Our weekly Flashback Friday just got a whole lot cooler. We’re still posting some of our favorite covers from past issues of NYLON, but now you can go even more in-depth with our faves by reading the cover stories in their entirety! Yep—consider this your really rad trip down memory lane. This week takes us to August ’11, when our cover star, Olivia Wilde, showed off her bowling skills (or lack thereof) and chatted about her movie Cowboys & Aliens and dating annoyances. Really awesome movie stars: they”e just like us? Check out the full article below and the photos in the gallery.
On a cool early summer night, Olivia Wilde sits nursing a pint of allagash white in a brooklyn bowling alley, reciting her latest intel on text etiquette. “LOL?” she says. “Deal breaker! Emoticons? Deal breaker! Multiple exclamation points? Deal breaker! Unless”—she amends—”they’re used with irony.” The luminous 27-year-old sounds like the star student of a foreign language class, soaking up the dating codes from the last eight years she has spent as a married woman. “Dating is new to me,” she explains. “So I see the whole thing like someone who’s been in a coma and I’ve come out like, ‘Wait, people text message? They text love? How do you text about love?’ I sit there and I’m like, ‘He’s speaking in riddles! What does it mean?!’ My friends are like ‘Oh…that’s not good.’ And I’m like, ‘But It has three Xs and a smiley face!’ And they’re like, ‘Emoticon? Deal breaker!’”
In March, Wilde filed for divorce from Tao Ruspoli, the Italian prince and documentary filmmaker she married on a school bus when she was 18. In the months since then she has been linked to Bradley Cooper, Justin Timberlake, and Ryan Gosling—lack of dating savvy to the contrary. “Do you have an iPhone?” Wilde asks, retrieving hers from her brown leather satchel and letting the screen briefly illuminate her bright gray-green eyes, which are rimmed in black liner even at the tear duct, exaggerating their celestial almond shape. “You know when you text, it’s green? We have this phrase: ‘too much green.’ That’s when you’ve been texting too much. My friends will look at me and be like, ‘Too much green, dude. Put the fucking phone down.’” She laughs and takes a swig of her beer. “I mean, it’s so mystifying to me!”
The past year has been a quantum leap for Wilde. Besides her new single status which gave Us Weekly fodder other than her dazzling Marchesa Golden Globes gown, she has also transitioned from actress to bona fide movie star—a shift made offi cial by her lead role opposite Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig in Jon Favreau’s sci-fi thrill ride Cowboys & Aliens, one of the most anticipated films of the summer. She also appears in this month’s Ryan Reynolds/Jason Bateman bro-comedy The Change-Up as the ultimate office crush (sexy, smart, and likes baseball!), and this fall she returns as the brilliant, bisexual diagnostic Thirteen on the final season of House, the hit FOX medical drama that, in 2007, launched her career. In a sense, this year’s supernova was triggered in December when she stole Jeff Bridge’s spotlight in the fantastic TRON: Legacy in what just may be her most true-to-life role yet: a gorgeous, ethereal alien superior to humans in every way.
Sitting in a dingy booth across from Wilde—she of perfect body (Maxim’s hottest woman of 2009), disarming smile, and infectious, throaty laugh—it’s impossible not to think she was typecast. She’s almost too relaxed, too comfortable in her own skin, sociably leaning forward in her seat to gossip closer and locking eyes with me every time she has something interesting to say, which is often. Though she may find her superstardom and most-eligible bachelorette status “mystifying,” few around her see signs of stumbling. “I don’t envy anybody who’s new to Hollywood and has that much attention,” says Favreau. “But she’s navigating it so well. She’s smart and she’s got the momentum and she’s got the heat. That woman can do anything.”
Except, apparently, bowl. Since tonight’s outing was Wilde’s idea, I assume it’s a home-alley advantage. Perhaps while shooting TRON she picked up some tips from The Big Lebowski’s own zen-bowler icon The Dude? “No, fuck!” she says, slipping on size eight rental shoes. “Why didn’t I ask him about that?!” She probably regrets this even more after her first roll: an ungainly, softball-looking pitch that sends the ball aloft before her feet even approach the foul line—after which it crashes onto the lane with a thud and promptly spills into the gutter. Wilde does a mock fist-pump and laughs it off; she goes back for round two and manages to knock down five pins, which is cause for major celebration. “I think my high score last time was 18, so this is a good start.”
While the rowdy throws and resounding crashes draw some attention to Lane 1, where a girl in bootcut jeans and a peasant blouse does a little skip and a jump after toppling a single pin, none of the onlookers seem to know the girl is Olivia Wilde. “I love Williamsburg because people don’t give a shit. I used to live here, on South 8th and Bedford. I feel like it’s a badge of pride not to care,” says Wilde, who now splits her time between an apartment in Manhattan’s West Village and a house in Los Angeles. “Also, I walk around like a homeless person most of the time, so I feel like that’s why people sometimes don’t recognize me.”
