Olivia Cooke pulls double mysterious duty in Ready Player One, starring as the rebel Samantha and her avatar Art3mis in the virtual reality world of the OASIS.
The 24-year-old British actress is breaking out onscreen in director Steven Spielberg nostalgic hit ($53.2 million and counting at the box office) while also appearing as troubled teen Amanda in the Heathers-esque dark drama Thoroughbreds (in theaters now).
"There's too much of me," laughs Cooke, who's just finished filming her role as Becky Sharp in Amazon's seven-part series Vanity Fair (out later this year), based on William Makepeace Thackeray's classic novel.
Five things to know about Cooke:
The birthmark and American accent were added
Cooke doesn't share Samantha's crimson birthmark, nor her American accent, which the actress adopts effectively. "You don’t want people to be thrown by a wonky American accent," says Cooke, who hails from the English town of Oldham.
Some of Samantha's action moves were executed by Cooke. But many of Art3mis' acrobatic maneuvers required motion-capture assistance.
"When Art3mis does a flip on the battlefield, that wasn’t me," says Cooke. "That’s the beauty of motion capture, it's someone else’s body doing all the hard stuff. But it’s my facial expression."
Her characters have an edge
Cooke has starred in A&E's Bates Motel, as the "old soul" Emma Decody with cystic fibrosis, and as the cancer-stricken Rachel in the 2015 indie darling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
She already has built an impressive résumé of outsider characters that "are never ingenues: there's always some edge there," says Thoroughbreds director Cory Finley. "She's very grounded, very savvy, and has a wonderfully dry, offbeat sense of humor, which shows up in her performances."
She freaked out on her first day
Cooke's first day of Ready shooting found her working with British thespian Mark Rylance (as the OASIS creator James Halliday) and Spielberg.
"That was a panic attack. My first day and first scene. Me, Mark Rylance and Steven Spielberg," says Cooke. "I was dying inside."
She channeled her inner dancing queen
The Ready dance scene in The Distracted Globe nightclub with Art3mis and Parzival (Tye Sheridan) required the actors to practice their disco moves for days, playing the Bee Gees hit Stayin' Alive "over and over again."
"It was traumatic in the best way possible," says Cooke, who has studied dance. "We got to get over the embarrassment of having to leave all dignity at the door together."
They strapped into harnesses for scenes featuring the two avatars flying through the air before "acrobatically trained stunt doubles" took over.
The motion-capture performances, along with shots featuring professional dancers, were digitally edited for the memorable dance.
She's not so into tech
Samantha is plugged into a digital world. Cooke, not so much: She doesn't have Twitter or Instagram accounts and finds social media "quite insidious."
"You look up and two hours have passed you by. What could I have done with those two hours?" Cooke says. "I have an iPhone. I’m on email and text. Whenever anyone wants me, they can call me."