INTERVIEW: Maria Olsen
– By @TheBlueTook
I recently reviewed, and was subsequently blown away by, STARRY EYES, dear Birdies. Since then, I’ve been on a mission to find out a little bit more about the film and the cool cats that created/starred in it. Thankfully, the coolest cat of all has not only spent some time with my bad self, but has also revealed herself to be much more pleasant than her usual onscreen persona suggests.
MARIA OLSEN has a lot going on – A LOT – so I’m more than honoured she tolerated little old me for a bit…
Ms O! Thank you so much for this! Tell us a bit about South Africa, where you did your growing up: how does the whole film scene compare?
I get that this may be a bit of a disappointment, but I truly don’t know how the South African film industry compares to the industry in Los Angeles! I grew up in East London, a small town on the south east coast of Africa, which was about as far away from the country’s young-but-growing film industry as you could possibly get. I grew up a Theater Kid, and appeared in over fifty musicals, straight plays and reviews for my schools and for our local community theater groups. I also recorded a few radio commercials, but it was only once I had hit LA shores that I got involved in film…believe it or not!
Yes! I’m subliminally trying to tell you that actors are poor and should be paid more or else they’ll descend into homelessness, drugs and prostitution!!!! 😀
Seriously, when on-screen, I have more of a blue-collar than a white-collar look about me, which is why I’m so often cast as people who frequent the lower levels of our society.
You’ve also been a zombie on many occasions, a ghost, a succubus and various other creepy thingies and ladies – why horror? Is it your genre by design or coincidence?
My involvement with horror is both by design and by coincidence. Coincidence: I’ve always had a love of horror, which was literally learned at my mother’s knee, but, when I was in South Africa and worked on stage, I specialized in musical comedy, which, unless done badly, is far from horrific! Design: It was only after I’d started booking film roles and seeing my footage on-screen that I realized I had an extremely intense on-screen presence. I then figured that it would help me book roles and get ahead if I concentrated on a genre which welcomed on-screen intensity: Horror! The upshot of all this is that I’ve been fortunate to combine my love of the genre with my aptitude for it!
I know you’ve interviewed for Fangoria – that must have been excellent, NEARLY as good as this. I also hear you’re a collector of magazines and comics?
Yes, I loved my Fangoria interview but this one is also very special as your enthusiasm is palpable, and that’s what makes it so much fun!
It is also true that I collect comics, magazines and books. I have, among other things, about 2,000 golden and silver age comics (both DC and Marvel although I’m a DC girl at heart!), an almost-full set of Classics Illustrated comics, Fangoria issues dating back almost 40 years and a full set of ERB’s Tarzan, John Carter of Mars and Carson of Venus paperbacks! I’m also working on my Stephen King hard-cover novel set, as well as my Laurell K Hamilton Anita Blake paperback set…and, no, I’d rather die than get a Kindle, lol!
<stares vacantly at Kindle for at least an hour. Self harms> I know you’ve answered this in other interviews but I can’t help it, being a huge fan: what was working with Rob Zombie like?
To be honest, you hardly know that he’s on set because he’s so quiet and unassuming!
No, Rob turns up for work in jeans, a t-shirt and a denim jacket, and he then blends in with the crew so well that I had a hard time of identifying him!
The Lords Of Salem was vastly underrated, in my opinion. It covered all the horror cornerstones for me – slow build, attractive lead, gorgeous visuals, top score/soundtrack, nods to Polanski, Argento, to name a few, then a headfuck of a finale – how did you happen to get on-board this badboy?
Confession time: I missed the Los Angeles premier of TLOS, so I have yet to see it. I SO SO want to see it, though, because that’s the only set I’ve ever been on where seeing the actors in full makeup actually unnerved me… I totally get that it’s all make-believe, so horror movies never scare me, but seeing some of the actors on the TLOS set in full wardrobe and makeup was trippy. I cannot wait to see it tho!
I originally auditioned for one of the main witches, but I didn’t get the role, and, when I saw a call for ladies willing to do nudity on the film, I jumped in and submitted because I just wanted to have the experience of working with Rob on this film. I got the call that I was on board, and the rest is history!
And, given your checklist for good horror, I’m going to recommend you see another of my films: Jason Bognacki’s “Another”. It’s presently on the festival circuit, but it should be released soon as it’s recently been picked up by Epic Pictures.
WARNING: Anyone else who skips a Zombie premier can delete me from their ‘friend’ list, but I’ll let you off because you were in it.
Mr Z has, puzzlingly, had to resort to crowd funding for his latest flick, 31 – what’s your take on the whole crowd funding thing?
To be honest, I’m a little over crowd-funding. I’ve had at least three features that were successfully crowd-funded, but now that it seems EVERYONE is doing it, the market is over-saturated, and it’s becoming harder to get market-share for any specific film.
