Wednesday, December 8

‘I was absolutely terrified of Olivia’: Sydney Sweeney on her White Lotus character | Culture

I Usually I heard two reactions from people who watched The White Lotus this summer: one, that they were obsessed with the HBO show, a huge hit about a freaking week at a Hawaiian resort. Two, who were terrified of Olivia, the perpetually unflappable, bucket hat, razor-sharp Gen Z judgment dispenser, played with deadpan cruelty by Sydney Sweeney. In just a few short years, the actor, who turns 24 on September 12, has earned a reputation for portraying young adult characters masking deep wells of emotion with cool nonchalance, from The White Lotus to Amy Adams’ roommate. in a psychiatric facility on HBO. Sharp Objects, to another great HBO show, Euphoria.

I’m happy to report that Sweeney, in an interview, is nothing like Olivia (“I was absolutely terrified of Olivia, too,” she says), or Cassie, the sensitive but dispassionate high school student who plays Euphoria. On the phone, she laughs quickly, gleeful at the details of her new erotic thriller, Amazon’s The Voyeurs, and is quick to emphasize the gulf between her and her characters. “It’s so strange, I see my projects and I don’t remember filming, that’s how separate I am from what I’m doing,” she told The Guardian.

Unlike the many young stars who emerged through the Disney or Nickelodeon channels, Sweeney has not had to renegotiate his public image with difficult adult material. Euphoria, which premiered in 2019 and whose long-awaited second season will premiere early next year, drew headlines and viewers for its gritty and often graphic portrayal of modern adolescent life: drugs and alcohol, sex, sexting, and the arousal and excitement. violations in it. . Like Cassie, Sweeney appeared topless in the first episode; A major plot point was the leak of Cassie’s nude photos and the subsequent trial of her peers.

In The Voyeurs, written and directed by Michael Mohan (with whom he worked on the Netflix series Everything Sucks!), Sweeney plays Pippa, a 20-year-old who moves in with her boyfriend, Thomas (Justice Smith) to a Montreal apartment with a wide view. of the young and attractive couple across the street. The glances at the couple’s sex life turn into observation and, for Pippa, into obsession; Though the film takes a hairpin turn in its final half hour, it’s not spoiler to say that, as an erotic thriller in the mostly old lane of Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction, The Voyeurs requires a certain level of nudity and prolonged sex. scenes by Sweeney.

Sydney Sweeney in The Voyeurs
Sydney Sweeney in The Voyeurs. “Everything was very thoughtful and considered.” Photograph: Bertrand Calmeau / Amazon

The prospect of nudity on screen isn’t overwhelming in itself: “I always look at a script and make sure it’s not just thrown there to be there,” he said. “What I particularly liked about this scene is that it was more for the woman’s pleasure than the man’s pleasure.” Thanks to an intimacy coordinator on set, a position that has flourished in the #MeToo movement, Sweeney “never felt bad in any way” while filming tightly choreographed romantic scenes. “It was all very thought out and considered.”

Sweeney, whose first lead role was in Everything Sucks! in 2018, evidence of the shift in industry standards around intimacy in the few years since Weinstein’s 2017 reports, which shed a harsh light on Hollywood’s disdain for female performers and the female team. She has worked with an intimacy coordinator on each project, “so I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t experienced anything bad,” she said. “Hopefully we can start having more intimacy coordinators on each set so that all the actors feel comfortable and safe telling these stories.”

The most intimidating aspect is the potential for screenshots and memes to erupt on social media, a violation that has already occurred with Cassie’s nude images in Euphoria. “To be honest, after Euphoria, I had to stop worrying or thinking about [screengrabs]because the tiny images that were on one of the character’s phones exploded everywhere, ”he said. After that experience, Sweeney says he significantly altered his boundaries with social media and practiced dissociating images of his characters. “I’m very different from my characters, so when I see those kinds of photos or get tagged in those kinds of photos, which I think is crazy that they can have nudity on social media, that’s me and I don’t approve of it. that, but that’s another story, I just separate myself from her, “he said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, that’s Cassie. Cassie’s having a good day. ‘

Social media “used to be a place where I felt very comfortable being able to come and go as I wanted,” where she communicated with friends and family, who remain in northern Idaho, where she grew up. But Sweeney, who once posted a tearful Instagram live, from his couch, with his dog, watching his favorite channel, HGTV, as evidence of the effect of cruel comments, especially on his appearance, says he now addresses it in moderation. Still, “everyone will always say ‘don’t read anything’ and we’ll say we don’t read anything, but to be honest, of course we do,” she said. “It’s hard not to. I wish I hadn’t, but I’m a person, I’m a human being, I have thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and I’m curious what people think. “

Sweeney on The White Lotus, the hit HBO show.
Sweeney on The White Lotus, the hit HBO show. Photograph: HBO

“When they talk about characters, they really talk about Pippa or Cassie or Olivia, but it’s difficult when they address Syd,” she added. “I never actually exposed Syd; no one really knows Syd. “

The real Syd is “a very homey person,” she says, and a voracious reader. Following in the footsteps of stars turned literary IP producers such as Reese Witherspoon, Margot Robbie and Elizabeth Banks, Sweeney has started a production company, Fifty-Fifty Films, focused on adapting stories directed by women into “so many different types.” possible projects. “The company is currently filming an HBO Max series, The player’s table, based on the Jessica Goodman novel They Wish They Were Us, starring Sweeney and pop singer Halsey as two best friends who unravel the mystery of the murder of a classmate in a prosperous Long Island town.

Securing the deal required round after round of presentation meetings, and convincing industry veterans to take her and her vision for the project seriously. “I’m always prepared, I know what I’m talking about and I’ve worked really hard,” she said, and because The Player’s Table ended up on HBO Max, a place where I had existing professional relationships, “I definitely felt like people were taking me seriously. and they listened to me and respected me. But I’ve definitely been in meetings [in the past] where I am sitting there and they look at me as if I were a child ””.

When asked if she received any particular advice on navigating the business from an A-list of older co-stars – White Lotus actors Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Molly Shannon, for example – Sweeney stopped by to observe their processes of performance. “I don’t think they gave me any particular advice, but it’s more like seeing them all and learning from them.”

Molly Shannon, Jennifer Coolidge, Connie Britton, Brittany O'Grady, Sydney Sweeney, Jolene Purdy and Alexandra Daddario
White Lotus stars Molly Shannon, Jennifer Coolidge, Connie Britton, Brittany O’Grady, Sweeney, Jolene Purdy, and Alexandra Daddario. Photograph: Emma McIntyre / Getty Images,

“Every word out of the mouth of Jennifer Coolidge or Molly Shannon is pure comedy gold,” he added. “I’m like, where is this coming from? How did this get out of your brain so fast? “

Sweeney has a two-year bachelor’s degree in business (“with the Euphoria schedule, it definitely makes it very difficult to finish classes,” he noted), a decision he described in a MTV interview 2019 as a protective measure so that “when I get a contract for $ 20 million, I can read it myself and not screw me.”

These days, on the contract front, “I will say that life definitely prepares you much more for the world, and experience prepares you,” he said. But “school, I think, makes you feel more confident about what you’re doing.”

That confidence may emerge in future roles, but for now, the “real Syd” remains at arm’s length from the audience. “I’m very happy to keep it private for me,” he said. “It’s something my family clings to, or my best friends, and it’s a good separation for what I do.”

As for Olivia, the aforementioned summer horror Zoomer, Sweeney is coy about whether she hopes to appear in a recently announced second season, which will take place at a different White Lotus resort. “I don’t think she made much progress,” she said, but “she’s always up for another vacation.”

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