Actress and activist Olivia Wilde said she had to learn to learn the game of sexuality when it came to meeting with film executives and casting directors. It seems there is a very delicate balance between dressing like an Amish nun and slutting it up but it all depends on who will be at your casting meeting but Olivia had to learn that. At the Marie Claire “The Power of Presence” event yesterday Olivia said when she first graduated from her East Coast prep school she worked for a famous female casting director.
“I remember an actress coming by in too short a dress, and after she left, the [casting director] said, ‘I didn’t hear a word she said in her audition. Why was she wearing that dress? She’s a joke. I don’t want her in here ever again.’ This girl was never heard from again in our office, so I learned from that.
Then a few days later, I was going for an audition and I was wearing this huge cashmere turtleneck and pants, thinking I looked very ‘executive.’ As I was walking out of the office, Mali said, ‘Olivia, what are you wearing? I said I was going to a meeting, and she said, ‘Oh! You can’t wear that! You have to wear something tight and sexy.’
I was so confused, because I had just learned this lesson of this actress who wore the short skirt and now her career is over. So she said, ‘You’re going to meet a male executive.’ You have to learn this game, you have to learn when to use sexuality and beauty and appearance in general, and when it’s inappropriate. That was my first kind of dunk into the world of Hollywood. It gives you this idea of the contradiction that exists, really in all fields.”
It’s interesting that the female casting director advised her to do this considering the casting couch problem in Hollywood but at the same time, you do need to read your audience. As founder of SheNegotiates and attorney Victoria Pynchon tells young female lawyers, “If warmth, playfulness, and flattery get the job done and they are comfortable expressing themselves in these dimensions, by all means, I counsel, go ahead and use them.”
Wilde should be weary of sleazy casting directors but at the same time she is in an interesting industry because looks are a big focus in her line of work. But you shouldn’t walk into a female casting director’s office in a child’s size medium dress.
The Marie Claire event focused on what it means for women to have ‘executive presence.’ The six different components include: gravitas, confidence and grace under fire, decisiveness, integrity, emotional intelligence, reputation in pedigree and vision. In Hollywood, Olivia said Executive Presence is all about defing expectations. “Everyone expects actors to be stupid and superficial. It’s all about proving them wrong,” she said. So you can wear the tighter dress to the audition with the male executive but you have to show him you have the right stuff.
Photo: Getty Images/Amy Sussman