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Olivia Wilde made her Hollywood debut back in 2003. The celebrity has experienced a great deal of success in Hollywood over the past two decades, both in front of and behind the camera. She was even one of Hollywood’s “It Girls” for a time during the early 2000s.

While Olivia Wilde is widely known by the masses, many are probably unaware that Olivia Wilde is actually just a stage name.

After first starting to pursue acting in high school, Wilde decided it was time to ditch her surname and adopt something a bit more media-friendly. Read on to learn more Wilde’s fascinating career and decision to adopt a stage name when she was just a teen. 

Olivia Wilde isn’t her real name

Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Born on March 10, 1984, to an Irish father and an American mother, Olivia Wilde was born Olivia Jane Cockburn. To be fair, most individuals would want a stage name too, if they had been saddled with the last name Cockburn.

However, Wilde’s father, Andrew, has brought great prestige to the Cockburn family name, and the elder Cockburns were prestigious Irish citizens. 

Wilde’s father, Andrew Cockburn, grew up in County Cork, Ireland. He came from a prestigious family of writers and politicians. While Andrew Cockburn was the one who grew up surrounded by writers, both of Wilde’s parents are respected writers today.

Both Andrew and Leslie Cockburn have spent the majority of their careers working as journalists. The pair gained educations at institutions like Worcester College, Yale, and the University of London.   

The wild ones never play by the rules 

Like her parents, Olivia was given the opportunity to obtain a world-class education. Olivia herself went to a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts and was then accepted to Bard College. However, the wild ones never play by the rules.

After gaining entrance into Bard College, Wilde deferred her enrollment three times in order to pursue acting. Wilde actually got her first taste of acting in her high school plays. The first play she ever acted in was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. According to Best Life Online, it was during this time that she also decided that she needed a better stage name. 

Being surrounded by a family of writers, Olivia had seen many of her family members write under pen names. She was inspired by their use of pseudo names and wanted one to use for herself.

Olivia discussed the idea with her mother, who suggested she stick with an Irish surname to honor her family heritage. Olivia was drawn to the name Wilde and its link to the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, and thus Olivia Wilde was born.   

Olivia Wilde: Working on both sides of the camera 


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Olivia Wilde has certainly lived up to the stage name she chose for herself two decades ago. Her career has definitely been a wild journey, where she has found herself on both sides of the camera. Wilde has found herself starring in a variety of roles in both film and television since her Hollywood debut in 2003.

In 2004, Wilde landed the role of Alex Kelly on The O.C., where she played a bisexual character. While today’s shows consistently involve LGBTQ characters and champion LGBTQ rights, in 2004, this was a boundary-pushing storyline. 

Throughout her career, Wilde has consistently worked as an activist and has helped to push progressive thought both in the roles she has portrayed and the films she has directed.

The first film Wilde directed was the 2019 teen comedy, Booksmartwhere one of the main characters is openly Queer. A lot has changed in the world since Olivia Wilde’s acting debut in 2003, but one thing that hasn’t is Olivia’s ability to push boundaries and stay wild.