Olivia Wilde Drafts a Feisty Character in ‘Drinking Buddies’
Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson in "DRINKING BUDDIES." ©Magnolia Pictures.

Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson in “DRINKING BUDDIES.” ©Magnolia Pictures.


Front Row Features

HOLLYWOOD—Olivia Wilde is one of those naturally beautiful women who could wear a potato sack and make it look like a Chanel gown.

Dressed in a white t-shirt decorated with a painted man’s face on the front (a gift from a friend), pin-stripped grey pants and high heels for an interview, Wilde seems to be as blissfully unaware of her stunning image as the character she plays in her new dramedy “Drinking Buddies.”

A soon-to-be bride—she is engaged to former “SNL” cast member Jason Sudeikis as the boulder-size diamond on her left ring finger attests—Wilde (best known as the smart but emotionally troubled doctor on “House”), says it was fun playing a blue-collar worker who just wants to be one of the guys at a Chicago craft-brewery but ends up causing chaos when she and one of her co-worker friends (“New Girl’s” Jake Johnson) have a romantic fling one weekend. Problem is both Wilde’s character Kate and Johnson’s Luke are involved with other people. “Up in the Air’s” Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston (“The Conjuring”) co-star.

The 29-year-old Wilde spoke about her new film, written and directed by Joe Swanberg (“Hannah Takes the Stairs”), at a recent press day.

Q: Do you have a real-life drinking buddy?

Wilde: It seems like sort of a dangerous concept—someone who is just your drinking buddy. Someone you have nothing in common with if you’re sober is probably not a good, healthy friendship. But the point, I assume, of what you’re saying is, is there someone who you really feel like you can kick back with and let all pretense go and be very comfortable with? Then, yeah, I have a lot of friends like that. I think that a lot of people do, and when they watch this film, they feel it resonates with them for that reason.

Q: Is there a different dynamic between male and female drinking buddies?

Wilde: It’s interesting because that question has come up a lot: the idea of male-female friendships, and if they’re possible. I think they are possible. I don’t think we’re saying (in the film) it’s inherently dangerous to have a man and a woman together in a room involving beer and alcohol. I think it’s specifically these two that have a connection that’s electric that makes it dangerous. But I hope the movie’s not suggesting that men and women can’t be friends because they absolutely can.

Q: One of my favorite scenes is when you and Jake rub ham on each other’s faces.

Wilde: (She laughs.) It’s soy ham. By that point, we had been shooting for like two-and-a-half weeks. We love that scene too. We laughed so hard. All Joe (Swanberg) told us was to make a sandwich and we made a weird seven-layer sandwich. Then we took it outside and he said something like “Maybe a food fight might start, might not, see what you guys do.” It evolved from there and we just started laughing so hard. Ben Richardson, our (cinematographer), captured it perfectly.

Q: How was working with Anna Kendrick, who plays Jake’s girlfriend?

Wilde: The great thing about Anna is that she is not afraid of anything. She created such a complex character that it’s extraordinary at the end of the film, even though Kate and Luke are so great together and you like watching them together, you want him to end up with Jill. That’s a credit to Anna’s acting. She’s so fun. She can hang like anyone. She’s a lightweight because she weighs 75 pounds but she is so just real. She’s just a real woman, just self-realized, smart and ballsy. I feel like that was maybe the requirement for everyone who had anything to do with this movie.

Q: You couldn’t have done this movie if you were in AA, right?

Wilde: No. In fact, I was thinking, “Gosh, this would have been tricky if you didn’t drink beer.” It would be hard mostly because the world we were living in was this very specific environment. I think that’s what’s so smart about Joe setting it here. To have a process as loose as his, I think you have to set it somewhere very specific. You can’t just say, “They’re people living in Chicago.” It’s just loose-ended and it doesn’t work. So because we were responding to a very specific environment, we had to understand that environment fully. I think if you couldn’t learn about the beer from experience, I’m not sure you would really understand it.

Q: Was it a tough job improvising a lot of the dialogue and getting to drink all day?

Wilde: It was the dream job. It was amazing. But the difficulty was you had to really trust yourself every day. It was very vulnerable because you’re just coming up with ideas and throwing it out there. There’s always the possibility that someone could say, “What a really terrible idea.”

Q: Joe Swanberg let you come up with a lot of your dialogue. Was that daunting?

Wilde: One of the great things that I’ve heard him say is that why would he be so bold as to write a female character since he’s a white man in his 30s. He’s like, “I don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman. I should trust you to give me the words because if I tried to make it up, they wouldn’t be honest.” So he understands how complex women are. All of his movies have a complex, strong woman in them. It’s rare in this business and that’s why I want to work with him over and over again.

Q: When people describe you, first they say you’re drop-dead gorgeous and then they say that you’re like this hip, smart girl-next-door. Which are you?

Wilde: The great thing about being a woman is that you’re all things at once. You can be complex in that way. I’m really lucky to have played a role that allowed me to be a few of those things at once. I resent roles that force you to be just one of them because that’s not honest. No one is that.

Q: Have you ever lost a part because you’re too beautiful?

Wilde: (She laughs.) I think if my agent ever tells me that it’s probably a lie.

Q: You had to go to a “beer boot camp” before you shot this. What did you learn there?

Wilde: I learned that it really hurts to get boiling beer splashed in your eye. We were at Three Floyds Brewery (in Chicago) and we were learning the process of making beer. Jake was pouring in the hops into boiling wort—wort is this syrupy liquid substance that makes up beer—and he was violently splashing hops into this boiling liquid. Everyone else had goggles on. I leaned over his shoulder and it went into my eye. But I felt I had to play cool and I did, even though I was suffering terribly inside. I admitted it to them three weeks later that I’d been in horrible pain. But we learned a huge amount and really we learned to respect how difficult it is to make a great beer.

Q: Kate is a manipulator who is aware of her beauty and her effect on men, but at the same time she seems extremely insecure. Can you talk about that aspect of your character?

Wilde: I don’t think she thinks she’s hot ****. I don’t think she feels she’s beautiful. She is insecure. It’s sort of sad for me to think about her loneliness because I want Kate to find love. She has insecurity that prevents her from having real friendships with women. She doesn’t seem too surrounded by a lot of women. There’s something about her that’s afraid of the idea of the unselfish commitment of a real relationship. She’s too messed up in her own kind of tornado of her own mind and heart. She doesn’t think she’s really pretty because she doesn’t use her sexuality to get what she wants. She feels entitled to sexual exploration and is horrified when she feels judged by her best friend for sleeping with somebody. But she’s just kind of discovering herself.

Q: Your character has an interesting birthday setup. What was your favorite birthday party or experience?

Wilde: My favorite birthday party was this year at SXWX Film Festival. The premiere of “Drinking Buddies” was right before my birthday so the after-party was a really joyous event because we felt so proud of how the film performed there. It was the first time we saw it with other people so it was kind of a major moment. At midnight, it became my birthday. To be surrounded by the people that I really love and to feel really proud of having made something I really genuinely love and feel proud of, that was the best birthday moment I’ve had.