well, they’ll go live. So it’s really exciting.
CS: I would imagine. Like you said, it is quite a process now to get these independent films out there to compete with the bigger dogs.
WILDE: Yes. But, I think people like them. In a film world awash with G.I. Joe it’s refreshing to see a film that is very unique and very honest and really a labor of love.
CS: And it feels like that. One of the questions I was going to ask Tao but I will ask you too, is that he’s primarily known for making documentary films. This actually seems like a departure of what he’s really known for. What did you see in this script? What did he see in this story, and I don’t know how true – it says based on real life events, what did he take from that and what did he run with?
WILDE: I think he has documentarian sensibilities which means I think he’s interested in finding the true experience – really capturing all the messiness of real life and I think that’s the spontaneity and immediacy that you feel with a documentary, you really feel that with Fix. As an actor, it changed the process a lot and made it much more of an involved shooting process - meaning that you had to be on at all times. You never knew when the camera was going to swing around and capture you. And so it was a lot of fun. It was more of a teamwork, family, project than anything I’ve ever done and I’ve witnessed it from it’s inception to the premiere. I really now learned what goes into making a film, which is just extraordinary.
I think Tao, as a documentary filmmaker, is able to really appreciate what we can capture by allowing the camera to linger and what kind of idiosyncrasies and little messy real life moments make a story interesting. The film ended up being about 25% improvised and I think it’s only possible to have that much freedom if you are shooting in the documentary style because we don’t have to worry to much about continuity and such because it was a single camera and we weren’t covering one person’s coverage one at a time. It was more of a fly by the seat of your pants process. I think that’s why the experience of watching it is so exciting. People aren’t sure what real, who’s an actor, who’s not.
For instance, the scene that happens in Watts is entirely made up of non actors except for the main characters. I think you have a sense for that. A sense that you are capturing real life. I think that’s what makes it all so interesting and unique.
CS: You are used to being – like you said in the summer of G.I. Joes – you being on the set of big productions to now having to downshift to this independent world where now a catering truck isn’t there –
WILDE: It was great. All those luxuries are great and they are comforting but you really forget what you want to do and that’s to make a story about something together and it involves everyone’s dedication. I think the fact that we didn’t have hair and makeup, we didn’t have catering, we didn’t have trailers, everyone was completely present at every time. When we moved, the actors would help the location scouts move a truck. All the driving in the film is actually real driving.
The line between real and fake is blurred in this film. And it’s great to be a part of that. I didn’t feel like I was downshifting. I was shifting into high gear working harder than I’ve ever worked. I was invested on an emotional level more than I’d ever been because I am close to the real person it’s based on and the story is something I am intimate with. So for me it was a challenging experience and so much more personal than anything I’ve ever done. It was extraordinary to be a part of and something I hope to do again.
CS: And how was it shooting in Los Angeles proper? Were you seriously running and gunnng it or were you doing permits and other accruements?
WILDE: We didn’t break any laws but we were definitely grassroots scurrilous style filmmaking. It was really fun because we were seeing parts of LA that people never see and we were shooting 10 pages a day and really moving fast. We actually shot mostly in order so it was kind of organic in the way that everything was developing. I think you can really sense that in the story. As the character sort of evolves, the filmmaking changes as well because since we were shooting on the weekend we were forced to shoot around my house schedule. Each weekend we’d have edited the scene from the weekend before so we really had a sense of what we needed. Everything became sharper by the end and I think that worked. But that’s only because we were able to shoot in order.
It was really a fascinating to be shooting a scene where I’m driving the 1960 Impala around LA and would actually stop at a fruit stand downtown, buy fruit, work that into the scene, and go to the next location. Completely organic. And lots of moments in the film when I watched it for the first time, I was like, oh my god, Tao, I didn’t know you were filming that. It was kind of amazing that that was all captured and then left it in, which is a testament as well to our amazing editor. A guy named Paul Forte, who was able to take all this experimentation and weave it together and create a film that feels so natural but you would never know how much work went into it.
