Actor Olivia Wilde has been a firm fixture of TV and film for most of her adult life, and yet the Washington, D.C. native never managed to scale the heights of contemporaries such as Jennifer Lawrence. Although Wilde has enjoyed a varied and successful career, and in spite of several predictions about her hitting the big time proper over the years (whatever that means), she didn’t quite make it to It Girl status.
With the release of her barnstorming directorial debut Booksmart in 2019, it appeared to all have been by design. Or, if not, Wilde was at least content to remain relatively anonymous as her fellow celebs found themselves unable to even leave their homes without being swarmed by paparazzi. From paying homage to Joan of Arc to cutting her teeth first as a casting assistant and then as a wannabe film-maker actively observing those working on set alongside her, Wilde has never played things by the book.
She keeps her cards relatively close to her chest but, over the years, she has revealed fascinating elements of her personality more than worthy of further excavation. This is the untold truth of Olivia Wilde.
Olivia Wilde isn’t her real name
Following in the footsteps of Katy Perry (real name: Katherine Hudson), Olivia Wilde’s real name isn’t actually Olivia Wilde. In an interview with The Observer, the actress explained pen names are a tradition in her family, the Cockburns (okay, maybe it made sense to change it). Wilde wasn’t a random choice, either. Her mother suggested an Irish surname, in keeping with the family’s heritage, as well as something to inspire the young woman to follow her creative pursuits.
“I was doing The Importance of Being Earnest — I was playing Gwendolyn, and I was so in love with it,” she recalled. “Oscar Wilde is someone who I respect for so many reasons — a revolutionary, a comedian and a profound thinker. I had all these reasons — but what I didn’t foresee is that people would think of it as a sexy adjective. So now it’s got a pornographic quality I never considered.” Surely not as much as Cockburn, though, right?
Fighting in heels doesn’t scare Olivia Wilde
The 2010 sci-fi sequel Tron: Legacy was a major breakout moment for Wilde (one of many, none of which would propel her to the A-list as expected — more on that below). Playing tough, sexy warrior Quorra, the role found Wilde branching out in a big way, with the actress describing it to Den of Geek as, “The biggest departure from myself that I’ve played.” The part also required a hell of a lot of training, including Kapoeira, Jiu-Jitsu, cross training, and several different varieties of fight training.
Wilde had to fight in heels but, rather than complaining, she rose to the challenge (no pun intended). “I just wanted to be as strong as possible, and do as many of the fighting stunts as I could myself,” she explained. “But… it was quite a challenge. Running in heels isn’t easy, kicking in heels isn’t easy, but it made it all more bad-ass in the end.”
Wilde utilized her outfit to get into character, noting, “The suit is like armor for her. One of the most influential characters in history, who I used as research for Quorra, was Joan of Arc, who of course fought in chain-mail from head to toe.”
Olivia Wilde has got a seriously healthy appetite
Wilde has a refreshingly healthy attitude to food — more concerned with looking strong than sexy. She told Women’s Health about playing hooky from school to watch cooking shows, and even bragged about winning an eating contest in Australia — much to the disbelief of the many men involved. “I ate 33 pancakes in 20 minutes, and I only did it because they said a girl could never enter the competition. I won against these giant men, and they were convinced I was cheating. Guys have some sort of sick fascination with girls who can eat,” she recalled.
In contrast, it’s other women who encourage her to stay skinnier, even when it might be adversely affecting her health. While on a trip to Thailand with her ex-husband, Wilde got very sick with Dengue fever and dropped 15 pounds. “I looked really thin, and all the men in my life were worried about me. But all the women in my life were proud of me. They started calling it ‘the Dengue diet,'” she revealed.
Olivia Wilde has a deep connection to her Irish roots
After choosing a stage name that pays homage to her Irish heritage, it’s no surprise to learn Wilde spent many of her formative years on the island itself. In an interview with The Independent, she reminisced about summers spent in Ardmore, County Waterford.
“It was amazing. I feel like the luckiest child in the world because I got to grow up there. …During the year, I would go back to the States, and all year long really couldn’t wait to get back to Ardmore,” she trilled. Far from a big city kid slumming it with the locals, Wilde actually preferred Waterford, admitting, “I found Ireland much more inspiring as a kid, much more fun, and the people had such an amazing effect on me. I credit a lot of my growth as a child and a lot of my happiness with the people I was surrounded by in Ireland.”