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The Untold Truth Of Olivia Cooke

Despite having already starred in a few blockbuster movies and wildly popular TV shows throughout her early career, Olivia Cooke has somehow managed to remain mostly under fame's radar. "I never get recognized ... but if I do it's usually by people who have done a bit of research," the 28-year-old actor admitted to Interview Magazine in 2021. However, with a major role as Alicent Hightower in HBO's highly anticipated "Game of Thrones" prequel series, "House of the Dragon," she probably shouldn't get too comfortable with her current level of anonymity.

Cooke, who hails from Manchester, England, is undoubtedly one of the most talented rising stars in the acting world. Her incredible performance in 2019's Oscar-winning "Sound of Metal" is perhaps her resume's pièce de résistance so far, but she was also genuinely great as gamer gal Art3mis in Steven Spielberg's "Ready Player One," as well as in A&E's haunting "Psycho" prequel series, "Bates Motel," wherein she played Emma Decody, one of teenage Norman Bates' old flames. Other notable credits include the melodrama "Thoroughbreds," opposite Anya Taylor-Joy, the tragicomic indie "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," and the horror hit "Ouija."

With terrific range and a strong foundation already laid, the English starlet has a very bright future ahead of her. Here are a few things you might not know about Olivia Cooke, before "House of the Dragon" makes her a household name.

Olivia Cooke was a wild child

On December 27, 1993, Olivia Cooke was welcomed into the world by her two parents, John and Lindsay. Her mother was a sales representative and her father was an ex-policeman. However, if you thought that having a former cop as your dad would have helped keep young Liv in line, you'd apparently be wrong. "[I was] just really wild," the "Thoroughbreds" actress admitted to Interview magazine when reminiscing on her adolescent years, even confessing that she would often wear a bodycon dress and stilettos to clubs when she was a teenager. "It's embarrassing."

As the one-time wild child nears the end of her 20s, she seemingly looks back on some of her former behavior with a more critical eye. In fact, when speaking to SyFy in 2021 for her movie "Little Fish," in which a virus causes widespread, sudden memory loss (and one of the top Sci Fi movies made in 2021), Cooke was asked which memory she would choose to lose if she had her pick. "I think maybe the fake ID at 17 in Manchester. All of those memories, I'd like to omit." Hey, who doesn't have teenage memories that they wouldn't love to forget about, right?

She popped up in a One Direction video when she was 17

Some of today's A-list actors became Hollywood shoo-ins from their very first movie roles. Natalie Portman was incredible as an aspiring young assassin in 1994's "Léon: The Professional," Lupita Nyong'o won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar for her breakout performance as Patsey in 2013's "12 Years a Slave," and do we even have to mention just how amazing 11-year-old Emma Watson was when she first portrayed Hermione Granger in 2001's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone?" 

While it might not have the gravitas of those aforementioned early roles, Olivia Cooke also has a very entertaining story regarding one of her first onscreen appearances. When she was 17 years old, Liv popped up in One Direction's music video for their Autumn Term Tour. In the video, Cooke pals around with the boys in the band, and at one point, even gets a piggyback ride from Harry Styles.

Although this probably all sounds like a total dream scenario for most teenage girls, Cooke had a completely different attitude about the whole thing. She told Digital Spy that she didn't really even know who the band was at the time, but that she agreed to do it because she got paid £50. "It was just a day's work for a bit of extra pocket money." There are certainly far worse ways to earn a pocketful of cash than goofing around with one of the world's most popular boy bands.

Cooke's first acting credit was on BBC

A year after her brief cameo in the One Direction video, Cooke landed her first official TV role in 2012's BBC miniseries, "Blackout." The show followed the story of a shady alcoholic council official named Daniel Demoys, played by one-time "Doctor Who" star Christopher Eccleston, who awakens from a blackout to discover that he might be responsible for a murder. Cooke played Eccleston's daughter, Meg.

That same year, Cooke also worked on another BBC miniseries called "The Secret of Crickley Hall," but then she was off to America to pursue acting in Hollywood, where she would eventually star in the 2014 horror flicks "The Quiet Ones" and "Ouija." When speaking to ShockYa in 2014, Cooke was asked to compare filming in Britain to filming in America. "I remember how much the crews in Britain, and not to say they don't in America, but British crews love the craft so much," she explained. "It's such a lovely atmosphere to be involved with, as everyone's such a team player."