I also know that some people are up in arms about the “bigger” filmmakers making use of the crowd-funding forums and built-in fan bases, but, as one who knows how hard it is in the trenches of fundraising, I would say any method that’s legal and that gets your film made would work for me!
You’ve recently starred in comedy/horror CLUB LINGERIE, which I haven’t had a chance to see yet – tell us a bit about it and your character ‘Cookie’. It’s packed with scantily-clad vixens (which sounds AWFUL and I shall NOT be watching this…<crosses fingers behind back>) – the big question is, do you manage to keep ‘covering all of your bases’, so to speak?
In Club Lingerie my bases are definitely all always covered – a very different story from TLOS! – but I most definitely can’t say the same for some of my co-stars!
Club Lingerie is a fun, mindless murder mystery/comedy, and my character, Cookie the bag-lady, is sort of a red herring. Found lurking with items previously only associated with the killer, she might not be totally what she seems…but then again she might!
ANOTHER has been noticeably well received since its release a short time ago, winning a few awards along the way. In this current climate, where possession films are rife, what sets this apart from the mediocre majority?
Quite frankly, Another is different from ANYthing else you’ve seen before. It bears as much resemblance to the “normal” possession film as a bug does to an elephant! Another is giallo reinvented – giallo for the 21st century, shall we say – and this is the ONLY film I’ve come across that big burley film reviewers are afraid to watch alone…during the day! Another offers stunning visuals, a slow burn fever-dream of a storyline, a beautiful heroine in distress (not me!), bloody deaths, creepy-as-hell imagery and naked witches! What more could you possibly ask for, lol? Um…theatrical release…theatrical release is what I can ask for 😀
A question I ask a lot of our guests: Do you think big budget stifles independent cinema?
Not at all, actually. The systems of production and distribution are different, and for almost all lower-level indies theatrical distribution is a dream that will never come true. And if the systems through which a film gets to its audience are so different, then how can one stifle the other?
Studios will continue to do what they do: make huge budget sequels, re-boots and remakes of properties that have built-in fan bases because they’re the “business” part of show business, and their objective is to make a profit.
Indie filmmakers will continue to do what they do: make the passion projects that they want to make because they’re the “show” part of show business.
The gap between the two is getting wider and wider, and what I wonder is whether it will ever be bridged…
And another one I only ask the most special of special guests – very important this one: What would you rather fight, a horse-size duck or 100 duck-size horses? (Director Lucky McKee was VERY specific!)
I had a horse stand on my foot once, and nothing I could do would get him off of it! This is the reason I will be going will a 100 duck-size horses…and maybe a baseball bat…especially if they had sharp, vampire-horse teeth…
BLOOD ANGEL is one of your many upcoming projects with The Slaughtered Bird’s best mate, a certain Mr Bill Oberst Jr, I believe?
Why yes, this is true! In fact, Carl Lindbergh (producer/director/writer), Bill and I are planning on shooting a promo for the film in February!
Between yourself and Bill, you have worked on over a million films (I’m not sure of the exact number, but it’s well over a million). You obviously love what you do?
Yeah, I totally think it’s over a million by now!
And, yes, I totally love what I do 😀
Bill must be the world’s greatest actor because he passes as being the planet’s nicest man, yet we all know he MUST be a serial killer-demon – spill the beans…
Bill is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I mean that sincerely. Sometimes, though, I think that he must also be one of the loneliest because everyone sees him and thinks serial-killer-demon and, in the process, may miss who he really is.
I always try, very deliberately, to keep my intensity in a little box at all times unless I’m in front of the camera, and then I open that box, and we get something like Starry Eyes’ Casting Director coming out…
There’s a review on our site for AGORAPHOBIA (where you star with Tony Todd no less) and I believe you’ll be strutting your stuff alongside Mark Wahlberg for us very soon?
Yes, I had a WONDERFUL time working with Tony, who I’ve long admired, and I can’t wait to see how Agoraphobia will turn out. It will premier over the next few weeks in Florida, but, unfortunately I won’t be able to attend as my shooting schedule keeps me in Los Angeles.
Yes, I did get to work on the same film as Marky Mark, but, unfortunately, I didn’t have any scenes with him.
OK, the reason we got talking in the first place – STARRY EYES. I really liked it at the time, and now I’ve had chance to ponder on it, I like it more. Additional viewings are essential. How was the shoot?
The shoot was lovely, and I enjoyed every minute of it except those few where Dennis and Kevin had me tottering around on high heeled pumps! Shooting Starry Eyes was akin to taking a guided tour of Los Angeles, and we moved from Hollywood to Los Feliz to Alta Dena to Griffith Park and back again.
I never auditioned for the role of the Casting Director; Dennis offered it to me shortly after he had written the Starry Eyes short film script, I accepted, and I was then just grand-fathered into the feature – lucky me! But because I never auditioned for it, I never really knew how he wanted the character played until we met for coffee and chatted for an hour or so about a week before we started shooting. It was super-fun to realize we were both exactly on the same page as to how the Casting Director should be brought to life!
