Happy birthday, Olivia Wilde! In honor of the star's 37th birthday on March 10, 2021, Wonderwall.com is rounding up some fun facts about the actress-director that you might not know (but should!). Keep reading to learn more about one of Hollywood's most refreshing female voices…
1. A famous author inspired her stage name
Like many starlets before her, Olivia Jane Cockburn decided to change her surname before heading to Hollywood. She decided on a tribute to author and playwright Oscar Wilde that also honored the writers in her family. In fact, she actually changed her last name when she was in high school because pen names are a tradition in her household. In an interview with The Observer, Olivia explained that her mother suggested an Irish surname in keeping with the family's heritage, as well as something to inspire the young woman to follow her creative pursuits. "Oscar Wilde is someone who I respect for so many reasons — a revolutionary, a comedian and a profound thinker," she said. "I had all these reasons, but what I didn't foresee is that people would think of it as a sexy adjective. So now it's got a pornographic quality I never considered."
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2. She grew up around very successful people
Olivia Wilde is the daughter of Andrew Cockburn, a well-known British journalist, and Leslie Cockburn, a journalist and documentary filmmaker who was also a producer on the TV news magazine "60 Minutes." Olivia is also related to Evelyn Waugh, author of "Brideshead Revisited" (he was her grandfather's cousin) and is a distant cousin of novelist Emma Tennant. The actress-director, who grew up in Washington, D.C., has previously spoken about famous people visiting her childhood home — including Mick Jagger and Steven Spielberg. As a toddler, she was once shooed away by the Rolling Stones lead singer when he caught her eavesdropping on a conversation between himself and diplomat Richard Holbrooke. It then became a joke between her and her mother, as Leslie would often tell her, "Mick Jagger told you to go to bed."
3. She has a tattoo dedicated to her late uncle and another honoring her son
Fans of Olivia Wilde might have noticed the tattoos on her arms without ever knowing their meaning. She carries one on her left wrist which reads "all love, A." The actress has explained that the phrase includes the last words she ever received from her beloved uncle, Alexander Cockburn. She had it inked as a reminder of the importance of love in one's life. More recently, she had a galaxy or constellation-inspired design added to her right forearm as a tribute to her young son, Otis Sudeikis.
4. She had her breakthrough role on "The O.C." … but almost snagged a much larger part
Olivia Wilde first made a splash with audiences on "The O.C." during the show's second season in 2004. She played super-cool bartender Alex, who famously began a same-sex relationship with Mischa Barton's Marissa Cooper. What many fans of the hit teen soap don't know is that Olivia was originally considered to play Marissa. The show's producers revealed during a TV festival panel in 2016 that Olivia was in the final running for the part before they decided she was far too strong and confident to naturally portray a character as vulnerable as Marissa. Lucky for Olivia, they were so impressed by her audition that they eventually wrote a whole new character into the show specifically for her.
5. She was married to a prince
Olivia Wilde has made headlines for her long relationship with actor Jason Sudeikis, which lasted from 2011 to 2020, as well as for her romance with singer-actor Harry Styles, which started in late 2020, but many don't know about her pre-fame nuptials. While a lot of girls dream of marrying a prince, Olivia actually eloped with Italian prince and filmmaker Tao Ruspoli when she was just 19. Tao is the son of Alessandro Ruspoli, 9th Prince of Cerveteri, and American actress Debra Berger. The couple wed in an abandoned school bus with almost no witnesses in 2003. They divorced in 2001 after eight years together.
6. She's a classic car buff
Olivia Wilde is a connoisseur of classic cars who reportedly owns a 1958 Chevy Biscayne and a 1959 Thunderbird convertible and once owned both a 1966 Lincoln Continental and a 1968 Mustang. It's enough to make any gear head jealous. But as any vintage vehicle owner knows, the rides aren't without their hiccups. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Olivia recalled once taking friends out for a girls' night in her mint-green Biscayne only for the '50s classic to stall before they reached their destination, leaving the star (seen here in the period show "Vinyl") feeling quite embarrassed.
7. Her grandfather was a famous author
Olivia Wilde's successful genes date back to her grandfather, Claud Cockburn. Claud wrote the book "Beat the Devil" under the name James Helvick. In 1953, John Huston directed a film adaptation of the thriller novel starring film legends Humphrey Bogart and Jennifer Jones. Claud was also a well-known journalist who served in the military, fighting alongside iconic author Ernest Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War.
8. She comes from a long line of powerful people
Olivia Wilde's family tree contains several figures who held a lot of power and sway during their lifetimes. Her paternal ancestors include great-great-grandfather Henry Arthur Blake, a high-ranking colonial administrator within the British Empire who served as a governor of the Bahamas, Newfoundland and Jamaica at different times. He was also the governor-general of Hong Kong from 1898 to 1903 and was appointed governor of Ceylon for another four years. Olivia is also a distant relative of Sir George Cockburn, a long-time military officer who served during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. However, his most infamous action was arguably during the War of 1812 when he directed the capture and burning of Washington.
