Welcome to Olivia Cooke Central, your newest fansite dedicated to Olivia Cooke. We provide you with all the latest news, photos, medias, and much more on Olivia. You may recognize Olivia from the television series Bates Motel or from the films The Quiet Ones, The Signal, Ouija, Me And Earl And the Dying Girl. Check out the site and please come back soon!
March 10, 2018 • 0 Comments

TELEGRAPH.CO.UKOlivia Cooke: From Oldham to Hollywood in six years – ‘The first time I read for Spielberg, I was shaking in my boots’

The first time I had coffee with Olivia Cooke, she was 21 years old, had moved to New York City just five weeks earlier, and, having never lived anywhere but her mum’s house in Oldham, was convinced that she’d be lonely for ever. I told her that it had taken me a year to make proper friends after I relocated from the UK. ‘A whole year? I really can’t do that,’ she’d gasped, looking horrified.

Her star was already firmly in the ascendant, however; her role as the terminally ill Rachel in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – which had won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival – was earning plaudits from both the public and those inside the industry.

Fast-forward less than three years and Olivia and I are sitting in another café, across the East River in fashionable Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where she now lives. ‘I was lonely, that first year,’ she tells me, without a trace of self-pity. ‘It was pretty tough, I didn’t know anyone. But I’ve got so many lovely friends now that I’ve met along the way.’

Between our meetings, Olivia’s career has been sent into the stratosphere. Still only 24, with just seven feature film credits to her name, she is now the female lead in the forthcoming dystopian sci-fi movie Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg.

‘It’s mental,’ she says in her rich, pronounced Lancashire burr. ‘The first time I had to read for him, I was absolutely terrified, shaking in my boots. My agent called me that night and said: “Steven’s just asked that you slow down with your dialogue, because he can’t understand what you’re saying.”’

And yet, underneath the endearing self-deprecation, there’s also a quiet self- assurance. ‘Of course there’s an element of being in the right place at the right time,’ she says, when I point out that Oldham to A-list in just six years is an impressively swift manoeuvre. ‘But, God, I haven’t stopped.’

Indeed, just a few days earlier, she landed back in New York from London, where she’s spent the past six months filming Vanity Fair, ITV’s adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic Victorian novel. Olivia plays the manipulative anti-heroine Becky Sharp, leading a cast that also includes Suranne Jones, Tom Bateman, Michael Palin and Martin Clunes.

‘Sunday night prime time, my mum’s going to love it,’ Olivia grins. ‘I think it’s her dream.’ It is easily the most mainstream of her projects to date. ‘And I don’t die at the end,’ she says.

Though Olivia is incredibly pretty, with enormous brown bushbaby eyes and dimples, she is appealingly lacking in actressy vanity. She shaved off her hair to play cancer patient Rachel, telling her director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon: ‘Bald caps look so s—t; let’s just shave my head.’

There’s no intellectual posturing either. Did she already know Vanity Fair well? I ask. ‘Oh my God, no,’ she exclaims. ‘I’d never read it. And then when I did for the role, I was like, “It’s massive!” And Thackeray goes on these huge, long 100-page tangents where you’re like, “I don’t know where we are now, I’m completely lost.”’

Happily, she reports, the adaptation is ‘really accessible and digestible’, and playing Becky was ‘the most fun’. ‘She’s charming, she’s scheming, she’s so intelligent, and she’s really, really naughty,’ says Olivia.

‘Today, she’d be the CEO of some massive, male-dominated company. She would have just batted them all them off, like flies, on her way to the top.’

While she is very far from being a cynical social climber, obsessed with status and wealth like Sharp, there is much in the character’s class-conscious journey that Olivia could relate to. ‘Trying to get into drama school [she applied to Rada], and being rejected, I was like, “Oh, right, it’s because I speak like this,”’ she says. ‘And then coming to America – where they have no idea that my accent means I’m working class – and gaining success here and then being able to go back to the UK and be the lead of an ITV show…’ She pauses and sips her mint tea. ‘I don’t know that if I’d stayed plugging along in England whether things would have turned out the same.’

The seven-part series is Olivia’s first period piece, but may very well also be her last. ‘I’ve had a really painful back and shoulders after wearing a corset for six months,’ she says. ‘No wonder women desperately wanted to be liberated. You’re sucked in within an inch of your life, and it’s so tight, you can only eat half of your lunch. I lost weight because I just couldn’t eat.’

As contrasting experiences go, it could not have been more different to Ready Player One, which arrives in cinemas later this month and is the project set to drive Olivia firmly into the spotlight on a global scale. Adapted from the bestselling science- fiction novel by Ernest Cline, and also starring Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance, the story is set in 2045, in an overpopulated world ravaged by an energy crisis, where disillusioned citizens escape their bleak existences via virtual reality (VR).

‘When I got the job, I was like, oh my God, we’re going to go to some exotic places for this…’ she says, emanating excitement. ‘And we filmed it on location in Birmingham’.

It’s a high-concept, big-budget production – there were five production units filming simultaneously for five months – mixing live action with sophisticated motion capture animation. Packed with references to 1980s films, it has a retro soundtrack to match, which Olivia – who was born in 1993 – confesses were entirely lost on her. ‘The only films I watched when I was a kid were Oliver! and The Sound of Music,’ she says. ‘And the only music I listened to was Robbie Williams.’

