Elizabeth Olsen On A 'Wind River' Oscar Campaign Without Weinstein

Dec 2, 2017

The campaign season has begun for Hollywood awards. Wind River is a widely-praised film that hinges on a murder mystery, but it's also a pointed and poignant story about the violence endured by many Native American women. The Weinstein Company had the rights to distribute Wind River, but following efforts by the filmmakers and the film's stars, the Weinstein name has been removed.

"[His name is] beyond, I think, toxic," says actress Elizabeth Olsen, who stars in the movie. "It's completely against all the reasons we made this film."


Interview Highlights

On the importance of an Oscar campaign to an already highly praised film [web extra]

It's important because you get a bigger audience, and I think the reason I wanted to do this film is because after I read [the script], I was embarrassed that I didn't know that this existed in the country that I live in. It just seemed so ancient. It seemed like the fact that there is no judicial system that's supporting women who have gone missing and are assumed raped and assaulted; that there are no cases being fought for them because of a lack of resources just sounds like such an ancient idea, and that's why I wanted to be a part of this film. So the more people you get to see a film like this, the more potential action you have. I think making statements are always helpful for support, but making statements that are tethered to action is what affects change. And so I think that's been, Taylor shared, his goal from the beginning.

On the difference of an Oscar campaign not backed by a major company

I think when you have something like a Weinstein Company or you have Fox Searchlight, you have these big studios that have supported independent film-making and tried to create larger platforms for them. If you have those larger companies that have a lot of history backing you, you end up having a better foot in the door, and so I think we are a dark horse.

On why she hopes people will see this film

I think it's a story that can stick with you for many different reasons. If you leave a film, if you put down a book, and there is something that you didn't know before or something that has informed you about the world you live in — that you care about that you didn't know before — if you can walk away from any kind of story with that, I think that's the goal of story-telling. And so that's what I love about this film, is it really has moved people and it's become more, I think, socially important today than it was when we made it. There's been a lot more attention being given to indigenous Native American people within our country since we made the film, and there's also this whole epidemic that everyday we're learning about men and power and sexual assault, and those are what this film is about in a very specific story.

This story was edited for radio by Sarah Handel and Courtney Dorning, and adapted for the Web by Sydnee Monday.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The campaign season has begun for Hollywood awards. "Wind River" is a widely praised film that hinges on a murder mystery. But it's also a pointed and poignant story about the violence endured by many Native American women. The Weinstein Company had the rights to distribute "Wind River." I said had because after a campaign about the filmmakers and the film stars, the Weinstein name has been removed. Elizabeth Olsen is one of those film stars and joins us now from the studios of our member station WABE in Atlanta. Thanks so much for being with us.

ELIZABETH OLSEN: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: And the Weinstein name has obviously become toxic. Is that why you want it removed?

OLSEN: It's beyond, I think, toxic. It's completely against all the reasons we made this film. His actions are completely antithetical. And so I think when we found out about The New York Times article, Taylor Sheridan, our writer-director - the first thing he did was basically lawyer up and try and figure out how we can get the rights back because our film does deal with sexual assault and violence against women.

SIMON: Were you excited when - before the stories broke about Harvey Weinstein, when you found out that the Weinstein organization would distribute your film?

OLSEN: Yeah, I was. I've never had a film with the Weinstein Company before. I know they create a good platform for films during the awards season. And the way we talk about campaigning for this film specifically is - when you get to have that platform for being nominated for your film and then being on these different platforms, whether it's on television or it's being written about, people then go see your movie. And so this is a story that we all want people to see and know about and learn. And that's why you want that campaign platform.

SIMON: The Weinstein organization has been famously accomplished at Oscar campaigns over the years. Do you hope to be able to replicate their efforts now independently?

OLSEN: Yeah. I don't know how - like, I don't really know how easy that is. It seems like a (laughter) difficult thing because it comes from connections. And it comes from history.

SIMON: It used to be full-page ads, swag bags - that kind of stuff.

OLSEN: Yeah.

SIMON: I don't - yeah.

OLSEN: Yeah. And it really...

SIMON: Maybe, it's social media now.

OLSEN: Right. And that I'm pitiful at. But I think when you have something like a Weinstein Company, or you have Fox Searchlight, you have these big studios that have supported independent filmmaking and tried to create larger platforms for them. If you have those larger companies that have a lot of history backing you, you end up having a better foot in the door. And so I think we are a dark horse (laughter).

SIMON: Why do you hope people will go to see this film?

OLSEN: I think it's a story that can stick with you for many different reasons. If you leave a film, if you put down a book, and there is something that you didn't know before or something that has informed you about the world you live in that you care about but you didn't know before - if you can walk away from any kind of story with that, I think that's the goal of storytelling. I believe this is a film that does that.

And so that's what I love about this film - is it really has moved people. And it's become more, I think, socially important today than it was when we made it. There's been a lot more attention being given to Indigenous and Native American people within our country since we made the film. And there is also this whole epidemic that every day, we're learning more about men in power and sexual assault. And those are what this film is about in a very specific story.

SIMON: Elizabeth Olson, speaking with us from Atlanta. Thanks so much for being with us.

OLSEN: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF WARREN ELLIS AND NICK CAVE'S "SNOW WOLF") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.