Mary-Kate Olsen talks about life, her small role in 'The Wackness'


July 02, 2008|By LIZ SMITH | LIZ SMITH,Tribune Media Services

IF I see a paparazzi shot of me that's in a magazine or something at an event, it's as if I see it from an outsider's point of view. There's like a character and then there's me. I think it's kind of entertaining. But to be written about - that aspect - I don't think anybody should have to live that way, when people are trying to pry into your life. You give, you give, you give. You talk, you talk, you talk. At a certain point you start to keep your mouth shut and then people freak out!"

That's Mary-Kate Olsen, talking to Kevin Sessums in Elle for July.

She is one half of the famous child-star-twins-turned-business-moguls - Ashley and Mary Kate-Olsen. Ashley seems to be more business-attuned. She has not made a movie since New York Minute. That one was with her twin, back in 2004. Mary-Kate continues to act, and to be out there as a waif-ish, oddball fashion icon and gossip magnet. (Her very peripheral involvement in Heath Ledger's death, for instance.) She has a role in the new season of Showtime's wicked Weeds series, as a pot smoking born-again Christian. Mary-Kate also snagged a small but memorable part in director Jonathan Levine's edgy little indie, The Wackness, as an Ecstasy-addicted nutcase with a lively libido. Despite her youth - she is only 22 - Mary-Kate doesn't get a lot of simple girl-next-door roles. Something about those huge Keane-painting eyes, the teeny-tiny frame and the slightly hunched and fearful posture, makes her a natural for the dark side. She's Christina Ricci without the attitude. Or she could be, if she keeps making movies. (Everybody who works with her seems surprised by her talent and also her relative normalcy. Under the face-obscuring mop of hair, oversized shades and eccentric couture is a reasonably straightforward professional.)

When Sessums asks her if it's difficult to date, because she's rich and famous, Mary-Kate says she finds that description of herself, "weird - the very words are weird." She goes on: "I mean, if you want to have a discussion about fame and what does it really mean to be famous these days, what's celebrity anymore, what's media? That's different. I have a completely different view about all this because I was never thrown into it. I grew up in it. It wasn't something I aspired to. It's just something I knew. For me, I just worked. I had a job. I've had a job for 21 years."

I'd question Mary-Kate's assumption that she and her sister were not "thrown into" fame. After all, the pair of 1-year-olds did not toddle onto the set of the TV series Full House and declare themselves camera-ready. But if she can truly disassociate herself from the rather strange image she cultivates, and look at her work as work - she's gonna be OK.

Some words about the above-mentioned The Wackness, a funny/poignant coming-of-age story set in New York, circa 1994. It has been directed by Jonathan Levine and stars Josh Peck, who is best known to TV viewers as one of the stars of Drake and Josh, a teen-themed series that ran for three years on Nickelodeon.

Now Josh is ready for his close-up, and he reveals a darker, quirkier, sexier side in The Wackness.

At the Cinema Society/Sony Cierge premiere of the movie in New York City, director Levine told the audience, "This will be the most fun you'll have this summer." They seemed to agree. The movie's standout is Ben Kingsley as Josh's pot-smoking therapist. In The Wackness, he is handed an infuriating, endearing, almost tragic character and runs with it. The veteran Sir and young Mr. Peck share almost all their screen time together, and they mesh beautifully.

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