You’ve worked with Dennis Widmyer before on CURTAIN – did you know then he had STARRY EYES up his sleeve?
I didn’t know about Starry Eyes when we shot Curtain – and I auditioned for Curtain in the same building, and under very similar circumstances, as Alex (Sarah) auditions for me in Starry Eyes – but Dennis told me about the project a few months after we’d wrapped Curtain.
It tackles a lot of taboo subjects – self-harm, borderline prostitution, drug use, bullying, self confidence, the class system – yet manages to avoid being a cliche or get really bogged down. Bravo, for starters, but also, how do you approach films like this?
In Starry Eyes, I never saw my character as human. I was an extension of The Producer, and, to a certain extent, empowered by the living evil that is the Astraeus Cult. Remember that scene in The Producer’s office where I go into neutral when he takes over…? To me, the Casting Director was merely a part of the Astraeus hive-mind, and, as such, the only emotion I had about Sarah’s self-destructive tendencies was curiosity…and not the snake-fascinated let’s-look-at-the-accident curiosity; rather the mild will-this-be-to-my-advantage curiosity…
Alex Essoe is certainly one to watch after this, I thought she carried the weight of all these issues like a Hollywood veteran. Did you know much of her, or the cast in general, before you arrived on set? (I’m also a massive Marc Senter fan, and loved The Lost, but he refuses to be my friend on Twitter!)
Alex was simply brilliant, and it was a honor working with her. I can’t wait to see her future work! I didn’t know her at all before we all met at the table-read, but we hit it off straight away when we discussed how very much we were looking forward to shooting our scenes together. The only person I knew in the cast was Elissa Dowling, one of the Taters girls, but we were never on set at the same time. Elissa has, by the way, recently accepted a role in Blood Angel, and I’m very much looking forward to working with her.
Going from working with the likes of Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Uma Thurman, Seth Rogen, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Farrell, and directors like Chris Columbus and Nic Stoller, then switching to a lower budget production, is there a different way you need to prepare?
How I prepare for a shoot depends on what kind of role I’m playing, and some roles will take ten minutes to prep for, while others will take ten weeks! I can tell you, though, that I don’t prepare for a role any less just because the film has a lower budget.
Do you get starstruck? Like right now, for example (this is The Slaughtered motherfuckin’ BIRD!)?
The people I get starstruck around are writers; I have HUGE respect for people like Ann Rice and George RR Martin who are able to write such wonderful series. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have huge respect for other actors; I do, but as I do pretty much the same things they do, I see them as friends and colleagues rather than as untouchables on a pedestal.
Doing my homework before this chat, I read you were ALMOST abducted by extraterrestrials when you were younger – can you, er… WHAT?!
Yup! One morning of my young life almost played out that like fateful night when Fox Mulder lost his sister!
Yes, it’s true that both my mother and I saw a UFO, but we don’t know for sure that they were going to abduct me. We do know for sure that they sure took off in a hurry when my mother came out and saw them, though…when I was no longer alone with them, in other words…
‘Actress’, ‘producer’, ‘writer’ – big yourself up, madam! I know all about your stuff, but tell some of our readers all about yourself….
LOL! I usually run screaming when I’m asked to “big myself up”! I like to promote the projects I’m a part of, but I don’t really like to promote just myself!
Here are a few things to ponder: I’m half South African and half Dutch; I like knitting; I save spiders from drowning in the shower; I can translate scripts into Latin; I was born with a caul; I’m half Leo and half Cancer (a dangerous combination!), my first book will be published next year and I’m double-jointed!
And, yeah, I act, produce, cast, direct (for stage) and write…
Maria, I love you, I’m so glad you’ve agreed to this. So, apart from the other million things that you have lined up, what’s in Ms Olsen’s plans?
I’ve signed up to shoot two short films and a feature this month and the next, and I’m awaiting final details on my coming aboard at least seven more feature projects. Features that I hope to shoot in the new year include Austin Sheeley’s Another Bleeding Love Story, Romane Simon’s Paranormal, Marcus Bradford’s Witchula and several more that I can’t tell you about right now!
Horror films I’m in that should come out in 2015 include Ben Demaree’s Hansel vs. Gretel, Joston Theney’s Axeman 2: Overkill, Emily Lapisardi’s Gore Orphanage, Lou Simon’s Agoraphobia and one other for which I’ve signed a huge Non-Disclosure Agreement. Three projects that I co-produced should also be released in 2015: Brandon Scullion’s Live-In Fear (which should be out by March), Shawn Chou’s Reunion and Christopher Dye’s Something Sinister.
Yup, that’s a million, right?
Maria, you’re now branded with The Slaughtered Bird iron – do you think you can scorch your fellow superstars with a similar mark, for the sake of horror?
Yes, absolutely…if I understood what you were asking, that is! 😀