Olivia Cookie is barely 20, but she is already making a name for herself in the industry. The humble actress is the star of The Quiet Ones. In the film she plays Jane Harper, a depressed young woman who can’t remember her past, and is believed to be possessed by evil. We recently sat down with the actress for a roundtable interview where she talked playing a character with multiple personalities, singing Moulin Rouge, her favorite horror films, Bates Motel, and more.
You’re character Jane is quite an interesting one to play. How did you get yourself in the mood to play such a complex character?
Olivia Cooke: It was disturbing how easy it was for me to, sort of, jump into that character for some reason. I was eighteen, and it was my first film, and I don’t really ever remember being method, or anything like that. I kind was like “Well, here it goes!” and the guys, who I was so nervous about working with made me feel so comfortable, and they were, kind of, going to extremes. So, I was like “Oh, well I’ll join the party! I’ll go to extremes as well!” I don’t really remember ever having to work myself into it. I remember jumping about getting the energy, getting the breath up, but that was about it.
Did you feel that it was sort of like playing a bunch of different characters, or did you view it as one character with different facets?
I felt like it was a bunch of different characters, but in a host. She was manipulative. She was vulnerable. She’s like a teenage vixen. She’s naive, but she’s also very lovely, and sweet at the same time. It’s all of these different elements that help. That is Jane Harper, or it’s Evie. It just felt like they’re so compartmentalized that I just felt that that is her.
Horror films are generally known to have really fun sets, especially to keep things light. What did you guys do to unwind at the end of the night?
I really wanted to make a musical. [Laughs] Me and Rory [Fleck-Byrne], we both started MOULIN ROUGE!, and we filmed it but Rory had his phone stolen. We had it on video. I was like [sings] “We should be lovers” and he was all [sings] “We can’t do that!”… the whole Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman duet. Sam was singing WEST SIDE STORY [sings] “When you’re a jet”…yeah. Then, I think at one point Rory tried to hypnotize Jared [Harris]. Me and Erin [Richards] kind of, there was a latch… Do you know the latch in my door? I’d pop up and go [sings] “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy” [laughs] and then she would pop up and go “but here’s my number” and we would just do a little Carly Rae Jepsen. Yeah, that and musicals.
Was that lost footage as well, because that should be on a DVD somewhere?
Rory sent them to me, but then I got a new phone, and he lost his phone. I’ve got pictures of me and Jared by our trailers jumping into the air, and he actually broke my toe because he was slow on the uptake. Like “Ok. After three” so I would jump on three, and he would jump on about five. So, I was coming down and he was just coming up, and I felt my toes go [with her hands, pushes her fingers up and back]. I mean, I don’t know if it was broken for sure, but it was black and blue, and it was huge. it was a fat toe.
Does pain like that bleed into your performance the next day when you have to be anguished, or anything like that?
A bit. Yes. I was wincing a lot, and hobbling. Not really. I mean, you kind of lose it when you’re in that mode. When I was being burned, and when you’re doing all of these fight scenes, it’s only after that you’re like “Oww! I hurt!” In the moment you don’t care. You just go for it.
You and Sam [Claflin] have a really nice chemistry in the movie. Did you guys do anything to bond off screen? How did that work out for you two?
The first time I met Sam, Sam was already attached so he came into my final audition to test a few girls. It was kind of awkward sitting outside of the audition room. He was like “Hi. How are you? I’m… ” and I was like “[Whispers] Oh my god. I know… ” [Laughs] I was like “Oh my god. He’s talking to me!” and then, we went into the room and John was like – after we had done all of the scenes – he was like “Ok. I really want you to just scare him now.” so we did the scene, and I was like “Fuck. How am I going to scare him?” so I had to wait a long moment, and I held this stare, and then just let out this piercing scream, and he jumped about five feet onto this chair, and I was like “Ok. I got the part.” But no, we had two weeks of rehearsals before, so the five of us bonded. Yeah. It just happened. Me and Sam had really good chemistry anyway, so it was very easy. It was very natural.
The horror genre has been around for such a long time. Do you have any specific favorites? Either a favorite genre, or specific films?
I love the supernatural ones, like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. I was convinced – I think I was fourteen or fifteen when I first watched it – and I was convinced that it was real. Two weeks later my friend was like “You know that was actually filmed in LA” and I was like “Oh. Ok.” I love THE WOMAN IN BLACK. I had gotten split up from my friend when we went to watch that at the cinema, and I had my scarf wrapped around my head like a turban. It was the worst, terrible night. It was so scary. What else? INSIDIOUS. I kind of love the theatrical time, like when they go into the other world. I loved all of those characters. It felt very – sort of like a circus.
Do you think you might have those same feelings when you watch this film with an audience at your premiere, or will the fact that you’re watching yourself take you out of it?
Well, we had the premiere in London, and I had watched it previously, on my own with my agent, so I was like “Is this scary?” but my agent had his tie wrapped around his head – wrapped around his eyes, so I knew he was scared. I know all the jumps, and what’s going to happen. I’m watching me. I’m watching my performance like “What am I doing? This is awful. Stop doing that with your hand.” but seeing it with an audience and seeing them jumping, and their reactions, their screaming… it reassured me a lot that this is actually working.
Do you like to watch your performances? Jared was saying that he finds it, sometimes, strange. Do you like to watch your movies with an audience?
I think, so far, all of the characters that I’ve played have been so far removed from me, like Emma from ‘Bates Motel’. It’s just not me, really. I mean, I’m a bit dorky like her, but what I saw in her I did not see in Jane Harper. I did not recognize myself. Especially the transformation that I went through. It kind feels like you’re watching a really close friend of yours, and you’re just like “Stop doing that! I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” It’s a bit strange, but also I think you need to watch your stuff in order to know “That didn’t quite work. Don’t do that next time.”. That sort of thing. If you do something with your face that you always do, that’s like a habit, then you know to train yourself not to do it.