Today her hair is in a ponytail with two bobbi pins holding back her bangs. “Usually I don’t show my forehead, but my hair is dirty,” she says. “My forehead is so big, it’s a five-head.” Wilde lives in jeans and admits that the pair she’s wearing today, by 7 for All Mankind, used to be her “fat jeans. They were so loose on me,” she recalls, putting her hands on her hips. “They were the kind you would put on and swoosh around in, but then I got a divorce and self-medicated with food. But I figure that’s better than self-medicating with crack cocaine.”
What Wilde lacks in bowling skills, she makes up for with an intensity rarely seen at an alley like this one, where full pitchers of beer are more important than strikes and spares. She never sits down between frames, preferring to stand right next to the ball-return system and wait for her eight-pound red ball (which nicely matches her red nails) to pop back up. At first I think she’s eager for the game to end, but then I realize she’s just intent on improving. “I really put a lot of gusto into it!” she exclaims after one truly spectacular dud of a roll, then adds, “I think the ball is a bit oiled.”
At our final score (Me: 83; Wilde: 37), she reaches a sober conclusion, declaring herself “the worst bowler in the world.” Instead of playing a second game, we head out for a leisurely walk to the subway station. In the cool air, Wilde slips on her A.L.C. black leather jacket, and shares her very brief list of can’ts: “Bowl, run, and sing,” she says. “I cannot sing to save my fucking life. I tried over the years because I wanted to be a triple threat. At one point I was like, ‘I gotta do it all!’ But I can’t sing! I think I damaged my voice. I like to think there’s a reason I can’t sing, but it might just be that…I can’t sing!”
Wilde decided she wanted to be an actor when she was 10 years old. Her parents—the award winning documentary and television producer Leslie Cockburn and the political journalist and author Andrew Cockburn—are friends with Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, so she’d often go to tapings as a kid. “I think back, How did I get any of those jokes?” she asks. “But I loved it—it must’ve been the energy. I would run in between the sets. [One night] I went with my dad, and Heather Locklear was hosting and Janet [Jackson] was the musical guest. And I turned to my dad,and I said, ‘This is what I wanna do.’”
At boarding school at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, Wilde “got all the big parts”—except in the musicals, of course. “I remember being a freshman and trying out for the musical and the director just saying, ‘Stick to drama.” The school’s step team, however, provided Wilde with her first true-life teen-film moment. “I was the only white girl on the team,” she says. “I auditioned and they were like, ‘You’re crazy! White girls can’t step!’ By my fourth year I was co-captain—I was so proud. The whole thing was like a Julia Stiles movie! Acceptance, bonding, celebration…” She closes her eyes and slowly nods her head, channeling the over-the-top emotions displayed in such cinematic masterpieces such as Save the Last Dance.
After high school she adopted Oscar Wilde’s surname, moved to L.A., and got a job at a casting agency—which promptly led to her being cast in the 2004 teen flick The Girl Next Door. Her real break came just a few months later when she landed the role of the blond, bisexual Alex on The O.C., making out with both Marissa Cooper and Seth Cohen, much to Middle America’s shock. More films and a stint on the NBC drama The Black Donnellys followed, and then she scored what she thought would be a three-episode run on House. Four years later, and she’s still there, solving medical mysteries weekly alongside Hugh Laurie, who she declares “the coolest man alive. He has the No. 2 album in England right now [the blues record Let Them Talk]. He’s sweet. He’s humble. He’s smart as hell! He’s so good at what he does. I feel like between him, Jeff Bridges, Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig—and now Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman—I’ve learned so much. But I’m really looking forward to working with the women now. Looking through these scripts again, it’s, like
— she mimes flipping through a script, aghast— “me and a bunch of dudes! Me and a bunch of dudes! Now I want the ladies!”
Of course, it’s difficult to find much sympathy for a girl who spent three months with both Han Solo and James Bond in New Mexico shooting Cowboys & Aliens. When I admit to Wilde that I had a life-size cardboard Han Solo cutout in my bedroom in high school, she laughs and reveals the much less cool life-size cardboard cutout that she currently has in her house: Joe Jonas. But the embarrassment of this fact quickly deflates when she admits it belonged to the house’s former owner, Joe Jonas. “The whole band was in the garage [when I moved in],” she says. “Now I have them stashed throughout the house. You walk into a bathroom and there’s one of the Jonas Brothers. I live with two girlfriends and they’re always like, ‘Can we put Joe Jonas away?’ and I’m like, ‘Joe Jonas greets people at the door!’ Then they put him in my bedroom, you know, standing over my bed.” She laughs and claps her hands. “I mean, I’ve never even heard a Jonas Brothers song!”
