Olivia Wilde Talks Turning Music Video Director and Her Dark Role on 'Vinyl'

Dani Girdwood
From top: Wilde (right) and Ebert on the set of “No Love Like Yours”; one of the video’s many surreal scenes.

Armed with an iPhone 6s, the 'Vinyl' actress makes directorial debut with a video for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

On the HBO series Vinyl, Olivia Wilde's character Devon mourns her glory days as a member of Andy Warhol's Factory and watches as her husband runs his record label into the ground. But in real life, the actress isn't sitting on the sidelines of the music business. She recently pitched Alex Ebert, frontman for Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, with a concept for a music video, shot entirely on iPhone 6s -- "this idea that he would stumble upon his own funeral," she says. In February, the first-time director decamped to New Orleans with a film crew. The resulting, just-released video for "No Love Like Yours," from the alt-rock band's fourth LP, Persona (April 15, Community Music), is a Southern gothic eulogy featuring choreography by Kristin Sudeikis, Wilde's "sister-in-law" (she's engaged to actor Jason Sudeikis; they had a son in 2014). "Olivia is awesome," says Ebert. "I expect to see her directing things from here on out."

'Vinyl': TV Review

What made you want to direct a music video?
I grew up in the MTV generation. I spent hours watching videos as a kid. Hours! [Video directors] like Mark Romanek and Spike Jonze really affected my taste, in film as well as music. And I'm a fan of the band. We've been friends for a while, and over the years, I've said to them, "I really want to make ­something for you guys." I heard a rough version of the album and was blown away -- there's ­something very brave about it. I thought, "This is the one."

How collaborative was making the video?
The crazy thing was how I could come up with these nutty ideas and people would understand how to make them come true. I said to our production ­designer, "I would like his head to be smoking." And she said, "No problem!" She figured out a way to make dry ice go through a ­vaporizer and make Alex's head look like it was on fire. And I was lucky enough to have a brilliant choreographer as my sister-in-law, Kristin. She's not only family -- she's an inspiration. We listened to the song about 60 times alone ­together in a room.

Why did you shoot it in New Orleans?
Alex lives there, and I was inspired by the idea of using the city that inspired the album. [We shot it] ­partially in his home, which is a historic music studio, Piety Studios. It's an amazing space -- like a cathedral. The best music videos are pretty personal, even if they're surreal. Not to sound too corny, but the vibe was kind of extraordinary -- I think New Orleans does that to you.

You have appeared in videos before, for 30 Seconds to Mars, Dashboard Confessional and Daft Punk. Did that inform your work here?
I was so inspired in terms of how experimental videos are allowed to be. I think they're the only medium that's widely viewed but allowed to be that way. And obviously working with Daft Punk was awesome.

You got to see their faces!
Yeah, I've seen them! I know what they look like.

On Vinyl, your character's arc, from a member of Warhol's Factory to bitter housewife threatening divorce, has gotten really dark.
It gets darker. It's interesting because I think there was an executive decision to slow down Devon's arc a little so that it would be more subtle of an ­evolution. And that forces me to feel, as the character, deep frustration. Which is kind of fascinating to play. As an actor, you empathize with your character in a different way because you're living with her. It becomes your other life.

This story originally appeared in the March 19 issue of Billboard.


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