Press play with Olivia Cooke

A woman sitting on a cinema chair with popcorn alone

We meet the Sound Of Metal actor at Electric Cinema in Notting Hill ahead of the Oscars. She gives us the lowdown on solo cinema trips, gaming, and maintaining a healthy sense of the absurd

Photography & Direction: Scandebergs    Art Direction: Samuel McWilliams    Styling: Gary David Moore    Interview: Rosalind Jana

Like many of us, Olivia Cooke is looking forward to the end of lockdown. Unlike many of us, she had something of a practice run for this tumultuous last year while filming Little Fish, a movie about an airborne pandemic that causes people to lose their memories. ‘It felt so different making it and so far from reality that [at first] I didn’t even put two and two together,’ she says when asked about its uncanny prescience. Next, she appeared in the multi-award-nominated Sound Of Metal playing Lou, the girlfriend of a heavy metal drummer (Riz Ahmed) who loses his hearing. She’s also set to begin filming Game Of Thrones’ prequel House Of The Dragon.
Given such a busy schedule, is she still anticipating some fun this summer? Absolutely. ‘I’m never going to say no to anything again,’ she says forcefully. 
A woman lying on her front
Red dress, Lanvin; dress underneath, Alberta Ferretti; shoes, Jimmy Choo; earrings, Pomellato

What was your favourite game to play when you were little?

‘Manhunt. It’s like hide and seek, but including housing estates and fields, and it takes all day.’

Do you still feel in touch with your inner child?

‘I do. It’s funny, as I get older and as I realise I have no idea what’s going on – maybe it’s losing confidence, or maybe it’s just being less naive – I feel strangely more and more in touch with my inner child. I think when you’re younger, you’ve got this really bold sense of self and confidence, and that just dissipates as you get older. As [I move further] away from childhood, I feel like I become more playful and more determined to hold onto that.’
A woman's face in shadow in front of a curtain
Top, Wed; earrings and necklace, both Bulgari

What would be your ideal fun day now?

‘A fun day [would] mean so much more post-pandemic... I mean, just going to the cinema on my own in the middle of the day. It’s the best way to fill your time.’

What’s the wildest thing you can’t wait to do after lockdown?

‘I don’t know if it’s wild, but go to a club and dance, and feel people’s sweaty bodies. I miss it so much. Even if there’s no one around, I feel more stupid for dancing in my living room than I do in a club of 300 people.’

Do you like to dress up?

‘I like devoting an hour by yourself in front of the mirror just to experiment with make-up and to pick an outfit. That’s quite therapeutic, I think.’
A woman in a cinema drinking Coca Cola
Dress and underwear, both Dior; earrings, Pomellato; bracelet, Repossi

Are you a gamer? Have you spent any time in virtual worlds during lockdown?

‘God no. What have I done? I’ve done a lot of television and watching people in their own worlds, but I’m not a massive gamer. I got a karaoke set, so I’ve done some karaoke on my TV, which is depressing, but that’s it.’

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

‘Something screamy. Something you get a bit of aggression out of. Bonnie Tyler, a bit of Cher.’

What about ‘analogue’ games, like Scrabble or Monopoly? Are you a competitive player? 

‘I’ve just sort of taught myself how to play chess, and I’m really not good. I’ve been watching all these chess videos, and they’re so quick. I take about a year to decipher my next move, but I’m getting there.’ 
A woman lounging in a cinema

‘You have to be playful. You have to keep it fresh and light, and it almost has to come from a moment of truth'

A woman in shadow in front of a red curtain
A woman lying on her front

Who or what makes you laugh most?

‘A close friend’s embarrassing story. Something that’s just gone terribly wrong during the day, or toilet humour. It just makes me laugh so much. I think it all stems from when I was little, and this sounds really gross, but my dad chasing me around the house after having dipped his finger in the Nutella jar and going “Olivia, Olivia, I picked my bum!” It sounds horrible, but I think that’s just what I’ve been indoctrinated to like now.’

Is humour important to you?

‘I think being able to express yourself like that and also make tragic moments humorous is really cathartic – for me anyway. I think that’s how I deal with a lot of trauma… a bit of gallows humour.’

Is playfulness an important quality in acting?

‘You have to be playful. You have to keep it fresh and light, and it almost has to come from a moment of truth. I think when you’re playing, that’s normally where you’ll find the meaning and the motive to it, rather than just the words on the page.’

Are there any particular kinds of characters that are really fun to play?

‘The manipulative ones. The evil ones. Not evil, but complicated. I think you get to express certain emotions that you wouldn’t ever in real life and it’s quite fun, a bit like therapy.’
A woman in the spotlight

‘I feel strangely more and more in touch with my inner child. As [I move further] away from childhood, I feel like I become more playful and more determined to hold onto that’

A woman on stage with a microphone
Dress, Ashley Williams; gloves, Wed; headband, Dior

Is it hard to leave any of your characters behind?

‘Sometimes you have a bit of an emotional hangover, but the nastier ones you stay well away from. Some of the lighter ones you’re like, “Oh my god, I had so much fun in this role, I wonder why?’, and you try to access that more: the frivolous, mischievous side. I did a film called Pixie, which was this Irish gangster comedy. The role was so fun. She is just manipulative and darkly comedic. It was great to emulate that, because all you’re doing is turning up and down these dials on yourself to do these performances.’

Who are the funniest actors you’ve worked with?

‘Dylan Moran. I only worked with him for one day and he was hilarious: he changed all his lines and improvised his own. It was diabolically funny. So dry as well. And Claudia Jessie – I did Vanity Fair with her. She used to do stand-up and she’s wickedly funny. I think all actors are quite funny, the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously.’

Is it important to not take acting too seriously?

‘Massively, because it’s silly what we do. It’s ridiculous. We go up and say our lines, and give meaning and emotions to it. But you look around and you’re in this funny costume on this set. I’m so happy and delighted I get to do it, but how can you take yourself seriously?’

How will you be spending this summer?

‘Because we can’t go away, I’ve been making my garden quite Costa Del-like. I built some deckchairs out of the tiniest pieces of wood with barely any instructions. It took me two hours. But I’m trying to make it as lush and paradise-like as possible.’
A woman eating popcorn in a cinema
Production: TIAGI Production   
DOP: Kai Blamey   
Hair: Ali Pirzadeh   
Make up: Marie Bruce   
Nails: Naima Colman   
Script: Amelia Dimoldenberg   
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