Whether she's appearing in an English or American project, Olivia Cooke is always going to stand out.

She was rejected from a prestigious drama school

Unless you're very serious about pursuing a career in acting, there's a fair chance that you've never heard of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), one of the world's most prestigious drama schools. Founded in London in 1904, the renowned institution has seen some of Hollywood's biggest names walk through its doors, including Anthony Hopkins, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Andrew Lincoln, just to name a few. As it turns out, Olivia Cooke came very close to also being added to the list of RADA's famous alumni.

During one of Hero Magazine's "head-to-head" interviews, Cooke sat down with "I May Destroy You" breakout Paapa Essiedu to chat about a plethora of topics, ranging from their early works to their current projects. At one point, Essiedu asked if Cooke had gone to drama school, to which the "Pixie" actress admitted that although she had made it to the final round of RADA's audition process, she ultimately didn't get in.

However, Cooke apparently didn't have very much time to mope over the rejection letter, saying, "I didn't get in but then got my first film straight after so I was like, 'Oh well.'" That particular first film she referenced was 2014's indie horror entry "The Quiet Ones," where she co-starred alongside Jared Harris and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" breakout Sam Claflin. That just goes to show you that sometimes when one door shuts, another one opens.

Olivia Cooke shaved her head for a role

In 2015's "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl," Cooke played Rachel, a high schooler diagnosed with leukemia. In order to accurately step into the shoes of someone dealing with such a terrible illness, the English actress went all out, even meeting with actual cancer patients at the UCLA Children's Hospital to learn about their lives and experiences. When speaking to The Wrap, she explained that even though her character had cancer, she didn't want to depict her as some kind of victim: "I just wanted to get it right."

Getting it right, as it turned out, meant more than just mentally prepping for the role. "It was never said, like, you have to shave your head," Cooke told MTV News, "but bald caps look awful." So she did in fact buzz her hair to play Rachel, an experience that, as she admitted to The Argus, was a bit terrifying. "I've never felt my scalp before, I've never seen the shape of my head," she recalled. "I sobbed for a bit, but then it was good."

According to the film's director, Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Cooke shaving her head had a fascinating effect on set while shooting the following day's scenes. "She was in the zone," he explained. "She became Rachel." Considering that the film took home a pair of prestigious awards at 2015's Sundance Film Festival, it would seem as though Cooke's gutsy move certainly paid off in the end.

Cooke wasn't the first choice for Sound of Metal

If you haven't seen 2019's gritty rock drama, "Sound of Metal," you're really doing yourself a disservice. The Oscar-winning picture follows Ruben (Riz Ahmed), a drummer in a heavy metal rock band, whose world turns upside down when he learns that he is rapidly losing his ability to hear. As wonderful as Ahmed's performance is, it's at times overshadowed by that of Olivia Cooke, who steals the show as Ruben's girlfriend and fellow bandmate, Lou.

Although in hindsight it's difficult to imagine anyone else behind Lou's bleached-blonde eyebrows, Cooke wasn't actually the first choice for the role, and apparently neither was Ahmed. Early reports for the film's casting listed "50 Shades of Grey" star Dakota Johnson and Matthias Schoenaerts to play Lou and Ruben in the flick, a fact that Cooke all but confirmed to Interview magazine when she was asked how she got cast in "Sound of Metal." "That came about because another actress had fallen out of the job," she revealed. "I'm the king of filling in the space." She continued by joking that even when she's offered a part outright, "they probably want Emma Watson instead."

She learned screamo from a scream-pro

Speaking of Cooke's amazing portrayal of Lou in "Sound of Metal," it must be said that she absolutely nailed the screamo aspect of being the lead singer in a heavy metal band. As it turns out, this is probably because she had some professional help in that category (via Interview): "The person who taught me how to scream, Margaret Chardiet from the band Pharmakon, is the real deal."

For those who don't know, Pharmakon is the experimental solo project of Margaret Chardiet, an underground artist from New York City. Chardiet has been working in the experimental music scene since she was 17, and has released a number of albums as Pharmakon through a record label called Sacred Bones Records. Given her extensive experience in that space, she was probably a super-handy wealth of knowledge for the "Sound of Metal" crew.

In fact, Chardiet did more than just help Cooke learn how to scream and play guitar. "We wrote the lyrics for the song [Lou screams in the movie] together even though you can't quite hear what I'm saying," Cooke divulged to Cinemablend. "She was just amazing." Talk about your mentor being a rock star!