Tye Sheridan stars as Wade Watts, a teenage orphan who becomes a competitor in a VR treasure hunt, pitted against powerful gamers and corporate foe. Olivia plays Samantha (‘a badass’), Wade’s friend in the real world, and Art3mis, a high-ranking avatar, in the VR world of the Oasis.

Olivia does not claim to have any sort of handle on the technology involved in creating Art3mis. ‘Even when I was doing the motion capture, I just put on the helmet and did what I was told,’ she says. ‘Apparently, there was a camera shooting lasers at my outfit, but I’ve no idea how any of it works.’ The results, however, she finds fascinating. ‘It’s incredible to see my little idiosyncrasies in my avatar. You feel like you’ve been weirdly immortalised.’

Though the notion of large-scale virtual reality immersion may seem fantastical, Olivia believes it’s not so far-fetched.

‘Many people are already using VR headsets at home and spending more time online to escape their real lives,’ she says. Ironically, Olivia herself spends as little time as possible online. She is avowedly anti social media, and doesn’t have a Twitter, Facebook or an Instagram account. ‘It’s a case of preserving my mental health,’ she says. Privacy is important to Olivia. Her boyfriend is an American actor, whom she has been seeing for almost three years now, but she doesn’t want to name or discuss him, let alone post endless shots of them together.

‘I have such a normal life, I am barely ever recognised, and the idea of having something where strangers can access me, or expect me to behave in a certain way is terrifying.

‘I don’t want to be a role model,’ she adds, pulling a face. ‘If I wanted to be a role model, I’d be a frigging politician.’ But she is, I gently remind her, likely to soon be a household name – is she ready for that?

‘I don’t know. Maybe. I think I can maybe just… compartmentalise all of it…’ she trails off, laced fingers covering her eyes.

One benefit of becoming an A-lister she can handle with aplomb are the dressing-up opportunities. Today, over her white shirt and navy drainpipe trousers, she’s wearing a highly covetable navy-blue Victoria Beckham coat. ‘My stylist got it for me for a meeting with CAA [the talent agency that represents Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lawrence, among others] – she said I needed to have a “baller” [flashy] outfit,’ she says, as we both coo over the oversized ruched sleeves. ‘I’ve got to give it back, but I’m going to wear it for a few more days first.’ Her stylist, Danielle Nachmani, who also counts the Olsen sisters as clients, has been dressing her in Saint Laurent too. ‘That cost as much as my rent for a year.’

Olivia grew up, with her younger sister Eleanor, in Oldham, where her mother is a sales representative for a food manufacturer and her father is a retired police officer. Nobody in her family had ever acted, and she wasn’t even exposed to theatre or film growing up, but when Olivia took to the stage at eight years old, at a local theatre workshop, ‘something stuck’.

‘I knew that I loved it straight away, but I didn’t know that was what I wanted to do with my life,’ she says.

A friend at the theatre workshop had a local agent, so, aged 14, Olivia got one too; the highlights of her early career were an Iceland commercial and an advert for the high-street sofa chain DFS.

‘It was a casting director called Beverley Keogh, whose office was next door to the agency, who really saw something in me,’ says Olivia. ‘She fought for me and got me a few things, including my first TV job, as Christopher Ecclestone’s daughter in Blackout [a BBC miniseries], when I was 18.’

It was a role in the US TV series Bates Motel, filmed in Vancouver, that first took her across the Atlantic, but it was her experience on the 2016 film Katie Says Goodbye alongside Jim Belushi and Mary Steenburgen – in which she played a waitress turned prostitute – that persuaded her to put down roots in the US. ‘All the people I worked with on that film lived in New York. And they were the most creative, generous people I’d ever met. I just thought, “If being in New York helps me meet more people like that, then I want to be there.”’

Alongside her high-profile roles in Ready Player One and Vanity Fair, Olivia also has several independent films due for release this year. Thoroughbreds (‘these two girls in suburban Connecticut, very white, very privileged, who plot to kill one of their fathers – I play a sociopath who has euthanised the family horse’), and Life Itself, written and directed by Dan Fogelman, creator of the Channel 4 drama This Is Us.

She would love to return to the theatre and do a play on Broadway. ‘I’d be sick every night through traumatic nerves, but oh my God, I’d absolutely love to,’ she says.

Olivia is forging her career at a time when the entertainment industry is in a state of unprecedented turmoil, with the fall of prominent power players and the rise of the Time’s Up movement. Though she has not, she says, suffered anything she’d class as abuse or harassment in the workplace, she has noticed a shift in gender dynamics.

‘Suddenly, these all-male crews on sets are scared for the first time – they don’t know how to talk to me.’ How did they talk to her before? ‘Sweetie. Darling. Baby. Beautiful.’ She is, for the first time in our conversation, deadly serious and stony-faced. ‘Hi beautiful. Hi baby. Hi sweetie. It’s infantilising, and it’s dismissive of any personality, or anything that I could offer.’

She recently saw a comedy show in LA too, in which one stand-up mocked the #MeToo moment in his routine. She was outraged. ‘Men can pipe down, because this is not their moment to speak,’ she says.

‘They’ve had many moments, many years to talk about what they think should be imposed upon our bodies and how our rights should be curtailed. Just stop talking now. Just listen.’

‘Ready Player One’ is released on 30 March

Leave a Reply