NEW YORK -- Learning to pole dance was something of a bumpy grind for Olivia Wilde.
She had less than two days to master the moves of a brassy, bawdy performer in Butter. But Wilde sashayed with aplomb, with the help of an instructor who specialized in striptease workouts.
"Iwas stuck in Austria under the volcanic ash cloud and I couldn't get toLouisiana in time. I got there and they flew a trainer in from S Factorand she taught me at an actual strip club, called Action Central, andgot me to the point where they offered me a job there. So if all elsefails, you can find me at Action Central," says Wilde, 28.
Fromthe time she first read the script, Wilde was hot to play Brooke, aBMX-riding exotic dancer who sets out to stymie the butter-carvingdreams of a very ambitious small-town bully (Jennifer Garner) in thecomedy, opening Friday.
"Ithought she was so funny. She made me laugh the hardest when I read it.And I hadn't played anything like her. She's an unusual and brassy andwitty character. She rides her BMX in her stripper heels, which by theway isn't easy," says Wilde.
Director Jim Field Smith cast Wildebecause she embodied everything he required to humanize Brooke. "Weneeded someone who looked right, obviously, but wasn't self-consciousabout how she looked and could be sexy but also kind of dirty andskanky," says director Smith. "We needed someone who was really funnybut also sympathetic. I described her as my hand grenade. There shegoes, to blow up a scene."
Butter aside, Wilde has indeed been blowing up. She's wrapped the Formula 1 biopic Rush for director Ron Howard, the comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone opposite Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, and the sci-fi romance Her,with Joaquin Phoenix, for Spike Jonze. "I now have the luxury of beingchoosier and choosier. I've gotten to the point where I don't have towork all the time. I'm able to do things that don't need to beblockbuster," she says. "I'm able to help movies get made, which isreally exciting. I'm really picky now and it's only because there's noreason not to be. I don't regret anything I've done because I've learnedsomething from each experience."
Best of all, says Wilde, she nowhas time to have a life. The actress recently relocated from LosAngeles to Manhattan, where she lives downtown with her comedianboyfriend Jason Sudeikis and her rescue mutt Paco. "I've been decoratingour new apartment. That's a lot of what I do, too. I'm so domestic. Wehave a cool new electronic drum kit. It's a good life. For years, Iworked constantly. I was doing the show and doing movies on theweekends," she says, referring to her breakout role on the Fox medicaldrama House.
Acting aside, Wilde is active with Artists forPeace and Justice, an organization providing education and healthservices in Haiti, and also filmed the PBS doc Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide,which spotlights global activists. It's the product of her upbringing-- Wilde's parents are both investigative journalists and she grew upsurrounded by such movers and shakers as author Christopher Hitchens(who babysat her) and diplomat Richard Holbrooke.
"She's quitesensible and very charitable and very intelligent and comes from thisjournalistic background. She's well-traveled and well-educated. Youforget how young she is," says Smith.
Since moving east, Wildehas become the consummate New Yorker. During a morning off, she went tothe Guggenheim to see a retrospective of Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra.She rides the subway, armed with books and her headphones. At night, sheand Sudeikis see theater or live shows. The two have an electronic drumkit in their apartment and spend evenings "nerding out" with fellowactors. And yes, she'd love to work with him, on the right project.
"Wetalk about it all the time. We're constantly doing bits together. Oneday someone will turn a camera on that. It would be a good movie,"smiles Wilde.
And while kids aren't in her immediate future,Wilde can envision herself starting a family and modeling herself afterher mother, who produced segments for 60 Minutes and Frontline."Yes, yes, absolutely. I think it would be great. My mom was a greatexample of having a professional life and having a kid. It can be done.No one is saying it's easy. But I'm totally inspired by the idea ofbeing a badass working professional mom. I'm so into my dog. I can'timagine how I will smother my child," she says with a laugh.