Olivia Cooke, 22
“I would have felt like such a phony wearing a big, obtrusive bald cap, so I was like, ‘Just f—ing shave my head,’ ” recalls the English actress of her feature breakout as a cancer-stricken teen in the 2015 Sundance winner Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. With A&E’s Bates Motel — in which she stars opposite Freddie Highmore — set to end after its fifth season, Cooke has a handful of indies coming up, including Anton Yelchin’s final film, Thoroughbred. But in 2018 comes the big one: Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One opposite Tye Sheridan.
What made me want to act: Titanic
Reading my reviews: “I say that I never will, but then, of course, in a really sadistic, masochistic moment in my room on my own I will.”
And box office? “No, I don’t understand. What is it, ‘tracking’? How’s it tracking? It’s like, how do you know? It hasn’t come out yet! I don’t get it.”
Best advice you’ve received: “‘Have an extraordinary career and a very normal life.’ I never want to be too famous to where I can’t go to the corner shop and get a pint of milk.”
Millennials, in a word, are: “Accepting.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY – What’s it like to audition for one of Hollywood’s preeminent filmmakers? Olivia Cooke found out first hand, after going through the process to star in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.
“I auditioned in New York for the casting director, then was flown over to L.A. to read with Spielberg, and mix and match with a bunch of boys over two days there. Then I was flown [back] to New York,” Cooke said at the PEOPLE / EW / InStyle Portrait Studio during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, where she was promoting the films Katie Says Goodbye and The Limehouse Golem.
The actress, who broke out in last year’s Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, said the audition was covered in a “veil of secrecy.” She was later given the script to read at the casting director’s office. “She said, ‘It’s looking good for you, that’s the reason why I wanted you to read the script. Do you like it?’ I’m like, ‘Of course I do!’”
Cooke found out she scored the role three days later, she said, while doing laundry. “I’m just like, ‘What is my life?’ It’s bizarre.”
Due out on March 30, 2018, Ready Player One tells the futuristic story of a virtual universe created in a world crumbling because of economic and environmental trauma. Cooke stars alongside Tye Sheridan, Mark Rylance, T.J. Miller, Ben Mendelsohn, and Simon Pegg, among others. It’s set to be Spielberg’s next film, following this year’s The BFG.
“I think what I’ve learned with Ready Player One is patience and being durable and being prepared for anything,” Cooke said. “Because when you’ve got a tiny, tiny movie, your schedule is set. That you have to make these scenes on that day, we can’t go over. There’s no money to go over. On this big studio movie, there could be five units going on at once.”
Watch the full interview with Cooke above.
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – The ‘Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl’ breakout actress is in Toronto with a drama from director Wayne Roberts.
Olivia Cooke is no stranger to the film festival stage.
The actress’ feature film breakout performance came in the Sundance standout Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, in which she played the eponymous “dying girl,” Rachel. Now, she returns to the festivals with Katie Says Goodbye, playing the titular Katie.
Wayne Roberts’ directorial debut takes places in a desert community, where a young woman dreams of fleeing for San Francisco., earning money for her move through waitressing at a truck stop diner and sex work. Christopher Abbott, Mary Steenburgen and Jim Belushi also star as characters that populate Katie’s small town, who both help and hinder her planned escape.
Ahead of Katie Says Goodbye’s world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, Cooke spoke to The Hollywood Reporter from England, where she is currently filming Steven Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation of Ready Player One, her first big forray into the world of tentpole filmmaking.
The actress talks to THR about misconceptions about female roles, filming in the desert, her love of indie filmmaking and Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge.
What drew you to Katie as a character?
I loved how hopeful and honest and pure she was even though she comes from a life of great hardship. She comes from a town where you are born there, then you die there. Despite all of these terrible things that happen to her, she remains so hell-bent on being hopeful and positive. It was something I was drawn to because I think I am such an eternal pessimist. [Laughs] I wanted to make her as fleshed out as I could because I think the challenge was that in someone who is hopeful is bringing layers to a person that can be one-dimensional.
How did Katie stand-out in comparison to the other parts that you are given to read?
I think sometimes Hollywood’s perception of a strong, female character is someone with a glossy mane, and she does high-kicks and can fight like a man and is really witty and sarcastic. And those are really fun to play when you get the chance, but there is something so strong innately about Katie that can be conveyed just with a look. She just wants to get out of her small town and start a career, and how she got the resolve to do so is left up for the audience to decide.
