Backstory: Where The Heck Did This Amazingly Talented Olsen Sister Come From?

Will Leitch
The Projector

For many viewers of the outstanding "Martha Marcy May Marlene," opening in limited release tomorrow, it seems amazing that the withdrawn, tormented and frequently naked title character is played by the Olsen twins' little sister. But to our mind, the most stunning part is that an actress this obviously talented, from such a high-profile family, stayed hidden so long. Where the heck did she come from?

Well, you didn't grow up in that family without having to show up in some schlocky DVD movies, and Elizabeth Olsen was no different. Back then, though, she was known as "Lizzie Olsen." She was the baby; here's what she looked like back then. You can even find her briefly in the "Space Camp" movie they made. (What, you didn't see it?) Here's a creepy fan video someone made:

Mostly, though, she stayed out of the public eye and went to school like a normal kid. Two of those schools were the Atlantic Theater Company and the Tisch School of the Arts. Her last Olsen twins movie was in 1996's "The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley: The Case of the U.S. Space Camp Mission." She wouldn't be seen on screen again until "Martha Marcy May Marlene." (She's also in "Peace, Love and Misunderstanding" with Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener, a movie that's pretty horrible.)

So how did she get here, blowing audiences away and possibly being nominated for an Oscar? Well, she obviously studied. But "MMMM" writer/director Sean Durkin said she had "it" immediately.

Lizzie's pretty self reliant. I felt like she didn't need me that much. She's not someone who's looking for much from a director. Your nightmare with an inexperienced actress is that you're going to have to pull a performance out of them. Even great young actors, sometimes you have to pull a performance and it's good, but you have to work really hard. She didn't need much. Like our first meeting, the only prep we did is that we met for an hour one day, she asked me a bunch of questions about the script, then went, "OK, I think I'm good." That was it. I think that really sums up her approach.

Yeah, we still have no idea where this lady came from. Particularly because, sheesh, she just did this movie in between classes her sophomore year of college. Still: We are not complaining.

(UPDATE: Dana Stevens from Slate, astoundingly, found Olsen's Angelfire page from when she was 10 years old. You rule, Dana.)

'Martha Marcy May Marlene' Is The Projector's Movie of the Week" [The Projector]