"I was there only because of my brain and my heart. And the sense of fulfillment that comes from that is really massive," Olivia Wilde said of directing Booksmart

Making her directorial debut with the coming-of-age film Booksmart allowed Olivia Wilde to see herself in a new light in Hollywood.

During a candid interview with The New York Times, Wilde confessed that getting behind the camera helped her shed the pressure she feels to live up to “everyone’s version of a perfect woman.”

“I don’t have to carry that,” said Wilde. “It is remarkable that I am 35 years old and this is the first job I’ve ever had that wasn’t entirely dependent on and connected to my looks. It grosses me out to acknowledge it, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it.”

Wilde made her feature film debut in the 2004 rom-com The Girl Next Door. She’s also appeared in other films like Alpha Dog, The Next Three Days, Tron: Legacy, Cowboys & Aliens, Her and Life Itself, and on the small screen in dramas like The O.C., House and Vinyl.

Though she told The Times she isn’t walking away from acting or disavowing roles she’s had in the past (“I used to dismiss The O.C. I’d be like, ‘I did a teen soap — what an embarrassment.’ And now I think, ah, that was really formative and I’m lucky I got to do that”), Wilde said she feels as though the process of directing Booksmart has allowed her to see herself in a new light.

“I was there only because of my brain and my heart. And the sense of fulfillment that comes from that is really massive,” she said. “It’s a profound shift for me.”

Olivia Wilde
Olivia Wilde
| Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty

In the past, Wilde used to question her talents and accomplishments, she said, when she found herself categorized for her looks by casting directors.

“Have I ever felt exploited? Yeah. Do I realize that I’d become numb to that? Yes. I had become numb to the fact that every meeting I went on — with men and women, by the way — I was going to be judged on my physical appearance,” she told The Times. “Because that’s what actors deal with, and man, it’s exhausting.”

“Was it ever truly purely me, or was it always something that was fraught with a sense of superficiality, of being judged from the outside in an external way?” she asked herself, of previous roles. “I don’t know.”

Wilde — who shares son Otis, 5, and daughter Daisy, 2, with fiancé Jason Sudeikis — also described using her opportunity as a director to right some wrongs she’d experienced in her career.

She told The Times about directing a love scene between Kaitlyn Dever and another actor. “I was so excited to explain to everyone what I thought a closed set should mean,” Wilde recalled. “There aren’t 100 people in the room. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done a love scene where I’ve been like, ‘But surely that guy doesn’t need to be there?’ ”

Booksmart opens May 24.