CS: That’s a curious thing you bring up to. You obviously shot a metric ton worth of footage, when you got into the editing room, did Tao, did they see what movie they ended up with and were they surprised at what they eventually came up with?
WILDE: Tao can actually answer that better than I can. The editing room was actually the bottom floor of our loft so I witnessed a lot of that process. I think they were amazed at how much was coming out of the shooting process. The improvisation was adding life to certain scenes where we weren’t sure. There were scenes that completely exploded hilariously. One of my favorite scenes is when we go steal the espresso machine. I love that scene. It was such a simple scene When they wrote it it was a small tight little scene, maybe a page long and it turned into this fun and surprising moment and I think every actor there just ran with it and it had an energy that no one really expected. So, surprise moments like that in the editing room were adding flavor and color to the film and they were just getting more and more excited as it went along. It was such a different process.
Not only did we not have trailers, we all traveled in one funky RV and followed the production car from location to location and the editor would sit in the back with his laptop and download the footage or capture the footage as we shot it. It was really happening as we were shooting it. It was amazing to see how far the film had come after we were done shooting it. So experimental and unique. People will have a sense of that when they watch it. A sense of discovery. I think it would be hard to re-create with a bigger budget or much slower production.
CS: And one thing about the film, it’s compressed timeline. Like 16 Candles. All happens with a tight timeline. Was that difficult balancing continuity?
WILDE: Yes. Because whenever you have a film where everything happens in one day you have to think about things like daylight. The good thing about LA is that the weather never changes so you can sort of lie. But I think it’s impossible to match completely but I think we came pretty damn close. We had amazing producers who sat there figuring it all out and timelining it and it was impossible to do but we did a really good job. I think it’s kind of a real visceral experience of LA that a lot of people have never had. Dragging from one location to the next and it’s completely how it feels spending the day with Tao’s brother in real life. You feel you’ve been on this oddesy and you have to real relinquish all control and just learn and I think that’s what the audience has to do while watching Fix and definitely what my character has to do and I feel that she sort of becomes the eyes of the audience. She represents the journey emotionally the audience goes on, initially skeptical and eventually game. So it all feels in the end a really fun experience.
CS: And speaking of experience, I have to at least ask the question because I was there in July when you were there at Comi-Con.
WILDE: Were you really? Great.
CS: I was in that room for the press conference and intrinsically I felt bad because no one was asking you or Garrett anything?
WILDE: I think it was appropriate this year, but next year it’s going to be a different experience.
CS: How as that? I’m always curious to know what’s it like to be besieged by screaming geeks and nerds and that experience of what these people love about this movie?
WILDE: I think it’s really an honor at a place like Comi-Con. They are really discerning fans and I think they feel a certain ownership of a film like Tron, it’s a part of their lives and feel they know it well and they are sensitive to the recreation of the Tron world and are interested in knowing if it will maintain the integrity that the original had. It was really fun to reassure them that it indeed would and be able to show them just a tiny bit of evidence of that.
CS: It was a shred…it was just enough.
WILDE: Yes, just enough. I think it’s good to keep them wanting more and I think next year I think San Diego might explode. It will be a lot of fun.
CS: If I had one more question for you it would be based on your experience in doing this. Your resume is so impressive. You have been so accessible. A movie like this and doing an independent film had to at least put you in check in terms of realizing there is still lots to learn.
WILDE: Yes. I think it’s important to do that throughout the rest of my career. I look up to actors who go back to their roots and continue to do small independent small budget films. Someone like (Parka Pozie?)who is constantly doing small independent experimental films and it’s often where she really gets to shine. She takes more risks and someone like Catherine Keener is the same. Kate Blanchett I look up to too, she appeared in Lord of the Rings, and then a Jim Jarnosh film. So I really look up to that and it does keep you in check. I certainly learned a lot about the filmmaking process and learned to really respect the independent filmmakers and all that they go through in order to bring their art to the world. I was certainly humbled by it and can’t wait to do it again.
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