Did this fall under the timeline of ‘Bates Motel’? Was this before or after? A Hiatus?
It was before. This was filmed two years ago, and a month later… Was it a month? It was a month later that I got ‘Bates Motel’. I had just gotten my manager, and agent in America, and they sent me a tape for ‘Bates Motel’ a month later. I just got it offered off of a tape. I sent it over and got it.
Did you get to dig into ‘The Philip Experiment’ or the paranormal studies that this film is influenced by?
Yeah. We definitely searched into it, but it’s so loosely inspired on ‘The Philip Experiment’. It just sparked the writers imagination. They took a lot of elements for different experiments of the time, but it’s a movie. You need to imagine all of these things, and you imagine it for yourself. The character of Jane – you see that character all of the time. In every horror movie there’s a girl in a white smock, and she’s got black hair. I wanted her to be as original as possible, even though she looks very non-original.
Jared was saying that the house that you guys filmed in, and the adjoining abandoned office building had this atmosphere like they used to do experiments there. What was the vibe that you got?
Definitely. No, I definitely felt it. It had this very odd smell because… You know when you go into a house that’s not been lived in for a year? There’s definitely a bit of a musky smell. This one hadn’t had anyone in it for fifteen years. It kind of felt like a Tardis to me.
I know! The front bit was so modern. Well, not modern, but clean, white, pristine with a bit of dust on it. Then, when you went into this other part of the building – The Victorian part – Literally, you were in this 1970’s derelict… It’s rotted, and it’s got dust, and cobwebs everywhere. It’s kind of like you’ve been transported into a completely different era. It was really strange.
You realize that you just picked up a ton of sci-fi fans when they read this?
Oh, really? [Laughs]
How was your experience with Sam operating the camera, and taking on a director-type role?
You know, for my character personally, because I was so connected with Sam’s character, with him operating the camera, it was really good for me to have that eye line, and to look like I’m looking into the audiences soul. I found it really handy for my character, from an acting point of view, to have that as a transportation method. I found it really handy.
You say that you’re bait dorky. What makes you a bit dorky in your personality?
I don’t know. I think I just do stupid things, and I’m a bit awkward. I sit a bit awkwardly. Like, I’m in a really nice dress, but I’m, like, hunched over. I should be more ladylike, and things but I think I’m just a bit awkward in myself. Like Emma in ‘Bates Motel’, she’s kind of this way. She’s not fully confident with how she is yet. Kind of a bit like that, I think.
What do you have coming up next?
THE SIGNAL, a sci-fi with Laurence Fishburne comes out in June. Another horror movie called OUIJA comes out Halloween this year, and then a film, a comedy! Yeah! We begin shooting in June, in Pittsburg. It’s called ME & EARL & THE DYING GIRL. I play the dying girl. So, there’s an element of self torture, obviously, but I’m really excited.
Do you tend to gravitate towards more character driven roles as opposed to characters that are a bit more grounded and real? #00:11:52.4#
THE SIGNAL, the character in that is pretty real. The one that I’m going to do in June, even though she has leukemia she’s a normal, middle of the spectrum girl. I do tend to gravitate towards character parts more because it’s just so much fun to play. Even playing Emma. It’s such a feast for an actress. Delving into a character… I don’t think there’s ever been character really like her before, so I’m very lucky for them to trust me in playing those characters.
Can you describe your character in OUIJA?
She’s the heroine of the story, so she’s not the damsel in distress. She’s the one trying to save, and trying to come to terms, and get to the bottom of things in the story. She’s the one that kind of gets everyone on board, and she’s trying to figure out how, and why all of these things are happening surrounding this Ouija board. I’m the lead. It’s like my face on every frame, which no one really wants to see. Yeah. It’s the first character I’ve ever had where I’m kind of saving the day.
Did you guys screw around with each other on set with the board?
Well, there was a guy underneath. It was metal. Not metal. It was magnets, so he was moving it underneath on the board. They made a clap sound, so whenever they needed us to jump, we’d jump. They’d play this stupid freakin’ horn. His head was right where my legs are, so I’d go “Ahh!” and I’d kick him. I’m like “I’m so sorry Sean!”. The injuries sustained whilst operating a Ouija board. That shouldn’t be in his job title. [Laughs]
Between your roles in these films, how would you characterize your own belief in the supernatural?
I’m really openminded. Nothing’s ever happened to me. I’m willing… I’m doing all of these things hoping that something will come to me, but it hasn’t. My dad’s had stuff happen to him. All of these people that I’ve talked to have had things happen to them, and I’m like “Why don’t they come scare me?” So, until that happens I think then I’ll be a a firm believer, but maybe it won’t happen. Have you had Jared yet?
Aww. Damn. I was going to say to ask him about the goblin story!
What’s the goblin story? Now you have to tell us.
When he was younger, he was saying that he had a supernatural experience. Apparently when he was younger, like around five, he woke up and he saw, like, a green leprechaun – small goblin thing right on the edge of his bed. The leprechaun sort of woke up and ran to the door, and then looked back, and so little five year old Jared chased him, and saw the ol’ leprechaun making his way down the spirally stairs, like, looking up at him, and was sort of like “What was that?” so, I don’t know what that is! I use it to embarrass him, like “So, the goblin…”
The Quiet Ones is open in theaters today. Check out our interview with director John Pogue. More interview with The Quiet Ones stars Jared Harris and Sam Claflin will be up later today.