Did you have an apprehension starring in a film that portrays sex work onscreen?
Of course. I was really worried that it would be portrayed as passive. As soon as a woman engages in sex — which has completely changed now with amazing female filmmakers and creatives who are re-defining a “modern woman” — but within this small town setting, as soon as you are open about sex or engage in sex that isn’t monogamous, you are then condemned. When you have something like this in a film, it is always going to upset people, but it’s integral to the story.
With Katie Says Goodbye the sex work feels like it is portrayed in a very empathetic way.
I think sometimes when you see sex on film the character is portrayed as someone who has loose morals, which Katie doesn’t. She has never learned shame from sex because she has seen her mother have many different boyfriends. So sex has never been a taboo subject, it has always been more of a transaction. I think she sees it — and it may be naive but I think it’s very pure — as she is making the men happy and she is getting companionship and is being able to find her dream, moving to San Francisco.
How was the on-set experience with director Wayne Roberts?
It was the best collaboration of my entire career. He completely trusted me and I, in turn, completely trusted him. It was a marriage with a push and pull and sometimes we were completely in sink. It was super low budget and it was a shit hole where we were filming. The entire cast and makeup, hair and wardrobe were sharing one tiny trailer and had one bathroom between us all, but we were all so infatuated with Wayne and what we were making that it was just such a happy time. It was like a little commune.
How is the transition from a set like that into a larger film like Ready Player One?
It’s very different. You are just mind blown by what is created and the sets that you are on. Everything is so large. I had been spoiled with what I had done in the indie world because it has usually been just me and the director for a lot of the films. Now this is a huge cast and it’s a lot of waiting around. I am used to doing a two month shoot where every day I am completely living in it, but with this there is a lot of jumping in and out so it has definitely taught me how to endure and to focus. You switch off easy when you do a massive film, like you just go in your trailer and start watching [I’m] Alan Partridge or something.
It is completely more nerve-wracking, as well, doing a massive-budgeted movie. You are working with these massive actors that you have only seen in the movies and you only want to see in movies because you can be such an idiot when you meet them in real life.
When you are taking Katie Says Goodbye through the film festival circuit, starting with TIFF, what are you hoping these audiences take away from the movie?
I just hope that everyone hooks into the story and the performances. So much of our culture these days is about what explosion and laser beam performances can we watch next, and this movie is so grounded and small. So, I just hope people get back to basics and see relationships unfold onscreen again. I hope audiences can shed that visual stimulation with these huge blockbusters and relax into this world that is very small.
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Warner Bros., the studio behind the tentpole, has moved the movie to Easter 2018.
Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Ernie Cline sci-fi novel, has backed away from Star Wars: Episode VIII.
Warner Bros., the studio behind the tentpole, has moved the movie from Dec. 15, 2017, to March 30, 2018.
Earlier this month, Disney moved Star Wars from Memorial Day weekend in 2017 to Dec. 15 of that year, pitting the box-office franchise behemoth against what is expected to be a grand Spielberg sci-fi extravaganza.
The pic is set in a virtual world called Oasis, in which a teenager finds himself competing in a treasure hunt against ruthless foes after the game’s founder dies and offers his fortune as the grand prize.
Olivia Cooke and Ben Mendelsohn have so far been cast in the movie.
Ready Player One will now open on Easter weekend, with the studio planting the film after the Winter Olympics in South Korea and before the commencement of the World Cup in Russia.
VMAGAZINE.COM – Twenty-year-old Olivia Cooke has just been cast in Steven Spielberg’s next film, Ready Player One, despite “self-sabotaging” her audition. “He’s really lovely,” the Mancunian gushes, clearly relieved. Filming won’t start for quite some time, but the announcement is placed prominently on her IMDb page, which the very private Cooke finds odd. She “can’t be bothered” with Twitter or Instagram, she says. “The thing with social media these days is you can’t really say what you want. It’s always going to be judged or backfire. I don’t want to be a spokeswoman unless I’ve really got something worthwhile and important to say. Otherwise, it’s just pictures of, I don’t know, fucking lakes and beaches. It’s like a mum showing pictures of her child.”
