Since Elizabeth Olsen appeared in Avengers: Age of Ultron as Wanda Maximoff she’s been a staple in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But she was acting for years before that and has done several projects in between her films as the future Scarlet Witch. One is Wind River, which premiered in 2017 and starred a fellow Avenger. She played an FBI agent who had to wield a gun, and she took her prep for the role very seriously because she didn’t want to make the same mistake Mel Gibson made in Lethal Weapon.
In ‘Wind River,’ Elizabeth Olsen played an FBI agent alongside fellow MCU actor Jeremy Renner
Wind River is a 2017 movie where Olsen plays Jane Banner, an FBI agent that’s called in when an 18-year-old girl’s body is found on the Native American reservation in Wyoming, where the story takes place. The reservation is cause for a lot of tension outside of the harsh conditions the government expects Native Americans to live in because they also put two opposing tribes there.
Jeremy Renner co-stars as Cory Lambert, a wildlife officer who lives in that area and who’s very familiar with the residents and the elements. He sort of acts as a guide for Jane who is very much out of her element in the snowy landscape, coming from Nevada. Not to mention she’s an outside FBI agent who really knows very little about them, at all.
In an interview for The Off Camera Show with Sam Jones, Olsen shared that the writer and director, Taylor Sheridan, was “insane” because he sought her out for the part.
“I was like how do you, why do you think I’d be great at this?” she said. “‘Cause he just wanted me to do it. He didn’t make a list, he was just like, ‘I want Elizabeth Olsen.’ So that was different for me and it was really great. I got to train, I got to do gun work for three months at least.”
Olsen made sure to train heavily with a gun so she wouldn’t make the same mistake Mel Gibson made
Part of being an FBI agent, aside from yelling, “FBI, open up!” is handling a gun. While there are movie effects that go into making films and often props are used, Olsen wanted to make sure that she actually looked like she knew what she was doing. Because prop or not, she wanted to look confident in the role to make her character believable.
“What I wanted was to be confident enough holding a gun on camera, that people watching wouldn’t be like, ‘Oh, she doesn’t know how to hold a gun,’” Olsen said. “And my least favorite thing is watching people on camera and you’re like, ‘That’s not how you hold it properly. That’s not what you should be doing.’”
Olsen brought up Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon, where he plays Martin Riggs alongside Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh. It’s a “buddy cop” film where Gibson’s character, Riggs is an LAPD cop who gets reassigned to the Homicide Division where he ends up working with Murtaugh and they become best friends. But Gibson makes a mistake in his gun handling that Olsen didn’t want to do in this role.
“He’s like the best shot, right? But he blinks every time he shoots the gun. Every time he shoots his gun, he’s blinking,” Olsen pointed out. “And it bothers me so much when I watch Lethal Weapon now. Like, you’re blinking. If you’re a great shot, your eyes are gonna stay open. You’re not gonna blink. And so there are those kinds of things that you obsess over.”
Olsen set out to make this as habitual as possible so that when she got to set, she just had to worry about her work and lines. Not the gun stuff. She trained for three months, which isn’t always the prep time actors get, so she was grateful to have it for this role.
The part of Jane was also a chance for Olsen to play a role she wouldn’t normally play
Olsen said that she doesn’t like being called the “serious” one by co-workers, however, she does take her job very seriously. And the training was something she actively pushed for, not something that was necessarily a requirement for her signing onto the role, it sounds like. She trained with people from law enforcement, a former Green Beret, and she worked on self-defense and martial arts as well, according to her interview with The Playlist in 2017.
With all that said, it’s not the first time she’s ever physically trained for a role, however, it is the first time she’s taken on a role like Jane Banner. Olsen told Collider in 2017 that the role isn’t one that she would have dreamt up for herself beforehand.
“It’s kind of a terrifying thing to approach because there is a part of you that has to believe that you have the confidence or the ability to not distract an audience into believing that you are capable of being this, to having this profession,” she said, noting that this desire to make the audience believe she was an FBI agent urged her to get that training.
Olsen’s dedication to the role gave a memorable performance and one of her highest-rated on Rotten Tomatoes. This work ethic is easy to see throughout her characters, and it’ll be exciting to see what she does next outside of the MCU.