January 27, 2011 / 12:34 AM / 8 years ago

Olsen twins' kid sister a Sundance sensation

PARK CITY (Reuters) - She may not be as famous as her twin siblings, but after the Sundance Film Festival wraps up this week, the paparazzi may give up on Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and focus their cameras on their little sister.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Olsen has lit up the top annual showcase for independent movies with two films including the suspenseful drama “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” which was acquired this week by major indie studio Fox Searchlight.

Showbusiness website The Wrap labeled her a “Sundance Sensation” and it was announced her next project will be with Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver in thriller “Red Lights.”

“It feels really awesome,” Olsen, 21, told Reuters about being branded one of the festival’s freshest new faces. “I mean, I think that’s so awesome and flattering, and I hope that if people are talking about that, then that makes people want to see the movies...because that’s the goal.”

Olsen is three years younger than Mary-Kate and Ashley, who gained fame as infants on 1990s TV sitcom “Full House” in which the twins grew up in front of America’s eyes. They launched a series of DVDs that captivated young girls’ imaginations, and then fashion lines and numerous other products.

Like her sisters, Elizabeth began acting as a child, not on network TV shows but in community theater. She took acting classes and went on auditions but never hit it big.

She also watched her sisters run the media gauntlet of stalking paparazzi and tabloid headlines and was determined to avoid that type of celebrity.


Instead of staying in Los Angeles as she entered adulthood, she went to New York University and looked for theater work.

“I always knew the media world was kind of an odd thing and kind of frightened me, and if I wanted to be an actor — especially when my sisters were in the spotlight — I’d have to be smart going about it. I was aware of that at a young age.”

College offered her more training and a network of new friends. She focused on theater because “it is kind of free of media” coverage.

But reporters turns out in droves for Sundance. There is no escaping it, and that applies to almost any celebrity — especially to the younger sister of the Olsen twins.

Here at Sundance, Olsen stars in thriller “Silent House” as girl trying to escape a house that hides a dark secret. But it is her role in “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” playing a young woman who is trying to reenter the mainstream after living in a secretive cult, that has many critics and audiences raving.

The movie is a character study of what happens to a woman after escaping a cult. In the movie, life gets complicated.

Marcy May has left the open arms of the cult but in the home of her sister, where she is Martha, she feels unwelcome. In the cult, she grew into her own as a woman, albeit under the power of a controlling leader. Back in the mainstream, she is expected to be the young girl her sister once knew.

For Olsen, there is no doubt she has stepped out from the shadow of her sisters in the indie film world. In Hollywood, it may take a few more movies, but Olsen says she knows that.

“I knew at some point, I’d have to deal with people being interested in my sisters and our family,” she said. “I just hope that once new stuff comes along, that will go away.”

Editing by Dean Goodman

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