Olivia Cooke is an actress most known for her work in the horror and science fiction genres. She first became visible to the public with her co-starring role as Emma DeCody in A&E’s Bates Motel and quickly racked up roles in horror films Ouija and The Quiet Ones. She is now tackling the science fiction dystopian genre with her role as Art3mis in the movie adaptation of Ready Player One. Ready Player One will be released in theaters on March 29th, 2018.
Screen Rant got a chance to talk with Olivia Cooke on press day, where we discussed what avatar she would pick as herself, what it was like being on set working with CG, and what it was felt like when she first found out she had been cast.
So first of all, I have to ask, did you read the book?
Olivia Cooke: I did. Yeah. After the fact, I got the film.
Olivia Cooke: Cause I knew of the book and went auditioning, but I didn’t want to read it and get my hopes up and then be bitter when the movie came out.
For yourself, if you were an avatar as Olivia, what would your avatar be based off of a pop culture character?
Olivia Cooke: Hm. You know what? I’d love to be Kirsten Dunst’s Marie Antoinette. Like Sofia Coppola's version of Marie Antoinette.
Olivia Cooke: Yeah. I know. That’s something that’s come to mind a few times, but I never said it. But yeah, I think there’s something so fun and carefree and gluttonous about her that I would kind of love to play an alter ego because I’m so nervous and careful in real life.
Really? Which is completely kind of the opposite of what Art3mis is though because she’s very self assured and very not nervous.
Olivia Cooke: Yeah. Right, but she’s also very active. She is very thoughtful and selfless as well because there’s something much greater than her that needs to be solved and put right.
Sure. Now when you did read the book, was there anything from the book that you wish made it to the film? Or that there were some things that the film did better than what the book had?
Olivia Cooke: Well, I think the club that they go to. I’m blanking on the name because I’ve said it so many times. F***. The club that they went to. My imagination is so rudimentary compared to Adam Stockhausen, the production designer, and people at ILM and Steven Spielberg and so, even when reading the book, I couldn’t imagine anything as spectacular. But I think a lot of things that would change just would translate better on screen and I really like the changes where Art3mis infiltrates the IOI and that she becomes a hero in real life version and I like that they meet earlier in the story.
I also like that she is so selfless. Like everything she is doing is for the greater cause, which is really cool too. She’s such a strong character. She’s such a cool character.
Olivia Cooke: Yeah. She is.
Just talking about it from an acting perspective. This is obviously live and CG, so those two worlds are obviously completely different especially with the way the technology was created for this film. What was your mindset going into that and did you use any point of reference for scenes done before?
Olivia Cooke: I had no idea what was going to happen going into it. I was kind of like, “Oh. It’ll be kind of like Avatar.” But, still, I didn’t know what they did or know what the process was for Avatar, so in my mind I was like, oh, we’ll be in full costume. Maybe we’ll do some prosthetic work and then we’ll also be in like this weird, cause I thought a lot of it was going to be green screen. I didn’t have no idea what the process of motion capture was, so thankfully we had two weeks until Steven arrived to get acclimatize to that. But what was great about that was that it became very theatrical where we were in a white space with 150 cameras on the ceiling and people handling the cameras on the ground to capture our physical movements and our emotional movements and our relationship to each other. But apart from that, we had no point of reference for our environment apart from each other. We got to put on these Oculus VR goggles to see the space and then we had to abandon that and work with each other. So, that was wonderful in the sense in which we became children again and it was up to us to exercise our imagination.
Now with the VR goggles on, were you actually in the physical sets?
Olivia Cooke: So, it was only the sets that were in the OASIS: Aech’s garage, Aech’s workshop, Aech’s hangout, and the Distracted Globe, and where the workers, the IOI go when they are working. So you put these on and you had wooden layouts that you could hold onto and then could put the goggles on. You could see that your hand is touching the chair or that your hand is on an appliance of some sort or that you were holding a really cool fucking gun.
So you had physical things there?
Olivia Cooke: You had physical things there, but they were very plain, wooden versions of them. Like if you had a ball in your pocket, it was like a sponge ball. So it’s all make believe. We’re in a treehouse with wooden swords and having them play with each other.
In your opinion, what was the most challenging scene to shoot?
Olivia Cooke: I think the most challenging scene for me it was the fallout straight after the Distracted globe and just because it’s quite an emotional scene and it’s a lot of backstory for Samantha and Art3mis and it’s when she’s vulnerable for the first time, but she still has her Avatar. For me, I was playing all of these emotions as raw and as authentic as I could, but still with the veil of this Avatar and with that tie as to something to grip onto. And so doing that scene and wondering how that is going to translate and wondering how they are going to animate that and try to incorporate my performance into that as close to my form as possible because I still struggle to understand how the technology. But I mean, watching that Steven said that was the first thing they were going to send to ILM and for them to animate and they get it so damn close. It was spot on. It was really incredible to watch and see my features and my expressions and to see my little idiosyncrasies. It was like being immortalized. It was very jarring.
This movie is so crazy to me because it’s literally like I picked up toys and started playing with them and that’s watching my ten year old self playing with different toys. So it’s crazy the nostalgia factor in this but, for you, I think you are ten years younger than me, but how familiar are you with some of the pop culture references that were in there from the nostalgia factor?
Olivia Cooke: I mean, I was born in ‘93, so I’m not too far from the ‘80s, so I was pretty familiar with most. It was just the very obscure sort of things that didn’t make it into the movie like commercials. Like commercial songs and ditties and little jingles. That loser season, that was the only scene where we had to sing the jingle together.
What jingle was it?
Olivia Cooke: F***. It was this really popular chocolate bar. Like a whatcha-ma-call-it. Like I had never heard of that being from Manchester and so we had to recite the commercial. And I mean some Atari games and some Nintendo reference, I had no idea.
Now obviously after playing every single character, you’ve learned something and obviously when you are with Steven, you’ve learned something. So what is it you’re going to take away from Art3mis in Ready Player One that you’ve learned?
Olivia Cooke: I think her stamina. Her courage. I think taking something from Steven. He trusts the actors innately and you innately trust me. You know, if Steven says jump. You say, “How high?” You know, if he says jump off a bridge, you say alright. Because he is the master of pace and tempo and he has such a great humor, but he’s also so generous and he’s so kind still. You know, he’s not been tainted and he’s not been made bitter by any experiences that he’s had. He’s still a really lovely lightbulb man, which is really inspiring for someone who, well, I did the film when I was 22 and to really see that it was really lovely that he’s still, I mean, it’s been two years but he’s still has that and I hope never get too pessimistic or too jaded.
I mean, it’s crazy. I just saw him play video games where we just were and he has this childlike sense about him, which is crazy because it’s Steven Spielberg. So, when you get the call and you know you’re in a Steven Spielberg project, what’s like the first initial reaction?
Olivia Cooke: Elation and then immediate dread.
Olivia Cooke: Cause I got this film in September of 2015 and we started filming in May 2016, so there was a huge breadth of time where it was just me with my thoughts and wonder what it’s going to be like where I talk myself out of it and talk myself into it and be like, “Wow. I can’t do this. I’m going to get fired. He’s going to realize I’m a big phony.” For me, the dream come true aspect of it. Wanting to be an actor and being able to work and to make a living as an actor and then finding out that you are going to be the lead of a Steven Spielberg movie. I mean, it was just it’s hard to put into words because it’s such a strange butterfly, guttural reaction and feeling.
- Ready Player One (2018) release date: Mar 29, 2018