Technically, and sort of ironically, her breakout role was a nonspeaking part. In a video, filmed to be played behind a One Direction tour, Cooke can be seen gallivanting in a field with the boy band. “That was just half a day of my life when I was 17,” she sighs. “It was 250 quid. They’d only just come out of The X-Factor so they weren’t even known at all. It’s a bit embarrassing that that was, like, the start of my career.”
Next came “screaming at nothing, CGI-ed ghosts” and suffering on-screen illnesses in an array of American and British accents (but never her own rounded northern intonation). She gasps and cries in The Quiet Ones, Blackout, The Signal, Ouija, the forthcoming Limehouse Golem, and in an ongoing role in the TV prequel to the horror film of all horror films, Bates Motel. Here, Cooke’s character is not only dangerously close to the young Norman Bates, slowly discovering his psychotic tendencies, but she often needs a respirator for shortness of breath due to cystic fibrosis.
Arguably, Cooke’s real breakout wasn’t until this year, when she played Rachel, a teen with leukemia, in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, based on the popular Jesse Andrews novel. The screenplay, also written by Andrews, intentionally waffles between sentimentality and distraction through its referencing of classic independent film. The clever format is telling of its characters’ hyper-researched generation and also of the way anyone, young or old, handles tragic loss. Devoted to the role, Cooke opted to shave her head halfway through filming instead of wearing a skullcap for when her character undergoes chemotherapy. (The studio promised to pay for the $10,000 wig she’d need for continuity in Bates Motel, Cooke confides.) Authenticity has no price. “[Rachel]’s a totally real-life character,” says Cooke. “You don’t want her to just be another Manic Pixie Dream Girl that just comes in and changes this guy’s life and then edges away slowly, saying all these really profound things in her last moments of life. She’s human, completely human.”
For her starring role in the forthcoming Katie Says Goodbye, the freedom that came from what she calls “bare-bones drama” (meaning no horror or illness to muddy a character’s emotional distress) completely changed Cooke’s way of thinking. Katie, a small-town Arizona diner waitress, prostitutes herself after hours.
“She wouldn’t call herself a prostitute, though,” Cooke corrects. “Sex isn’t a taboo subject for her. She sees this as a simple transaction—she makes these guys happy and she gets paid for it. I don’t want to go on the bandwagon of how women are perceived in films, but it was so freeing for me to be liberated of any inhibitions, any embarrassment.”
Without having seen a cut of the film, she’s ready to defend its depiction of sexuality, if only for the sake of variety. “You never really see a woman being pleasured in film,” she says. “You see a woman getting raped or beaten, or seen as the jailbait, or she’s the old hag, but you’ll never see a woman in control of all of her sex. It’s a weird thing in America when you’ll see someone’s head being blown off more than you’ll see someone having a loving, intimate sex scene—which actually happens all the time. Rarely does someone’s head get blown off.”
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER – Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow are behind the movie, which adapts the best-selling sci-fi novel by Ernie Cline.
Olivia Cooke, who starred in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, has nabbed the female lead in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One and is in negotiations.
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow are behind the movie, which adapts the best-selling sci-fi novel by Ernie Cline, and is in the thick of searching for its stars.
The story is set in a virtual world called Oasis, in which a teenager finds himself competing in a treasure hunt against ruthless foes after the game’s founder dies and offers his fortune as the grand prize.
Spielberg has been reading actors in Los Angeles and New York with the hope of finding both the male and female leads at the same time. That hasn’t happened and the hunt for the male continues, though Cooke rose to the top after tests that included Elle Fanning and Lola Kirke (Mozart in the Jungle, Gone Girl).
If a deal is made, Cooke would play the teen’s love interest and competitor, a Canadian blogger named Sam whose name in the virtual world is Art3mis.
Warners had no comment, and calls to Cooke’s representatives, Gersh and Luber Roklin Entertainment, were not immediately returned.
Spielberg is producing with Donald De Line, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Dan Farah.
The role is major breakthrough for Cooke, a rising talent who’s been working mostly in the indie world, while also appearing on A&E’s Bates Motel. She received a big career boost with Dying Girl, the indie that won the Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and was picked up Fox Searchlight.
While the movie wasn’t the hit the studio hoped for, it lifted Cooke’s profile as one of the key actresses of the new generation. Not only did it put her into contention for Spielberg’s latest tentpole, but her name has surfaced as being on the shortlist for one of the Star Wars movies.