Booksmart opens May 24

By Mia McNiece
May 23, 2019 01:00 PM
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Olivia Wilde, 35, has been getting rave reviews for her directorial debut Booksmart, but she says the best feedback she’s received is from her 5-year-old son Otis.

“The other day I said, ‘Otis, do you know what I do for a living?’ You never know if your kids really understand. He said, ‘Yeah, Mom, you’re a director.’ I got full-body chills and started crying,” Wilde tells PEOPLE. “Hearing it from him made it real.”

Becoming a director has been a lifelong dream for Wilde, who has been acting for 17 years. She got her start on TV shows The OC and House before landing roles in films such as Tron: Legacy, Cowboys & Aliens and Her.

“I feel like I’ve finally found my stride. I walk into a room differently because I know who I am and what I have to offer,” she says.

Credit: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty

For more on Olivia Wilde, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

Yet, directing a movie while raising Otis and her daughter Daisy, 2, with her longtime boyfriend, actor Jason Sudeikis was a challenge, especially during weeks of night shoots. Wilde says she would finish work at 7 a.m. and get back to her L.A. home just as Otis and Daisy were waking up.

Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde
| Credit: Suzanne Cordeiro/Shutterstock

“I would give them breakfast, play with them, take them to school and then come home and just dissolve,” she says.

She’s grateful for the support of Sudeikis, whom she met eight years ago at a Saturday Night Live afterparty.

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“Directing is a lot more demanding than acting, and he has been cheering me on,” she says. She cast him in a small, scene-stealing role as a high school principal in Booksmart.

“He’s one of the greatest improvisers on earth,” she says. “I was so excited I was like, ‘oooh I get to have that magic in my movie.'”

Booksmart opens May 24.