Elizabeth Olsen on Her ‘Embarrassing’ Marvel Scenes, Recovering From Panic Attacks and Whether She’s Still an ‘Aspiring Stoner’

During her career, Elizabeth Olsen has played a broad range of characters, from a damaged cult escapee in 2011’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” to an in-over-her-head FBI agent investigating a murder in “Wind River,” to a narcissistic influencer in “Ingrid Goes West” — and, of course, the tragic, terrifying Wanda Maximoff (aka Scarlet Witch) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Next year, she’ll star in “Love & Death,” an HBO Max limited series about Candy Montgomery, a Texas homemaker who in 1980 had an affair with her friend’s husband — and then murdered her friend, hitting her 41 times with an axe. It’s based on a true story.

Yet “Love & Death,” written by David E. Kelley, and directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, isn’t grim, according to Olsen — in fact, “I think we were trying to find the humor as much as possible,” she says. And as for playing a murderer in Candy, she compared the experience to getting into the character of Wanda. “What’s fun for me is trying to understand why people make the decisions they make,” Olsen says. “I just feel like that’s my role is to defend, defend, defend. And so I adore her, and I’m impressed by her.”

During an in-depth interview for Variety’s Power of Women issue, Olsen discussed all of these characters and more — and Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, all but stated that Olsen’s time in the MCU ain’t over yet. Here, Olsen delves deeper into some of her MCU experiences, and details why she and her husband, Robbie Arnett, collaborated on “Hattie Harmony: Worry Detective,” a children’s book designed to help kids manage anxiety. She also talks about her past and future career — and whether her attempts to become a stoner have been successful.

You’re blipped away at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War.” What was your experience of working on that movie and “Endgame”?

I mean, those movies I really don’t know what’s going on. I just get my pages, so I understand the part of the story I’m fulfilling. I get a story that is told to me from the Russos about what’s happening in the rest of the movie. And it isn’t in the script that everyone gets blipped.

ou couldn’t read the entire script?

Those movies, you could read a script in an office, with a security guard, on one specific iPad. And I was like, “Can you just give me what I need to know?” And I don’t really need to know what happens with Robert [Downey Jr.]’s whole part of the film.

Did you know who died?

Well, I knew he died, because I filmed it.

Oh, yes, of course.

But we called it “The Wedding” on the schedule. But I didn’t know I got blipped away until we shot it. That was told to us that day. All of us went to the van where they had a bunch of equipment to show us pre-viz: Scarlett [Johansson], Chris [Hemsworth], Chadwick [Boseman], Sebastian [Stan]. We were all just in this van, and they said, “This is what’s happening. You guys will disappear.” And we’re like, “OK.” It was shocking. I mean, we didn’t know. We thought the movie ended differently.

What did you think was —

I don’t even remember. I mean, we knew Vision died, but I didn’t know that anything went on past that.

What was filming that scene like? 

So, it’s very embarrassing shooting those kinds of things, because, like, the world depends on you doing it. And we did some improvising, which is hard to improvise those moments. But it also felt good, because at that point, Paul [Bettany] and I really had each other’s back. It was one of the last things we shot. I felt really comfortable with him as an actor if we had to improvise that beat a little bit. We were trying to find it, with the Russos guiding us. And then, once it was over, it was a huge amount of relief. And I just remember being giggly the rest of the day, while Brolin had his helmet on. And I don’t know. These movies are very silly, but you have to act your ass off for them to work.

What’s embarrassing? I mean, I guess I can picture it, now that you say that.

Because you’re like — [holds out her hand]. Ugh, I’m doing this in public. But you have one hand out that’s stopping something with energy. And then you’ve got another hand that’s extracting this fake thing from this dotted face. And it’s painful and emotional.

What’s his physical appearance on the set?

He’s so purple. And then he has a layer of glitter over the purple. So, when he touches you or kisses you, you get glitter on you. And then you’re sweating also, because it was Atlanta. And so, he would just be melting. And then, he had these ear things where he’d have to open up his ears and go like this, and it would just drip water.

It’s just silly. There’s a lot of silly stuff. I always wish that one day they just release a version of the film without any special effects, because then you understand how ridiculous it feels. And how spectacular the work is that goes into making these.

And how does it work when you’re part of the MCU? You have a contract for a certain number of films, and they just tell you when to show up?

Kind of.

Gwyneth Paltrow is in my head —

I don’t really know how she talks about it. She doesn’t remember which ones she’s in?

She didn’t remember she was in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

Right, right, right, right, right. Yeah, that’s very funny.

When you saw that, were you like, “What the hell?” Or is that you’re part of a troupe and you don’t actually know —

I know exactly what I’m doing. But I feel like she does a lot of things besides being an actor. So, maybe she just kind of feels like, “Oh yeah, this is this thing I do sometimes. And then this is my real job, running this empire,” or whatever.

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