9. She's a proud pescatarian and former vegetarian
Throughout her life, Olivia Wilde has always been very conscious about her eating habits. Although she's currently a pescatarian, Olivia has previously lived her life as a vegan and a vegetarian. The actress-director, who was voted PETA's Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity of 2010, reportedly switched between being a vegetarian and being vegan before having children. "[Being vegan] is not always easy and accessible, but it's a way of life and makes me as a person feel really good and physically look better," she told Huffington Post in 2012. "My skin was better, energy was better." Since welcoming kids, the actress has shifted to include fish and seafood in her diet.
10. Activism is as important to her as movie-making
Doing good for humanity has been a priority for Olivia Wilde since obtaining her influential platform. She serves on the board of directors for the Artists for Peace and Justice organization, which offers health services and education in the poverty-stricken nation of Haiti. She got involved with both Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's political campaigns and took part in the 2017 Women's March in Washington, D.C., and 2018 Women's March in Los Angeles. She's a supporter of Planned Parenthood and Time's Up and has spoken openly in the past about raising her son to be a feminist while making sure her daughter knows that gender equality isn't controversial. "I want my son and daughter to grow up thinking girls can be Batman and boys can be Wonder Woman and that gender equality isn't controversial or political — it's just common sense," she told Think in 2018.
11. She once modeled for Abercrombie & Fitch
When she first broke into Hollywood, Olivia Wilde was best known for TV roles on dramas like "House" and "The O.C." She also booked a few surprising spokesmodel gigs — including one for teen-favorite fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch. She was one of the celebrities featured in the company's "Rising Stars" campaign in 2004 along with Taylor Swift, Nikki Reed and Michelle Trachtenberg. Olivia isn't the only model in her home. Her beloved rescue dog Paco was a spokesanimal for affordable clothing store Old Navy back in 2006.
12. She learned to act by studying in Ireland
Considering Olivia Wilde is part Irish and that her father grew up in Ireland, it makes sense that the actress chose to study her craft in the European country. She was accepted to Bard College in New York but deferred her enrollment three times in order to pursue acting. She instead decided to attend the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin. Shortly after completing her studies, she nabbed the lead role in the short-lived FOX primetime soap opera "Skin" in 2003.
13. She holds dual citizenship
Olivia Wilde's father was born in London, but his family later moved to Ireland and he became an Irish citizen, passing the nationality to his daughter. She spent her summers in Ireland while growing up and has said she felt more Irish than she did American. Olivia has previously discussed going back to her family's home in the village of Ardmore each year and said that fishing with her father is among her most cherished childhood memories. "I found Ireland much more inspiring as a kid, much more fun, and the people had such an amazing effect on me," she said in an interview with The Independent. "I credit a lot of my growth as a child and a lot of my happiness with the people I was surrounded by in Ireland."
14. Cooking is one of her favorite hobbies
One of Olivia Wilde's greatest passions is cooking. In fact, she loves it so much that when she was younger, she would occasionally skip school to watch her favorite cooking shows. "I went to Ballymaloe cookery school [in Ireland] when I was 12," she told the Sunday Times in 2010. The star has said she likes to retreat to her kitchen and prepare a hearty meal for her family and friends, believing it demonstrates her love for people. Olivia (seen here on "House" in 2009) has said she'd prefer taking 10 people out to a lovely dinner to buying an expensive outfit.
15. She once won a pancake eating contest in Australia
Turns out Olivia Wilde is as passionate about eating as she is about cooking. She once bragged to Women's Health about winning an eating contest in Australia — much to the disbelief of the many men involved. "I ate 33 pancakes in 20 minutes, and I only did it because they said a girl could never enter the competition. I won against these giant men, and they were convinced I was cheating. Guys have some sort of sick fascination with girls who can eat," she recalled. Not many stars can say they have that accomplishment on their resume!
16. She was ghosted by former fiancé Jason Sudeikis before they started dating
Olivia Wilde and comedy star Jason Sudeikis, with whom she shares two children, were previously engaged for seven years, but they nearly didn't even go on a first date. In 2016, she told radio host Howard Stern that the actor ghosted her early in their romance. They met when Olivia attended a "Saturday Night Live" afterparty — Jason starred on and wrote for the show at the time — and he made a cryptic remark before walking away, though he later got her digits. However, "When he got my number, he didn't text me for a month," she explained. Once he did, the relationship blossomed — slowly. Olivia said Jason waited until date No. 4 to kiss her!
17. She had lunch with George Clooney when she was a teen
In 1997, George Clooney and Nicole Kidman starred in the thriller "The Peacemaker," which is based on the book "One Point Safe," which was written by Olivia Wilde's journalist parents. As a result, the then-teenaged aspiring actress got to meet George and have lunch with him on the film's set during production. Her recollection of the encounter? It was very warm and pleasant; she admired the actor and described him as sincere and gracious. She was inspired by the fact that George and her father were discussing politics, and that a household name like him could be seen for his personal qualities and not just his fame.