She's a huge fan of Ponyo

Although it may not have the name recognition of Disney or Pixar, Studio Ghibli has steadily grown into one of the most well-respected producers of animated films over the past few decades. 2001's insanely popular "Spirited Away" may have put the Japanese animation house on the map, winning Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, but there are so many other quality films in their catalog that ranking them becomes quite controversial — everyone won't agree on the same favorite, and that's okay.

Olivia Cooke, for example, would probably crown 2008's "Ponyo," legendary director Hayao Miyazaki's eighth Ghibli film, as her favorite of the bunch. In an interview with Grazia UK, Cooke named Ponyo as her favorite fictional female character. "She's just so gorgeous and energetic and fun and lovely," Cooke enthused. "I just get endless joy out of her and watching that film."  Although she went on to praise all Ghibli films for their collective ability to "capture a humanity that is rarely seen in real-life film," it sure sounds like Ponyo and Sosuke hold a special place in her heart.

She starred in a podcast with Naomi Scott and Bel Powley

Have you ever wanted to start a podcast with your friends? That's exactly what gal pals Olivia Cooke, "Aladdin" breakout Naomi Scott, and "The King of Staten Island" starlet Bel Powley decided to do in "Soft Voice," a comedic thriller that premiered in 2021. Created and directed by fellow actor James Bloor, the 10-episode series follows a young real estate agent who finds her outlook on life drastically changing when the trusty "voice in her head" is replaced by a more impulsive one.

When discussing the project with Vogue (via Flair magazine), Cooke, who plays the "Dark Voice," broke down the idea behind the podcast, explaining that essentially, "it was all about consciousness and the idea of the devil and angel on your shoulders." Powley, who plays "Soft Voice," added that she was obsessed with the script almost immediately: "It's such a page-turner ... or, I guess you're listening to it, so it's a listening-turner." 

Considering that it took home the Best Fiction Scriptwriting award at the 2022 Ambies (Awards for Excellence in Audio), it sounds as though "Soft Voice" was top-notch writing indeed.

She's a bit of a potty mouth

It's official: the English enjoy a good curse word, or even a whole bunch of them. According to a 2015 study published by British national newspaper The Times (via Daily Mail), the average Brit utters anywhere from four to 14 swear words a day, equating to roughly one curse in every 1,700 written or spoken words. Apparently this knack for cussing doesn't only apply to the common folk, as English musicians Charli XCX and Lewis Capaldi ranked in the top 10 of famous people who use the most swear words on Twitter in 2021. 

True to her culture, Olivia Cooke has also been known to speak the "blue language" quite fluently and frequently. In an interview with The Independent, culture writer Annabel Nugent took note of the actor's choice vocabulary. "Olivia Cooke swears like a sailor," she wrote. "On our Zoom call, the word 'f***' features heavily — yet she looks so cherubic that you'd never imagine she was such a potty-mouthed Mancunian joy." On the bright side, "Potty-Mouthed Mancunian Joy" is a pretty awesome way to be described, if you ask us.

Cooke loved Cersei Lannister

Whether you loved or hated the show's controversial eighth and final season, you really still have to admit that "Game of Thrones" is one of the most influential franchises in modern pop culture. Arguably the best HBO series of all time, "Thrones" had millions of viewers tuning in every Sunday night during its world-captivating run, anxiously watching with bated breath to see which fan-favorite character would live to see another episode.

Olivia Cooke, who is entering Westeros in the first official prequel series, "House of the Dragon," was actually not one of those aforementioned live-viewers, but she has a pretty good reason why. When appearing on Good Morning America, Cooke explained that she didn't want to watch "Thrones" in its entirety before auditioning for "House of the Dragon," because it could make her "too invested" if she didn't get the job. After she landed the role, however, she binged hard on the epic fantasy saga: "I've since seen every episode and am just obsessed."

In "House of the Dragon," Cooke plays Alicent Hightower, the second wife to King Viserys Targaryen (Paddy Considine). Readers of George R.R. Martin's "Fire and Blood" saga, the source material behind the new series, often compare Lady Alicent to Cersei Lannister, a comparison that only brings a smile to Cooke's face. 

"I f***ing love that comparison because Cersei was my favorite character," she admitted to THR, before explaining that although Alicent does have a dark side, she's really "just striving for what she thinks is good." If Cooke channels the magnificent Lena Headey for the queenly role, viewers should be in for a real treat.