Han Solo, however, is a whole different story. “Harrison is the shit,” she says. “I was so nervous every time I spoke to him, but he was always cool to me. I would incessantly ask him for anecdotes from every film. Jon [Favreau] and Sam Rockwell and I would be like, ‘Oh come on, tell us a Blade Runner story! Tell us about Sean Young! Is that chick crazy?’” She smiles slyly and purses her lips, moving on to the animalistic allure of her other costar, Daniel Craig.
“He was so fine,” she sighs, shaking her head as if still in disbelief. “He is so fine and he doesn’t know it. He’s just such a goof! But he has a confidence that allows him to shine. In the way that Steve McQueen stole every single scene in The Magnificent Seven, Daniel has that kind of luminosity because of his energy and the kind of saltiness that I think is an important quality of his acting. I think the reason he redefined Bond is because he has a dirtiness to him. It looks like he’s been in bar fights. He’s windblown and that works for a Western.”
In Cowboys & Aliens, which focuses on an alien invasion on a small Arizona town in 1873, Wilde plays Ella, a strong, mysterious rancher. Wilde can’t discuss plot details, but she promises the movie lives up to the hype. “It’s so much better than it has to be,” she says excitedly. “I just saw it and I was clutching Favreau through the whole movie just going, ‘Oh my God! This is fucking great!’”
Besides being the lead actress in the film, Wilde was also the self-appointedsocial coordinator. “Every day after work I was like, ‘OK guys, tonight we are having dinner at this place, then margaritas at this place, and then perhaps going to amateur night at the strip cluB…’ They’re like, ‘It’s Tuesday!’ And I’m like, ‘Hey! We are doing this!’” She laughs and then adds with a shrug, “I’m really into bonding.”
Favreau says Wilde’s enthusiasm was especially welcome on set. “You get a bunch of guys together with guns and horses, it brings out a lot of subconscious, primal chest pounding,” he says, laughing. “And there she was in the thick of it all. She even got thrown during a big riding scene! Boy, she’s tough!
She dusted herself off. We checked her out and she was OK. She never wanted to be treated like the young woman. She wanted to be right there with everyone. If you had a sports team, you’d want somebody like her on it—who had a lot of heart and not a lot of complaining.”
This un-pampered, rough-and-ready demeanor isn’t something Wilde just turns on for the cameras. Unlike the standard-issue Hollywood humanitarian who tears up in PSAs, Wilde began volunteering in Haiti long before the headline-grabbing earthquake as a director of Artists for Peace and Justice, a non-profit organization focused on improving education and health for Haitians. She wears a green and blue woven bracelet with apj embroidered on it and all but beams when I ask her about her time in Haiti. She first went there when she was three years old after her mother had done an exposé on the country’s military for CBS. “It stuck with me in a really profound way,” she says. “I drew images of Haiti for years.” Wilde returned to Haiti in 2008 and when Paul Haggis (who directed her in the film The Next Three Days) decided to start APJ, Wilde immediately signed on.
We arrive at the subway station but aren’t quite ready to head back to Manhattan. Wilde spots two unclaimed chairs in front of a taco truck parked on the corner and we sit down and continue talking. “I was on the set of House the day of the earthquake,” she says, nodding solemnly. “I thought no one was gonna care. I mean, nobody cared when I came back and said, ‘Look at these pictures! These kids are dying.’ People were like”—she adopts a Valley Girl accent—”‘Oh God, Haiti—kind of hopeless, isn’t it?’ But I was so inspired by the [response] and the generosity of people.”
After the earthquake, Wilde started going to Haiti every couple of months and in addition to her work with APJ, she also decided to produce a short documentary, Sun City Picture House, about building a movie theater in a refugee camp. The heartwarming and hard-hitting short premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April and now she’s producing another documentary, this one feature length, about starting a little league baseball team in Haiti. Wilde also has plans to make a documentary about a family affected by the economic disaster in County Cork, Ireland, where her dad is from.
I point out that it’s interesting she’s now doing the same thing her parents did—shining a light on international stories that have been ignored or pushed to the bottom of RSS feeds. Had she ever considered going down this route?
“No. I thought, Wow, I’ve taken a completely different path, but the path just brought me around in a circle and I’m back there with them,” she says with a smile. “But I think it’s also the way they taught us to see the world. To somehow try to document it, to tell stories. We’re a big story family—gatherings for us are all about anecdotes. Both my parents are really good at speaking about their lives and they’re good at writing. I mean, I’m much better in writing than speaking.” She pauses and considers this potential deficit in the modern dating age. “That’s why I like texting!” she says with a Eureka laugh. “I over-text! Thus: Too much green!” Green-gray eyes flashing with amusement, Wilde lets out one of those throaty, infectious laughs of hers and grins. “Well,” she says. “Should we get on the train?”