As the stars of the dark and quirky Sundance hit “Ingrid Goes West,” Aubrey Plaza and Elizabeth Olsen — who frequently inhabit opposite ends of the character spectrum — play out a comedic, cutting-edge take on the modern social phenomenon of Insta-envy and Insta-aspiration. Adrift in her life, loner Ingrid (Plaza) takes her obsession with the picture-perfect images from the feed of social media-savvy Taylor (Olsen) to a disturbing, sometimes funny, extreme.
Indeed, the pair may inspire career-coveting among their peers: along with appearing together in the critically praised indie comedy, each has an equally lauded film hitting theaters — Olsen as an out-of-her-depth FBI investigator in the bleak drama “Wind River,” and Plaza as a foul-mouthed 14th-century nun in the farce “The Little Hours.” And of course, they both have superhero blockbusters on their résumés: Olsen plays “The Avengers’” Scarlet Witch and Plaza is one face of the malevolent Shadow King on the X-Men spin-off “Legion.”
During their chat with WWD, the pair were thick as thieves while musing about their friendship, their mutual envies and the women they admire.
WWD: How soon after signing on to this did you guys start following each other on Instagram?
Elizabeth Olsen: I didn’t have an Instagram, and you didn’t either. Well, apparently, you did.
Aubrey Plaza: I did. I had a private one. No, I didn’t have a public one.
E.O.: She never invited me or told me about it!
A.P.: Come on. Don’t do this. I never post on it.
E.O.: You post a lot of stories on it.
WWD: So you weren’t especially into the whole social media culture?
E.O.: No, I think that’s why I was really interested in initially doing this film. It’s something that I’m genuinely fascinated by, and it’s something that I didn’t quite understand — and I probably had an extreme judgment toward, and probably felt “better than,” or something. I was interested in figuring out what’s the deal, from a nonjudgmental point of view. What is this land of Instagram, social media? Having a lot of likes and a lot of followers, and getting paid for it? I kind of found it to be really twisted, but then I started to see how it worked, and see how powerful it was, and how impressionable we all are.
A.P.: I’m still figuring it out. I don’t ever feel like I’m good at it. I got off Twitter, because I started feeling like it was not adding anything positive into my life. If anything, it was more negative. But now I’m back on it because it can be fun. I think, as an actor and a public figure, it’s a different experience when you put yourself out there in that way. I think it can be a great tool, and that part I’m comfortable with. But the part that’s kind of more personal, that part I’m still struggling with, because I don’t really want people to know everything about me. So I struggle with the story that I tell, and how I come across. It’s a constant battle of insecurities.
WWD: As you two got to know each other while you were making the film, what did you become obsessed with about one another?
E.O.: I think I became obsessed with getting a reaction from Aubrey, of making her uncomfortable and, like, reversing the characters. And I would just send her photos and weird text messages.
A.P.: Just really gross photos. Really beautiful ones, that are so beautiful that they’re [gross], that’s what I mean.
E.O.: My face was the cover of Aubrey’s phone while we were filming this movie.
A.P.: It lasted for a while too after we wrapped. I’m obsessed with everything — I am! Look at her. She’s gorgeous, she’s talented, she’s going places.
WWD: Was there anybody when you were growing up that you looked at to model yourself after, in the way that Aubrey’s character does in the movie?
E.O.: I was obsessed with Michelle Pfeiffer as a kid, but I don’t think I was trying to model my childhood around her adulthood. I think the closest thing would probably be my sisters [Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen], because I thought that they were really cool. They had cool style and they had cool friends and they were funny.
A.P.: I had an older cousin — she was the one who took me to community theater for the first time when I was 11. It was really what opened my eyes up to acting. And Janene Garofalo, maybe, in high school.
WWD: What did you admire about each other’s work?
A.P.: She’s so thoughtful, and just understands, somehow, how to make a character a real person. Every character I’ve seen her play feels like a real human being, and different than the last one.
E.O.: I think that Aubrey’s comedic timing and her presence as a person are completely unique to her. I’m assuming casting directors throw around, “We need someone like Aubrey Plaza,” because I think you’ve created an entire type. Also, she doesn’t take a break. She really needs a vacation.
A.P.: What are you, my mother? Stop it.
E.O.: I think you should give yourself a vacation. Go to a spa. I think you should have a massage.
A.P.: Spa needs to come to me!