The ridiculously sexy 25-year-old actress Olivia Wilde is, believe it or not, a reader, as are, apparently, many of her fans. After she appeared, squirming all over a beach in a bikini, on the cover of last month’s GQ, “I suddenly realized how many people read GQ,” she says with a laugh, as we walk into the Strand to browse while she’s visiting town. Or at least they look at the pictures. “It’s definitely rocked my world a little bit.”
Still, she’ll take it, especially since she’s here to promote Fix, an energetic, semi-improvised, and decidedly no-budget road movie about a pair of documentary filmmakers rushing to get an addict brother to rehab. It was directed by Wilde’s husband, Tao Ruspoli, and is based loosely on an incident involving his own brother. It’s a far cry from the Jack Black–Michael Cera caveman comedy Year One she appeared in this summer, though perhaps a bit less of a stretch for her oddball Dr. Remy Hadley, a.k.a. Thirteen, on the Fox hit House M.D.
“This could be my parents’ living room,” she says of the shelves of books. She means it: Wilde’s parents are Andrew and Leslie Cockburn, she a longtime producer for 60 Minutes and Frontline, he a journalist whose books include Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy. (Her real name is Olivia Jane Cockburn.) They used to have everyone from Christopher Hitchens to Mick Jagger over. She recalls when, as an adult, she finally started reading the work of Seymour Hersh: “It took some time before I realized, ‘Hey, wait, that’s Sy!’ ” So what’s she reading these days? She points to copies of Philip Gourevitch’s We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families and Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost. “Believe it or not, it was research for Tron Legacy,” the sequel to the 1982 film.
Not that it was always easy being the child of writers. “When I was very young, I used to see books as the thing keeping everyone from playing with me. So there’d be long stretches in the afternoons when everyone was off in their reading corners, sprawled on couches. And I would go up to them and do this little dance to try and break their concentration, which of course they never did: ‘I’m bored!’ ‘Go read a book!’ ‘I’m bored!’ ‘Go read a book!’ And of course, now I dream of having long stretches when I’ll be able to read a book.”
But one nice thing about having author parents: They know what it’s like to be reviewed. When her 2006 film Turistas got panned, her father sent her a copy of Theatre of Blood, “in which Vincent Price plays a vengeful actor who sets out to kill all his critics. That was Dad’s way of saying ‘Screw ’em!’”