From the Gaiety to Tron: Legacy, Olivia Wilde has come a long way, baby. With an Italian prince by her side. Paul Byrne met up with ‘the new Megan Fox’ in Paris.

Being dubbed ‘the new Megan Fox’ is, of course, a compliment most young Hollywood starlets would happily take upon their shoulders. But not all.

Fox may be a fantasy for many a frustrated teenage boy, but a noted actress she is not – despite her utterly convincing turn as a greasy mechanic in the Transformers franchise. Olivia Wilde, on the other hand, is a young Hollywood starlet who’s plainly not in this just for the ad campaigns.

Having first become something of a face, if not a name, in the US through her recurring role as Dr. Remy Hadley in Hugh Laurie’s hugely successful medic drama House, Wilde is about to dominate your local multiplex for the next year.

Arriving in January is the highly-anticipated Cowboys & Aliens, Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig battling it out to save the planet and get Ms. Wilde. Jennifer Garner and Hugh Jackman will be her co-stars in the spring, when Butter pops up in our cinemas, whilst later in the year, Justin Timberlake will see if his charms can work their wonders on Olivia in Now.

In the meantime, Wilde – who’s currently shooting The Change-Up with Ryan Reynolds (People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive 2010) and Jason Bateman – will have her first big Hollywood close-up, Tron: Legacy, hit screens around the world on December 17th. So, you know, no pressure.

“Actually, I don’t really feel any great pressure,” smiles the 26-year old, New York-born actress as she settles back into her seat at Paris’ luxurious Hotel Meurice on Rue de Rivoli. “The only pressure I really feel is, did I do a good enough job? Right now, I’m not really thinking about anything else but the work itself. I’m basically too busy to worry about anything else [laughs].”

A highly reverent and hugely hi-tech state-of-the-art sequel to the cult 1982 outing that was a little too hi-tech and state-of-the-art for its time (and therefore, a flop), Tron: Legacy catches up with Jeff Bridges’ altruistic and idealistic videogame guru Sam Flynn, still AWOL after breaking on through to the other side. And finding himself in a virtual world run by an egomaniacal dictator yin to his caring, sharing yang – Flynn having created the mutinous Clu in his own image. When his son (Garrett Hedlund) falls through the portal, a new battle begins, as the Buddha-like Sam Flynn is forced out of hiding – alongside his protege, Quorra (Wilde) – to beat Clu 2.0 to the closing portal back into our world.

It’s all very beautifully crafted, and occasionally stunning (with Daft Punk’s soundtrack adding considerably to the cool), but there’s far too much Yoda here, and not enough Yowsa. Disney might just have another flop on their hands. Which, deep down, is what Comic Book Guy would have wanted.

PAUL BYRNE: A highly-anticipated sequel to an iconic cult movie, your first big budget outing – any sleepless nights here for Olivia Wilde?

OLIVIA WILDE: I think we were all pretty, gosh, nervous going into it, because we were all trying new things for the first time. Every department was really being ambitious. The camera department was using the most evolved advanced 3D camera that had ever been used, a whole generation on from the ones used in Avatar. The wardrobe department was making suits that had electro-luminous lamps running throughout the rubber. They were light sculptures – that had never been done before. Visual effects was creating a digital character. Clu wasn’t there on the day – it was Jeff Bridges, wearing this enormous motion-capture rig. That was very ambitious. Everyone was kind of electric in their pride, but also in their anxiety over, were we doing something impossible? Is this going to work? So, when I saw the film for the first time, I was just so happy, because it worked.

You’ve said before that Quorra isn’t just this sexy vixen, this ‘very rare bird’ being a rubber-clad fembot on a mission that made you think of Joan of Arc. Any other inspirations, because you do surprise here?

That was the idea. I knew it would be easy to play her as just the Bambi temptress of the Tron world. It would be simple to do that. I think with another creative team, that’s how she might have ended up, but I knew the suit was doing the job of sexiness for her, so, inside, she could be anything. She could be quirky, strange, curious, intelligent. So, Joan Of Arc was the main reference for me. I really found that to be helpful.

Trying to combine the idea of a warrior and a child was very difficult for me, until I found this reference. I was reading Mark Twain’s book about Joan Of Arc – which is one of my favourite books of all time – and it clicked for me. I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is Quorra!’. I was also studying a lot about Buddhism, because I knew Kevin Flynn within the story would be teaching Quorra a lot about spirituality.

You know that Jeff Bridges actually is Buddha, right?

I do [laughs]!

Your parents, Andrew and Leslie, are noted journalists on the Washington circuit, and you grew up amidst dinner guests such as Mick Jagger, Richard Holbrooke and Christopher Hitchens – so, I’m guessing Hollywood isn’t leaving you starstruck?

You know, I don’t know. I grew up very far from the Hollywood entertainment community, so, it’s still kind of a mystery to me. But I like that. I like that I’ll always be something of an outsider because I think that coming from a very different world gives me a unique perspective. I’m aware that this world is very strange, and attention is very fleeting, but I’m appreciative of my moment here, and I’m having such a good time. My training in Ireland was very instrumental in my success, and what I learnt most about Irish actors is a sense of humility, and a sense of understanding that this is just a craft. It”s just what we do, and there’s nothing more special about it than anything else. Telling stories though is an important part of our society. So, I’m happy to be among these artists.

Nearly everybody in your family is involved in politics, so, it must have been surprising to them when you went into acting. Did you want to discuss the Middle East situation with Rob Schneider?

[Laughs] They’ve always been supportive, from the very, very beginning, and as long as I worked hard, they were always going to be. I do know that journalism is in my blood, and I’ll always write on my own. Maybe one day I’ll write professionally, but I appreciate the analytical mind that I was brought up to have. It’s very helpful in my own work, but they knew from the very beginning that I was bound for the stage, and, yeah, they’ve led me there in a very, very helpful way.

You’ve led an incredibly cool life so far, one of the highpoints being your elopement, at the age of 18, with an Italian prince, Tao Ruspoli, who’s also a documentary filmmaker and a flamenco guitarist. Are you sure he’s for real? He might be a plumber from Idaho, just making all this stuff up?

Even if he were a plumber from Idaho, I’d still want to be married to him [laughs].

Words – Paul Byrne

Tron: Legacy hits Irish cinemas Dec 17th
Check out our video interviews with the Tron Legacy cast next week