Sarah Wright Olsen stars in American Made

View photosPhoto credit: David James / Universal PicturesMore

From Town &amp; Country</a>" data-reactid="31">From Town & Country

In American Made, the exhilarating, endearing new film from director Doug Liman, out this week, Tom Cruise plays Barry Seal. He’s a 1980s pilot who finds himself working simultaneously with the CIA and also a series of drug cartels. It’s a strange gig - some days he’s dropping drugs over swamplands, others he’s partying with Pablo Escobar - but throughout Seal’s adventures (inspired here by a true story) his most formidable and exciting-to-watch challenge remains tangling with his wife, Lucy, whose own life is routinely turned upside down by his dubiously legal antics.

Here, Sarah Wright Olsen, who stars alongside Cruise in the film, explains the thought that went into dressing a 1980s smuggling millionaire as well as the stunt that almost went very wrong.

Over the course of the movie, your character goes from a pretty average person to a very, very rich person. And one of the really fun things about her is that while her personality stays the same, she gets increasingly glamorous. How much thought went into giving her that early 1980s glitz?

We spent a lot of time thinking about what Lucy was going to wear, her jewelry, and everything. Before we even started shooting, I made a mood board of iconic women from that time period and their clothing, and the way that they looked, dressed, their hair, makeup, everything. And I sent that to the team and said, “These are my thoughts about Lucy and the way that she would look.” Her evolution starts in the ‘70s with that very classic, approachable Farrah Fawcett look, and then turns into Cindy Crawford in the ‘80s, and then eventually Michelle Pfeiffer from Scarface. We really played around with that, and as the movie progressed, things were building up - Lucy’s got bigger diamonds, she’s got fancier earrings in, her clothes are a little bit nicer, she’s got designer sunglasses on. She was always stills a down-to-earth mom, but we added a lot of money to that to see where it went.

View photosPhoto credit: David James / Universal PicturesMore

She’s more than just big gems, though. What about Lucy made you want to play her?

I really love Doug Liman movies. The women in his movies are so strong - sometimes stronger than the men - and he really spends a lot of time like thinking that out and making sure there’s something unique and something interesting about each character. I knew that the women in his past movies were so amazing, and I was excited to see where he wanted to take this character of Lucy. Also, I felt very connected to her since we’re both from the South, and I was excited to take inspiration from some of the strong Southern women I grew up around and apply that to the character.

The movie follows the incredibly, improbably successful career of a brazen criminal. It gets to the point that even when things go wrong for him, you’re almost surprised because his luck was so powerful. Did you walk away with any sense of how a smuggler can be so prosperous?

The way I played it with Lucy was that when you’re in it, I don’t think you really realize how big of an impact that you’re having and what kind of an impact you have on the people around you. I think that they saw it as being on an adventure together - things kept happening with Barry, and maybe Lucy knew some of it, maybe she didn’t know all of it. It wasn’t until afterward that they could look back and say, “Oh, maybe we shouldn’t have done that.”

View photosPhoto credit: David James / Universal PicturesMore

One of the funniest parts of the film has to do with Barry working in an all-cash business; there are duffel bags shoved everywhere in their house and it seems like they can’t spend it fast enough. Was there anything that Lucy got to do with their fortune that was most exciting for you to play?

Oh, absolutely. There was this pair of earrings - Jennifer Meyer actually made them for us - that at some point in the movie Barry gives Lucy. I was so excited to wear them because they were so beautiful, and Jen had made them just for us. I just felt like that was something that he really would’ve given her, and it was something that she always kept. Even when the other pieces went away, that’s probably what she tucked away to make sure that she held onto!

You’ve got a scene with Tom Cruise in an airplane that looks like it must have been pretty difficult to shoot. How did that go?

The airplane scene was so crazy! Yeah, so, that scene was half of an airplane on a contraption that was on a soundstage and inside of it, there was a camera mounted to the wall. I was tethered to the front of the plane, and Tom was tethered to the bottom, and we were tethered to each other. Basically what happens is this thing has to start flipping around in circles; it’s almost like a washing machine. And then inside, the two of us are going to go up to the ceiling and then crash back down on each other.

It looks like this really great zero-gravity moment, right? Well, when we started, we were inside and everybody on the set was placing bets on whether I was going to get sick - because it’s definitely not a slow, simple ride! And I was fine, I did great, but as soon as it started going, Doug Liman is yelling out, “Make a sexy face! Don’t smile!” I was nervous about it, because I was just so nervous to throw up on Tom! I really didn’t want to do that.

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