To say that Olivia Wilde is not your average A-lister is an understatement. Alongside her work as an actor, model, producer and activist, passionately campaigning for women’s rights and lending her support to the Planned Parenthood and Time’s Up movements, Wilde recently added director to her evergrowing list of accomplishments. Today, she is one of just a handful of women to make the move from in front of the camera (you’ll recognise her from leading roles in films like Tron: Legacy and Rush, as well as the TV series House) to behind it. Her first feature-length film, Booksmart, hit cinemas last summer to rave reviews, landing Wilde Breakthrough Filmmaker of the Year at the CinemaCon Awards. And as with every important choice in her life, this decision was one born out of a fundamental desire for change.
“I realised I had spent more than half my life on set and was starting to become frustrated that I didn’t have creative control over the projects I was working so hard on,” says Wilde over the phone from Los Angeles. “So I decided it was time to step up. I’m a firm believer that you can’t complain about anything unless you’re willing to do it yourself.” The result is a whip-smart coming-of-age comedy about two female best friends (played by rising stars Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever), in the tradition of the great teen movies that Wilde devoured while growing up. “When I think about my adolescence, I think about watching and rewatching films like The Breakfast Club, Dazed and Confused and Clueless,” says Wilde. “These were movies that helped me contextualise the experience of growing up. It’s easy to discount those films as superficial, but they are significant in the messages they send to young people. And I don’t take it lightly, that responsibility to communicate to young people at a time in life that can be very confusing.”