In Ingrid Goes West Aubrey Plaza plays a sadsack stalker looking for true friendship with an Instagram star played by Elizabeth Olsen. On screen the dynamic between the pair is fantastic, providing much of the film’s charm. In person the two are equally engaging, with a light rapport that delights. In this conversation following the Sundance premiere, the two opened up about their characters, how they found working together and their own relationship with social media.
How active are you on social media?
Elizabeth Olsen: I don't have social media, so I'm not active at all.
Why is that?
EO: I think it would probably be a good idea for different aspects of this job but I don't want to be preoccupied by it. I don't want to feel the pressure of creating an image of myself and understanding what I would want people to see my life as. I'd just rather do whatever it is that I do, privately.
Aubrey Plaza: My relationship with it is that I always struggle with it. I don't like it. It goes against my instincts. But sometimes I have fun with it. I haven't been on Facebook in a really, really long time.
Both of you are not only performers but each working to shape your careers, with Aubrey playing a significant role producing this film.
EO: I just started working six years ago, so I've just started in the last couple of years to find my groove with how I want to make choices. I'm enjoying what I've been doing the last couple of years, which is the balance between having time off Marvel, which I love doing, and finding passion projects like this one and Wind River. Like Aubrey, I'm just starting to develop projects and be a part of things from the beginning and pitching. That world to me is really fascinating because I think there are holes in storytelling that I think the things I'm creating help fill, and that's exciting to me.
AP: I really enjoy collaboration and I don't like having the pressure that every actor has to write their dream role for themselves and that's the only way it'll happen. I think sometimes that does work, and that's great too but this movie was a very organic process. I read the script, I loved it, I met [Director] Matt [Spicer], and he assembled all of these people that I've wanted to work with. So I think, for me, it's all about that collaboration and having that organic process leading the way.
In the short term are you wanting to eventually be producing films that you’re not starring in?
AP: Yeah, for sure. I would love to do that.
Can you talk about developing the chemistry between the two of you on screen? It's really striking. How did that come about?
EO: I fell in love with Aubrey. [Laughs]
AP: She was actually my stalker on set. We decided to do role reversals when we were in our trailers.
EO: [to Aubrey] I think it's because I was initially intimidated by you so I just decided to be weirder than you.
AP: And I think you succeeded.
EO: Aww. [Laughter]
AP: I would just take sneaky pictures of her getting her makeup done and then...
EO: [cuts in] ...then it was the screensaver on her phone for the entirety of filming.
AP: It's the little things.
EO: And it's also just nice to work with… [Turns to Aubrey], I know you have more experiences than I have, but to work with a female of a similar generation. I don't really get that opportunity too often so that felt novel to me.
AP: And it's nice to work with cool women that are fun. We are friends.
EO: We've been working too much, but yeah.
What do you want to say to young women in your movies?
EO: I have a hard time answering role model-y questions because I don't think the characters I play are always supposed to be role models, especially in this film. It's about human connection and interaction and that's what's important. Stop being distracted by this thing and bring it back to what makes us human and what makes us connect as people.
AP: Focus on your authentic self and have that be the reason for connections because social media can be a distraction.
EO: If you participate you are creating a conscious image of yourself that you want to portray out there. A lot of people can do that super successfully in their own unique voice and way. But I do think there's a trap of the wanting the likes and it's a celebrity culture and it's an attention thing for kids. YouTube is a career that young kids have aspirations to be stars of. I don't know what YouTube star means but that's a real aspiration of a job. So that's odd because that's all celebrity culture I think.
AP: No, it is.
What is the biggest disconnect between how your fans see you and who you actually are?
EO: I don't know what fans think of me.
AP: Oh I have a slight idea of what they think of me. [EO Laughs]
EO: I was having a dark moment in my Googling of myself, as you just fuckin' do and it sucks but you do it. I remember someone said a comment that I was a bitch because I waltzed through a door that someone was holding. And I was like, (yelling) "WHAT?!". I was like, "WHEN WAS THAT?". And then I was really upset that someone thought I was rude. I try and treat everyone the way I want to be treated, but I was like, "Fuck that!". Why is that out there on a comment?
AP: It's not even real.
EO: But for half of a second you're upset and then you're like, "Lizzie, stop. It's so weird that you're even thinking like that so just stop".
Aubrey, surely you have people all the time think they know you better than they actually do.
AP: Yeah. I mean being on Parks and Recreation for seven years and being in people's living rooms, of course they're going to associate me with that. I am that character for them. I mean, I'm not that character but I played that character with my body and my experiences and sense of humor, so I'm sure it feels like people think they know who I am, but they probably don't.
What do you think is the difference between a Sundance audience and a regular audience?
EO: Sundance is receptive to the odd and quirky and experimental and challenging ways of telling a story or tone even. I think some festivals are more curated to a wider audience. That's why I love Sundance specifically. I've had films here that I actually think should not have been here because I think it wasn't for the Sundance audience because it wasn't interesting enough. I'm honest about it. I didn't think it was interesting enough or challenging enough because I think that's what people come to see, who's pushing boundaries.
AP: I agree. I was really surprised during The Little Hours screening at how many laughs that movie got because the tone is so specific and so weird. I was thinking then, "I don't know if people are going to get it or if they're really going to get in there", you know? But people were in there right away and I think that's kind of why Sundance audiences are the best, because they're just willing to go on that ride.
Did you guys do a lot of research on Instagram?
EO: Yeah. I had a fake Taylor Sloane Instagram and I asked friends how to take photos of food and things like that.
Did you take any of the pictures in the film yourself?
EO: Nooooo. I would never show any photo I took.
AP: But you took pictures.
EO: I tried so hard. They didn't make the movie.
AP: You were arranging guacamole at some point.
EO: Yeah. Frittatas. Yeah, because I love cooking but I would just never take a photo of what I'm cooking. But the annoying thing was that you have to take photos like this [mimes taking a photo] but your shadows are all in the photo. I don't know how people do an overhead shot without getting all these shadows. But there were also 35 people that Matt [Spicer] wanted me to follow. And these people, I have no idea how they started a career, but they have transformed their Instagram fame or influence into having clothing companies or designing bags or being a guest designer for different boutique places. And that's cool. I mean it humanized it for me that these people are actually trying to create a business and this is their access into having a business.
Were you guys ever a superfan of anything? Anyone in particular that you were obsessed with?
EO: Michelle Pfeiffer, when I was a little girl.
Batman era Michelle Pfeiffer?
EO: I watched almost all of her movies before the age of 13 and dressed up as her from Grease 2. But I think it started with Batman Returns.
Were you obsessed with her as an actress or as an icon?
EO: As an actress.
AP: One Fine Day!
EO: Tequila Sunrise! You name it. [Laughs] I was obsessed with her.
AP: The Fabulous Baker Boys!
EO: *excitedly* Oh God, don't even get me started! That is the sexiest way a dress has ever been unzipped.
AP: I was really obsessed with Judy Garland growing up, since I was 11. I have a lot of that stuff in my room. I wasn't even that obsessed with The Wizard of Oz but that was just the easiest thing that people associated me with, so I had a lot of that going on.
Does that irritate you, as somebody with talent, that people are now famous specifically for being famous?
EO: No, because it's not about fame if you have something that is a craft. It's different. [to Aubrey] I don't think you and I are trying to get millions of followers for no reason.
AP: No. I hate when people follow me. It freaks me out.
EO: *sarcastically* She's so cool.