The more you learn about Elizabeth Olsen’s performance in Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene” the more remarkable it becomes. Whether talking to Durkin, her co-stars John Hawkes or Sarah Paulson or even Olsen herself, you have to wonder how quickly the 22-year-old will be battling Jennifer Lawrence or Kristen Stewart for the title of bet actress of her generation. But first, let’s focus on “Martha.”
Olsen won the role in an open audition. It was the second film she’d ever made. Oh, and she filmed some of her first picture while going back and forth to shoot “Martha.” She had no time to rehearse beforehand. For as intense and realistic her portrayal of a woman trying to deal with the ramifications of months in an intense “cult-like” atmosphere is, she could immediately come out of character with no emotional ramifications (no messy “method” acting here). Compare that to Hawkes who admits he wasn’t completely comfortable not knowing the past history of his character or someone such as Jessica Chastain, who had the benefit of four months of rehearsals with her onscreen kids for “The Tree of Life.” Great performances rarely occur in these situations, but now nine months after the film’s debut at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Olsen is a strong candidate to land an Academy Award nomination.*
*Assuming more and more SAG and Academy members learn the previously mentioned anecdotes, of course.
Last week I sat down with Paulson, who is impressive as Martha’s confused and estranged sister, and Olsen. It was immediately clear the only strain in their relationship was onscreen. Both actresses realize how remarkable “Martha” is considering how quickly the indie was made and that Durkin was a first time feature filmmaker. Moreover, they both agreed the friendship they developed off camera helped create more of a backstory for their characters (why they are estranged is purposely never explained). They got along so well, they insist they almost convinced Durkin to let them have a “singing” moment aka, “First Wives Club” moment (or “Stepmom” for you Susan Sarandon fans). Obviously, if Durkin had gone in that direction “Martha” would be a much different picture.
To hear more from the lovely ladies check out my interview with them embedded in this post.
For my colleague Kris Tapley’s discussion regarding “Martha Marcy May Marlene” with Olsen and Hawkes, click here.
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
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