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"She's ferociously talented," Wilde said of Pugh in a conversation with Maggie Gyllenhaal, her fellow actor and director, published Thursday by Interview magazine. "She was so dogged in her pursuit of the most authentic version of every moment. She also knew that my real goal was to create a love story that felt so sincere between her and Harry that people would be incapable of not falling for them as a couple. It had to be a love that felt real — it had to be passionate, but textured. I wanted so badly to have a nuanced, layered relationship that people would buy into despite knowing at times in the film that they shouldn't. Even when the movie suggests you should question them, I wanted you to fight it."
The film, opening Sept. 23, stars Pugh and Harry Styles, as a young couple living in a utopian community in the 1950s that, as Pugh's Alice discovers, is more sinister than it seems.
The fact that Styles became Wilde's boyfriend during shooting has been reported as having been a source of tension, but here Wilde said only that Pugh and Styles are both "very loving people."
She described working with Styles, specifically, as "wonderful."
"I love working with musicians and dancers because in their work, you have no choice but to go 100 percent. If a dancer doesn't go 100 percent, they get hurt. If a musician doesn't go 100 percent, it doesn't work," Wilde said. "I was directing a Red Hot Chili Peppers music video and I noticed that the band, even on the 20th take, was going all out in their bodies, through their fingertips, because the song actually doesn't work if you sing it at 50 percent. I remember thinking, 'Man, if actors thought about it that way, would that change some of what we see out there?'"
With Styles, "it was like there was no other option for him than to work as hard as possible and to commit to the scene as hard as possible," she said. "He never holds back," even if he was way off camera.
She noted that her longtime friend Chris Pine, who plays the founder of the Victory Project, impressed her, too, even though she felt he probably came in as a favor to her.
When Gyllenhaal said Pine is "wonderful" in the film, Wilde agreed that he's "terrifying."
"We based that character on this insane man, Jordan Peterson, who is this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community," Wilde explained.
If there was any talk about one-time cast member Shia LaBoeuf, then it failed to make the cut.
The Rush actress said that she is part of the psychological thriller's cast out of necessity.
"We basically ran out of money and I needed someone who would take a really low salary, but I wanted it to be someone who understood the role," she said. "It got to the point where it was down to the wire and our casting director was like, 'Olivia, why don’t you just do it?' The funny thing is, when I asked director friends how that experience would be, I just happened to ask a bunch of dudes, and they all said, 'Oh, it's so great.'"
But they were all men, including "great supporter" Bradley Cooper. Wilde felt differently.
"What I realized once I started was that all of these men had done this in comfortable shoes, and I swear part of it is that I was in a f***ing bustier and heels and a wig," she said. "They were coming at me doing these necessary but frustrating touch-ups at every second, and I was like, 'I need to be at the monitor, I need to be in charge.' I found that to be really hard."