The entertainment industry has never been unfamiliar to actor Elizabeth Olsen. Her older sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, were child stars Elizabeth grew up watching in the spotlight. Yet, it was never weird for her to see their faces plastered on billboards and acting up on the big screen. "It was just normal," she told Everything Iconic.
When Elizabeth realized she wanted to be an actor too, she knew she’d have to pave her own path in order to be taken seriously. Working hard was the only real way she would be able to prove her own worth. She didn’t want her sisters to be cited for her success, and even briefly debated dropping her last name altogether in order to not be immediately associated with them (via The Off Camera Show). But Elizabeth’s talent clearly speaks for itself. After all, you don’t become one of the biggest stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe just because your sisters were on Full House. Still, the achievement of becoming a star in her own right is not lost on her. "It’s been such an incredible gift," Elizabeth told Entertainment Weekly of her MCU spinoff series WandaVision, which debuted in early 2021.
For now, though, let’s activate the Time Stone to go all the way back to the beginning, with the transformation of Elizabeth Olsen.
Acting started as a hobby for Elizabeth Olsen
Anybody who was alive during the ’90s knew about child stars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. The twins were taking over our televisions, but another familiar face was just beginning to star alongside them as well. In 1994, their younger sister, Elizabeth Olsen, got a taste of the entertainment bug when she appeared in her sisters’ series The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley: The Case of Thorn Mansion. Yet, she didn’t take it as seriously as her child star siblings. "To me, it was never acting," Elizabeth told SFGate. "It was silly and fun."
Elizabeth initially wasn’t even supposed to be involved. Each day, when her mother picked her and her brother up from school, they would head to set to see her older sisters acting. "Every once in a while, they’d ask us, ‘So, do you guys want to be in this one? We’ll put gum in your hair,’" she recalled her famous sisters’ proposition. Mary-Kate and Ashley got Elizabeth started, and her miniature acting career ended up catapulting from there. She went on to appear in an episode of Full House and even their television movie How the West was Fun.
Funny enough, Elizabeth Olsen’s childhood visits and performances on professional sets aren’t her most vivid memories. "The actual experience of doing it I don’t remember so much," she admitted on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. She was only 5 years old, after all.
Elizabeth Olsen ‘retired’ from acting at age 10
When Elizabeth Olsen turned 10 in 1999, acting seemed to have already taken quite a toll on her. At least, for the time being. She had been auditioning on her own, but still felt the pressure of feeling like her siblings’ fame was helping her along. "I never got any job because of my sisters," she later explained to The Guardian, adding, "I could have pulled a few strings through them, but I never needed to." Olsen didn’t want any acting job just handed to her. After sitting down with her parents, she decided there were a lot more negatives to being a child star than positives, so show business officially took a backseat to her studies.
Olsen became involved heavily in ballet, no doubt influenced by her mother who practiced in the art. She even joined sports teams while making her way through high school. "I grew up with a really creative group of kids, and we would always make our own movies and plays," she told SFGate, adding, "Anytime we had a project to do for class, it always turned into a musical somehow."
Even while she was busy living the life of an average teenager, Olsen still had big dreams. "I knew I wanted to be an actor," she told The Guardian.
Theater was Elizabeth Olsen’s entry point for Hollywood
To set herself apart from her sisters, Elizabeth Olsen decided to enroll herself in acting school. "Their fame made me more determined to study," she admitted to The Guardian. When she turned 17, she moved to the opposite side of the country and enrolled in Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. There, she was bound and determined to prove that she had what it took to become an actor — all on her own. One way to do that was to start auditioning for roles on a stage instead of on a set. The theater scene seemed the place to be. "I just always thought that theater was different from being an actor in Hollywood for some reason," she told Nylon.
Throughout her six years studying at Tisch, Olsen booked multiple understudy roles on and off Broadway, including for a production of Impressionism in 2009 (shown above). However, "I never got to go on," she admitted to The New York Times. Instead, she spent a majority of her time typing up essays for school while sitting backstage. Though she didn’t book any starring roles on the stage, she did eventually book herself an agent, who steered her towards Hollywood.
