This image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Williams, left, and Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in a scene from, “I Saw The Light.” (Sam Emerson/Sony Pictures Classics via AP)
Elizabeth Olsen arrives at the LA Premiere of “I Saw the Light” at the Egyptian Theatre on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP)
Elizabeth Olsen’s latest role is playing Audrey Mae Williams, wife to legendary country singer Hank Williams in “I Saw The Light.” But Hank wasn’t the only aspiring singer in the family. A career as a country music star was Audrey’s dream as well. It just so happened that she didn’t have the right stuff.
So how hard was it for Olsen to emulate Audrey and get up and sing in front of everyone — but do it badly?
“I didn’t care,” she tells FOX411. “I think I might have cared at the beginning because, I guess, ego.”
The upside turned out to be that Olsen didn’t need to spend weeks preparing for her role with a vocal coach, as did Tom Hiddleston, who plays Hank.
“I remember thinking, ‘She can’t be that bad,'” Olsen says. “But she has to be bad enough and that’s a scary line to walk because I could be singing my heart out for all these people and everyone’s telling me it’s horrible. Luckily, I know what flat and sharp is and I can play around with that, and play around with cracking my voice, and being too much on the beat, and things like that that I can hear. So it was fun for me and not weird or anything.”
“I Saw The Light,” based on the book “Hank Williams: The Biography” by Colin Escott with George Merritt and William Macewen, follows the ups and downs of singer/songwriter Hank Williams as he struggles to elevate himself out of the Alabama music scene and onto the national country music arena. Audrey is a big part of Hank’s story. The two had a turbulent relationship, and Audrey did try to ride his coattails, but she also was an astute businesswoman, who was a positive force in his career.
“To me, it wasn’t that he was a ticket,” Olsen says. “It was that she was so madly in love with him and she wanted to be as good as him and she wanted to be an equal. That’s how I saw it.”
Despite her singing career going down in flames, it was Audrey who made the necessary introductions to radio DJs and programmers for Hank, who helped him get on the Grand Ole Opry, and who understood that there was another source of income to be made from merchandise.
“That kind of drive, I think, is innate in people,” Olsen says. “I think she was hungry for fame, I think she was hungry for attention, and for people to accept her and give her praise. I think that was very driving for her.”
Olsen says there isn’t anything like Audrey’s business acumen in her life, so she didn’t connect to her on that level. But she felt a responsibility to try to get the audience to feel empathy for her.
“People only have bad things to say about her in every piece of research you will find,” Olsen says. “I don’t think that’s fair. I think part of it had to have been that she was a businesswoman, and was probably pushy and trying to get in the door. I think people didn’t appreciate that. But I also think that she just had her own intentions and people didn’t appreciate that either. I went in hoping to defend her and show that she didn’t have an easy hand dealt to her. She was in love with a man who was an addict, who was disloyal constantly, and not a great father to her children.”
The city-born Olsen, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley suburb of Los Angeles, said she had no trouble adapting to the idea of country living for the film.
“It isn’t exactly country, but small towns, the woods and trees, and cabins and camping, that was my favorite thing my whole life growing up,” she says. “My ex-stepmother’s from Arkansas, so I spent a lot of time in Arkansas, and I’ve been to lots of places in the Appalachia part of the country. So I feel like I understand a bit of it.”
Olsen will next reprise her role as Wanda Maximoff, who morphs into Scarlet Witch, in “Captain America: Civil War,” opening May 6, a big-budget movie that couldn’t be more different than the intimate “I Saw The Light.”
“I have so much fun being part of the Marvel Universe,” she says. “Now that I’ve done two, I’m feeling like I’m really part of the team. So it’s fun and familiar to go back to.”
“I Saw The Light” was written and directed by Marc Abraham. It opens in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville on March 25; then nationwide on April 1.