Elizabeth Olsen says she questioned her own femininity as Candy Montgomery in ‘Love & Death’

This story about Elizabeth Olsen and “Love & Death” first appeared in TheWrap’s Awards magazine’s Limited Series/Movies issue.

What is it about Candy Montgomery that Hollywood finds so irresistible? With two high-profile limited series in consecutive years, the story of a housewife who became accused of ax murder proved to be a mouthwatering one. In 2022, there was Hulu’s “Candy,” co-created by Robin Veith and Nick Antosca and starring Jessica Biel as the woman acquitted of massacring her lover’s wife. Now there’s HBO Max’s “Love & Death,” a take on the same gory tale, written and produced by David E. Kelley and starring Elizabeth Olsen.

Olsen’s interest in donning Candy’s blood-soaked flip flops had less to do with what Montgomery did or didn’t do and more with how she operated. “The appeal to me is that I don’t feel like I know how to use my femininity as a person in the world,” Olsen said. “And she’s a woman who’s been successful all her life in using her femininity as a force to get what she wants. It’s a part of myself that I try to explore. There’s something inside of me that for some reason finds it hard to trust people who use that skill, and I don’t necessarily like that part of myself.

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The fact that Montgomery’s whole personality is based on appearances fascinated Olsen, who, as an actor, knows well the outside pressure to look a certain way. “Where I started with her, she clung to whatever she presented because she needed some kind of public affirmation – to the point where during the trial she told her lawyer that she wouldn’t become an emotional monkey to him because even though she’s on trial for murder, she’s still concerned about how she presents herself to people from an aesthetic standpoint,” Olsen said. “I just found all these choices really weird and interesting.”

Because “Love & Death” is based on a true story, Olsen had plenty of material at his disposal to help build his character. There’s extensive archival news coverage, as well as the true-crime book “Evidence of Love: A True Story of Passion and Death in the Suburbs” by John Bloom and Jim Atkinson on which the miniseries is based. . They all dove into how in 1981 Berry Gore, a suburban Dallas wife and mother of two, could have found herself in a pool of blood in her own home, beaten 41 times with an axe. Montgomery knew the Gores from the church and was having an affair with Betty’s husband, Allan. At the murder trial, she successfully claimed self-defense and was acquitted.


Elizabeth Olsen in “Love and Death”.

“The reality of what happened is almost like you’re doing your homework because you don’t have to make things up,” Olsen said. “There’s something good about having any type of existing source, because there’s something to interact with. There are sentences or letters or anecdotes from a person’s life that tell you something.

Of course, there are myriad ways an actor can approach a character, and Olsen enjoyed watching Jesse Plemons, who plays Allan, go through his own process. “It’s just the smallest things that sometimes pull people in one direction, and for Jesse it was choosing the hairstyle he wanted,” she said. “It’s from real footage where he was like, ‘I think that’s the guy.'”

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The producers and directors knew living in a horrible tragedy would be hard on the cast, so to break the ice, Lesli Linka Glatter decided to shoot the most upbeat church choir scenes early on. “We all played a game of getting to know you by doing all the church footage first,” Olsen said. “[Lesli] thought it might be helpful for us to understand the world we inhabit together. It was really fun, based on the characters we were creating in a vacuum, how the roles play with each other and [which] colors with which we were each able to paint.

Learn more about the limited series/movie issue here.



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