Elizabeth Olsen’s breakout was in independent film
Elizabeth Olsen got to a point where she was auditioning for absolutely everything she could — even if it wasn’t in theater. "I was seizing every opportunity," she explained to Marie Claire, and more and more smaller movies started calling her up. It was then that a theme emerged: she began booking roles on psychological thriller after psychological thriller. The independent film world suddenly started opening doors, though, she had never anticipated that to be her area of expertise. "I didn’t really have another option — those were the jobs I was getting," she said, and it’s a good thing, too.
In 2011, Olsen got herself a starring role in the indie film Martha Marcy May Marlene, and her career practically catapulted overnight. The movie was screened at Sundance, where it was quickly picked up by Fox Searchlight Pictures (via Deadline). Olsen became a big name, and casting directors started calling her up and keeping her busy on the big screen. The attention gave her even more of a chance to choose the movies she wanted to be involved in, too.
Elizabeth Olsen started singing on-screen
Elizabeth Olsen’s serious acting skills weren’t the only thing she began showing off on-screen. Many of her new movie roles were requiring her to sing, as well.
In 2013, she lent her voice to the movie Very Good Girls before starring as an aspiring singer in I Saw the Light in 2015. While she isn’t musically trained, Olsen rehearsed hard just as she had for any other role. "I’m not saying I sing great," she told The Boot, adding, "I do have vocal control. I know what a flat is, I know what a sharp is, and I do know how to crack my voice. Those techniques, you learn." Olsen obviously wasn’t so bad, either. Two years later, she landed yet another singing role in the movie Kodachrome.
So, is singing something serious this actor would ever consider full-time? "I would never call myself a singer," she said on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (via InStyle). "I would never want to sing as myself, but I like singing."
The MCU changed everything for Elizabeth Olsen
By the time she was 24 years old, Elizabeth Olsen had made it clear she was destined to be a superstar, but little did she know that she would had superhero tights in her future.
It all started when Olsen became adamant about not only doing independent films. "There was a part in career where I was thinking, ‘Why am I not being seen for bigger films?’" she told Popcorn with Peter Travers. Her agent had no idea this is what she wanted, and set her up to meet with Marvel. A meeting with Marvel led to a meeting with director Joss Whedon, who was instantly a fan of Olsen.
In 2014, she made an appearance after the credits in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It was a brief introduction for a character that became an integral part of theAvengers franchise. The world now knew her as the iconic comic book character Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch, and Olsen knew it was the perfect role for her. Finding the character to be"fascinating," "deeply emotive," and "driven by a deep, dark emotion," Olsen decided, "If I’m going to be part of one of these, this is the right thing to be a part of." And with that, her career instantly changed. Thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Olsen can now boast that she stars in the highest grossing movie in history, as of this writing — Avengers: Endgame (via Box Office Mojo).
Privacy is important to Elizabeth Olsen
Prior to 2017, Elizabeth Olsen never had a social media account. "I don’t like interacting with strangers … It’s a little invasive," she shared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Yet, when she booked a role with Marvel, she thought it’d be the perfect place to promote herself and her new projects. Perhaps unsurprisingly, immediately upon joining the online platform, Olsen gained over a million followers — and while most of us would be excited about that, she was extremely uncomfortable (via Harper’s Bazaar).
Her Instagram account — in combination with her massive movie roles — propelled Olsen even faster into fame. But the value of having a promotional machine to reach out to Marvel’s intensely loyal fans proved too valuable to abandon. Still, Olsen desperately wanted to delete her social media accounts, and eventually, she decided enough was enough. "I care about privacy," she told Who What Wear, adding, "I don’t have a desire for people to speak about me." People were already seeing enough of her on the big screen, anyway. In 2020, Olsen officially went off-line (via Just Jared).
