an exclusive interview with South African born Maria Olsen,
currently pursuing her acting career in the USA.
DIE-NER (get-it?) features Maria and will make its African big screen premiere at the
South African HORRORFEST
on Halloween

What is your first movie memory?
I have two first movie memories. Now I KNOW that I can't have seen both of these pictures at the same time but I just can't remember which one I saw first... One of them is the gazebo scene from The Sound of Music, where Julie Andrews (whom I have since met!) and Christopher Plummer sing "Something Good": it's just a magical scene. And the other is the moment when the tidal wave in the original version of The Poseidon Adventure overwhelms the ship...I've had nightmares about THAT one for years!!!

How were you introduced to Horror movies?
When I was about 9, I was taken to see The Haunted House of Horror. Major mistake. It got me hooked on horror and even though it's the campiest horror film of all time, I still cherish the memories that I have of it. And then there was my dogeared collection of Fangoria magazines that I just loved to death while I was growing up. The special effects described in the Fango articles just fascinated me...and they still do but now I'm able to do more than read about them. And one of my features, A Gothic Tale, was shown at the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors Convention this year!

What do you love and hate about South Africa?
I love the South African food - there are all types of things that you can get there that I never see here: chutney, fish paste (yes, I LIKE fish paste), marmite, good licorice, flavoured mayonaise and on and on and on. And what do I hate about South Africa? I hate the fact that it's hardly safe to live there any more...

When did you decide you want to become an actress?
When did I decide I wanted to be an actress? It was when I was about 12 and after I had seen about 50 movies starring Jane Fonda (like Klute, Barbarella and Agnes of God) and realised that I wanted to do what she did. 30 years later it was awesome to see both our names in print in the same issue of Backstage West (a Los Angeles based stage and film magazine): me for a review of one of my plays and her for a review of her new movie, Monster in Law!

How did you experience acting in South Africa?
I loved acting in South Africa - I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't taken part in at least 50 stage productions with such amazing groups of people like The Dramatic Society of East London and The Arts Theatre Club (also in East London). Major influences on my theatrical life include David Matheson (long time director for CAPAB) and Lynette Alexander and Michele Brandenburger (both of them the life and soul of DRAMSOC in East London). Of course, my SA experience was all on stage as the film industry isn't exactly very large in East London (!) and it is one of my dreams to one day come back to SA and shoot a film there.

When, how and why did you make the move to the States?
In January 2005. My husband is Orange County California born & bred, and we decided to make our life in Los Angeles instead of East London. Just a few more opportunities in Los Angeles, I think...

Maria Olsen in DIE-NER (get-it?)

Tell us a bit about your early experiences there.
I was completely confused by such tiny things as the way a date is written: in SA we do day-month-year, small to large, perfectly logical, but in the USA they do month-day-year and it always took me forever to work out what was up (for instance, exactly WHEN is 05-03-06?). But the people are wonderful! And, then there was driving on the other side of the road and on all those freeways!!!!! But did I mention the people are wonderful?

What has been the best and worst moments you've had in the States?
The best moment was when I heard that I was cast in Fox's Percy Jackson, with Chris Columbus directing. The worst moment was when I realized I could no longer watch cricket on television...

What do you love about movies (both watching and making them).
To me watching a movie is like going to acting class. I learn from seeing the great actresses perform on screen and then I try to implement what I have learnt in my own work. And as for making a movie... the only time I'm completely happy is when I'm on set; its just where I belong. I don't even have to be acting as I just get a kick out of seeing everyone doing their jobs. Of course, the acting helps...!

Who would you love to work with?
As far as directors go, I would love to work with Tim Burton and Sam Raimi as I just love their style and vision. On the actor side, I would really like to work with Johnny Depp - I always love the characters that he creates - and, strangely enough, Eliza Dushku, as I think we have a similar intensity and look and I could easily see myself playing her mother!

What are your top 5 horror movies of all time?
Here they are in no particular order:
The Haunted House of Horror : it just killed me when I was 9 (I won't watch it again though, as it will probably be a lot less appealing now that I'm...lets just say, I'm older...)
The Amityville Horror : the ORIGINAL one. You gotta love Margot Kidder
Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula : it's just absolutely beautiful. The colors... the shots... the romance!
Interview with the Vampire : young Kirsten Dunst is on fire (literally and figuratively!)
The Exorcist : everything is just perfect. From Captain Howdy to the chilling scene in the hospital. PLEASE don't ever let them re-make this movie!!!!!!

What do you think horror movies are lacking nowadays?
One word: ORIGINALITY. If you think, the ideas will come... if you don't think, the audience won't come...

What advice can you give someone contemplating to take a similar leap as you have?
Don't. No, seriously: if you're an extremely talented, passionate and dedicated actor with a unique and interesting look and a flair for self-marketing then by all means come and try out in Hollywoodland. If you're not, you're welcome to come and try out anyway but you may not get that far...

Anything you'd like to mention?
I'd do it all again and wouldn't change a thing!

DIE-NER (get-it?) will make its African debut at the South African HORRORFEST 

- Paul Blom

Maria Olsen Biog:

Maria Olsen came to America in January 2005 and hasn't taken time to breath since she got here. In four short years she has performed in 13 stage plays (including one Off-Broadway), directed 3 plays, written and directed her own play, shot 16 feature films, 37 shorts, 3 web series, 3 music videos and recorded 5 voiceover gigs. She has also won three awards (including awards for both acting and directing), had two short films appear at the 2009 Cannes Short Film Program and became a proud member of the Screen Actors Guild in March this year. Her features and shorts have also screened at festivals such as the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors Convention and the International HBO Latino Film Festival. Future projects include a pivotal supporting role in the 2010 Fox blockbuster Percy Jackson (Chris Columbus directors and Pierce Brosnan and Uma Thurman star) and the Los Angeles premier of the amazingly intense play The Drowned World. Thanks must go to her husband Kevin for putting up with her and also to her amazing agent, Bonnie Howard, for wanting to represent her and doing it so well.

Updated filmography:

Maria Olsen on IMDB:

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