Olivia Wilde ‘Stole’ An On-Set Rule From Martin Scorsese In The Making Of Booksmart

Olivia Wilde and Beanie Feldstein on the set of Booksmart

When taking on an intimidating new endeavor, it’s always helpful to take inspiration from those who are the best at what they do. After all, their methodology clearly results in success, and mirroring that methodology theoretically should result in mirrored success. This is something that is regularly seen in the movie world when filmmakers are preparing to make their first feature, and it’s a tradition that Olivia Wilde continued in the making of her directorial debut, the upcoming comedy Booksmart.

Specifically, she took a page out of the playbook of one of the greatest filmmakers of all time: Martin Scorsese. The two had the opportunity to collaborate in recent years working on the HBO series Vinyl (which Scorsese co-created and Wilde starred in), and that experience proved to be motivating for the actress-cum-director in the making of Booksmart. Speaking during a Los Angeles press event earlier this week, Wilde revealed that she borrowed an on-set tactic from the Oscar-winner, which was that all scripts and sides were not made available to the stars during production. Said Wilde,

I stole that rule from Martin Scorsese. I worked for him, and I was blown away by what happens when actors are not allowed to bring sides on set because it means that they are free to create, and with a very short schedule - like we had 26 days to shoot the film - I needed them to be ready when they got there to just play.

A script can often function as a safety net for actors, as they can look back on the material to remember specific lines, or it can help them find the proper emotion for a given moment in a larger story – but Olivia Wilde apparently wasn’t interested in letting her stars have that backup system. Instead, she felt it was more important for the cast to exist in the moment while cameras were rolling, and while it almost certainly led to deviations from what had been written, she felt that the freedom the environment provided was ultimately more important.

What makes this particular situation a little extra special, though, is that while Booksmart does feature some veteran adult stars - including Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, and Jason Sudeikis – most of the ensemble is made up of younger actors (some of whom are making their feature film debuts). This in mind, you’d think that Olivia Wilde’s borrowed approach from Martin Scorsese might be seriously intimidating, but evidently that wasn’t the case.

Instead, as Wilde explained, they apparently weren’t flustered by that aspect of the experience at all – which came as a bit surprise to the first-time director:

What was amazing is this cast is so brilliant that that was no big deal. I think there's much more experienced actors who would've been terrified by that rule, and they were like, 'No problem; watch me work.' So I'm very, very proud. I think half of the brilliance you see in the movie, if you see it, it's because of the energy they brought that day, and they're looseness, and they're will to give it their all.

Based on a script by Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman, Booksmart centers on a pair of intelligent high school seniors (Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein) who start to feel a level of regret about their lack of high school partying when they realize that many of their more fun-oriented classmates still managed to get into good schools. They make the decision to subvert their reputations by attending an end-of-the-year blowout and letting loose for the first time in their lives – and it winds up leading to a fun adventure involving all kinds of strange roadblocks and weirdness along the way.

The film debuted earlier this year at the SXSW Film Festival, earning great reviews and heaps of buzz, and it won’t be long until audiences nationwide have the chance to see it for themselves. Booksmart will be heading into wide release next Friday, May 24th, so be sure to check it out, and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more about the movie.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.