Elizabeth Olsen began working behind the camera
As Elizabeth Olsen was searching for her next big role in 2018, a script called Sorry for Your Loss caught her eye. "I just thought this was a really beautiful and funny way of discussing something we all have to deal with, which is how to move on from losing people we love the most," she told Entertainment Weekly. Olsen knew she had to be involved, and the creator wanted her to be more than just an actor in the television series, too.
Starting out in theater and then making it big on the big screen, Olsen had never been a part of TV before. She’d also never produced, but she decided to hop behind-the-scenes and help get a studio involved in airing this story. That’s when the team was approached by Facebook with a pitch to run the show on the platform’s streaming service, Watch. "And that was a weird thing to me, because I didn’t even know that they were streaming," Olsen admitted to BUILD Series. Seeing as she didn’t have a social media account, this only made sense. Even so, the platform seemed like the perfect place to air all the episodes. It gave people the chance to not only watch the show, but be able to discuss their grief in a safe space.
Producing ended up giving Olsen the creative control she didn’t even know she craved. "It’s just been the most fun job I’ve ever had," she told Entertainment Weekly.
Elizabeth Olsen got engaged
By 2019, Elizabeth Olsen had fallen deep in love with something other than acting. Her boyfriend of two years, musician Robbie Arnett (above left), had proposed to her. While it was a private affair, the paparazzi had gotten a glimpse of her awe-inspiring emerald diamond (above right) that Arnett offered her for their engagement.
Though Olsen has never announced her big news publicly, we have a hunch that the proposal had something to do with her favorite foods. Back in 2018, only a year after she was first spotted with Arnett, she told Harper’s Bazaar about what she would be doing on a day she described as perfect — and it sounds pretty perfect to us,. ""The night before I would have prepped bread, like dough, then the next day I’d bake bread and create a delicious meal, sit outside in the sun, eat delicious food all day with people I love," she said. We can only assume that Arnett would be enjoying it all alongside her.
Wanda Maximoff has given Olsen endless opportunity
Elizabeth Olsen must have made quite an impact on Marvel, not to mention the brand’s fans, because she got her very own spin-off series with the studio. In 2021, the first episodes of WandaVision hit the streaming service of Marvel’s parent company, Disney+, opening Olsen up to an even wider audience than before. "This show is quite literally setting my character up to be what comic book fans know her as, the Scarlet Witch, and who we refer to her as, Wanda," Olsen explained to DuJour, adding, "I just got chills; I’m such a dork." It would seem the theater kid turned indie darling has cemented herself into the mainstream.
Instead of simply starring alongside the other Avengers, Olsen was now able to be the star. It was the first time that Olsen was able to dig deeper into her character off of the big screen. "I feel such a strong sense of ownership of Wanda," she told Entertainment Weekly, adding, "And I’m so excited now that we’ve cracked open this other part of her, so that there hopefully could be more stories to tell."
Considering the fact that, as of this writing, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has generated $22.56 billion at the worldwide box office (via Statista), something tells us there will be no shortage of stories for Olsen to tell in the near future.
One day, Elizabeth Olsen may leave acting
Even at the peak of an extremely successful career, Elizabeth Olsen has admitted that she may leave acting behind one day. It seems that, between an interest in completing higher education to witnessing everything that’s going on in the world, going back to college may be a part of her plans. "I’m interested in the new science of irrigation and water conservation in California," she revealed in Who What Wear‘s Fall 2019 Issue, which also listed off her non-Hollywood interests as "architecture, interior design, or landscaping." Olsen also expressed interest in a career that’s "a lot more private," and that she’s not saddled with the desire to be a star forever. "I could be someone who’s lived multiple lives, multiple careers," she noted.
For a performer who loves being low key instead of always hanging out in the spotlight, Olsen seems to be one in a million. "I don’t like standing out in a crowd," she admitted, so it only makes sense that another profession could be her key to privacy. After all, she’s had loads of experience pretending to be other people on-screen. She’s sure to have the perfect experience to pull from and start living it instead.