Elizabeth Olsen on Co-Starring with Tom Hiddleston in ‘I Saw the Light’
The role required a wide emotional range — and a narrow musical one.
The ambitious Audrey kept wanting to sing, and people around her kept wanting her to stop, yet Hank (played by Tom Hiddleston) struggled to confront her. In real life, Olsen has a lovely singing voice, so she didn’t always find it easy hitting the sour notes.
Elizabeth Olsen Sings the Sour Notes as Hank Williams’ Wife
“I actually think I made her sound better than she really does,” Olsen told Made in Hollywood. “But it’s also because the recordings are so bad. Everything kind of sounds funny. I wanted her to sound okay to an average ear.”
Although musical performance is the core of the Marc Abraham-directed film, Audrey’s vocals were among many other things Olsen had to nail. She also had to master Audrey’s mid-century Alabama twang.
“I love accents,” the “Martha Marcy May Marlene” actress says. “It just really helps me start with the page and the dialogue. When you work on an accent, you also are thinking about — especially with this, where the inflections can be so musical — what the meaning is behind what you’re saying. I always work with a dialect coach and we listen to just even interviews of her … and recordings of her singing on the radio show.”
Olsen, whose sisters are former “Full House” actresses Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, says her research brought her to Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame where she examined the personal belongings and other items.
“They’re in archives just being taken care of for the family on behalf of them,” she says. “And so I got to see, like, her bookkeeping and her journals and all these personal photographs that have never been released. You just kind of start to pick up certain things.”
Elizabeth Olsen Bewitched By Audrey Mae Williams ‘I Saw the Light’ Role
Best known as the Scarlet Witch in the “Avengers” superhero franchise, “I Saw the Light” represents a dramatic departure for Olsen. She says it was enjoyable to dig deep into Audrey’s complicated personality.
“I understood her flaws in this script,” she explained. “I understood how that was important for story and how that was in history mainly her reputation — as being difficult and argumentative and wanting to be the star and the center. When I read it, I just felt really sorry for her and I had a lot of empathy for her.”
Why the soft spot?
“You know, she was the businesswoman out of the two of them,” Olsen said. “It’s 1946-ish, and I don’t think that’s really welcomed when a woman calls over and over again to a radio station, saying, ‘You have to listen to this album, you have to listen to this album.’ ”
Of particular interest in Olsen’s discoveries were certain quirks and habits Audrey exhibited.
“She had everything monogrammed eventually in life,” Olsen said. “What does that say about her? Post-divorce, she would still be circling and highlighting when Hank’s songs were in the top 10 — whether he sang them or someone else sang them.”
The film opens in theaters Friday.
Watch the Made in Hollywood interview with Elizabeth Olsen below: