Best Actress Goes to…

OTW Alumni Olivia Cooke won best Actress at the 2017 Manchester Film Festival for her performance in Katie Says Goodbye, the moving tale of a young women struggling to escape her mundane existence in the American Southwest. The film was shown at the final night of the festival followed by a Q&A with Olivia herself.

Olivia started acting when she was 8 years old right here at Oldham Theatre Workshop. She was in a large number of shows over the years and when she was 17 she landed a leading role in our production of Prom: The Musical, a remake of Cinderella.

When she was 14, Olivia secured her first local talent agent in Manchester, who placed her in a number of commercials. In 2012, she appeared in the One Direction “Autumn Term” Tour Video as a student getting a piggyback ride on Harry Styles. During her audition for this bit part, Cooke entertained the producers by performing a split.

Beverley Keogh, a casting director next door to her agency, fought to get her roles in television. Olivia starred in two BBC miniseries productions in 2012: Blackout, as the daughter of Christopher Eccleston‘s character, and The Secret of Crickley Hall, as a young teacher at a tyrannical orphanage in the 1940s.

Despite being a novice, Olivia distinguished herself among European actresses in the gruelling casting process for The Quiet Ones, which opened in April 2014, two years after filming took place.

In 2012, following The Quiet Ones, Cooke acquired an agent in Los Angeles. After reading the character descriptions for A&E‘s contemporary Psycho prequel Bates Motel, she sent an audition tape for the role of Emma Decody. Three weeks later, Cooke earned the part of Emma, her first American role. She was originally disappointed when the producers made Emma Mancunian, believing it was a fail-safe measure regarding her accent. However, aided by fellow English actor Freddie Highmore, who has previous experience with an American accent, Cooke has since been mistaken to be American. Bates Motel first aired on 18 March 2013, and, as a complement to the series, Cooke has contributed short videos for Emma’s fictitious blog.

Olivia’s second feature film The Signal, with Brenton Thwaites and Laurence Fishburne, opened at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014. The Signal hit U.S. cinemas on 13 June 2014, with Focus Features expanding the release on 20 June and again on 27 June 2014. Olivia starred as Haley Peterson, an American MIT student transferring to Caltech, who encounters strange occurrences as she, her boyfriend, and her best friend are lured into the desert by a hacker.

On 24 October 2014, Cooke led the cast of Universal‘s Ouija, a horror-action film based on Hasbro‘s board game. The role of the protagonist, Laine Morris, was a major undertaking for Cooke, who appeared in almost every scene. The story centred around a group of friends who use the Ouija board to contact a deceased friend, but end up awakening a dark presence. Despite being panned by critics, Ouija was a box office success, grossing approximately $102.5 million worldwide.

On 16 June 2014, Cooke began filming the comedy-drama film Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. For this coming-of-age tale by Jesse Andrews, who adapted the original novel for the film, Cooke shaved off her hair to play the female lead who battles leukemia. On 25 January 2015, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl became her second feature to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded both the Grand Jury and Audience Awards. The film was released to American cinemas on 12 June 2015. On 18 June 2015, Cooke voiced the Loch Ness Monster for an episode of Axe Cop, which was co-written by her Me and Earl and the Dying Girl co-star Nick Offerman.

On 23 March 2015, it was announced that Cooke would play the titular character in the independent drama film Katie Says Goodbye, alongside Jim Belushi, Mireille Enos, Christopher Abbott, and Mary Steenburgen. The film revolves around Katie, a 17-year-old waitress attempting to overcome poverty and start a new life in San Francisco by resorting to prostitution. On 17 April 2015, it was reported that Cooke would star in the film adaptation of Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, a gothic murder mystery, opposite Bill Nighy and Douglas Booth. Both films premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2016. She next appeared in the drama-thriller film Thoroughbred, alongside Anya Taylor-Joy and Anton Yelchin, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on 21 January 2017.

Cooke has been cast as Art3mis in Steven Spielberg‘s science fiction thriller Ready Player One, which is slated for a 30 March 2018 release. She will also star alongside Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde and Samuel L. Jackson in Dan Fogelman‘s relationship drama film Life Itself.

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