Elizabeth Olsen Godzilla

Elizabeth Olsen in Godzilla (2014)Elizabeth Olsen, the much-lauded actress of indie fare like Martha Marcy May Marlene, is about to change it up bigtime. After unveiling her new Marvel character The Scarlet Witch in the secret post-credits scene to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she is set to co-star in this month’s popcorn extravaganza Godzilla. Clearly, the critically acclaimed indie princess—little sister to Mary Kate and Ashley—is moving on to bigger things. But are they better, too?

Scarlett Johanssen in Lost in TranslationPerhaps Elizabeth should take heed of fellow ingénue Scarlett Johansson on the best way to make the sometimes dicey transition from the world of indies to big event blockbusters. Just a decade ago, Scarjo was still riding on the high of her immensely successful starring turn in Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation, and had gone on to star in Woody Allen’s well-received Match Point. Things were going so well for her in the market of smaller budget films, and then The Island happened. While by no means a major bomb, this Michael Bay explosion-fest was definitely not the smoothest of transitions for Scarlett, and the critics weren’t exactly kind. However, she bounced back as we all know, scoring more hits in the indie world (Vicky Christina Barcelona, which can be considered ‘indie’ as compared to her later work) and in major Hollywood fare (Avengers!) as well!

Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of UltronIt’s always an adjustment for actors—as well as their audiences—when they shift the way they select their projects. Invariably, as an actor’s audience appeal (and marketability) grows, as they make the transition from ‘actor’ to ‘star’, they are able to command roles in larger films (with larger paychecks, to boot). Of course, the goal is to retain your ‘actorly’ roots when you hit it big, in the hopes that a big budget blockbuster will also receive good feedback from critics (this is the case more and more, especially when it comes to Marvel films: the Thor, Captain America and Iron Man franchises have all scored fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, as has The Avengers). And that is exactly what they’re hoping to accomplish with this new iteration of Godzilla, casting other decorated thespians alongside Ms. Olsen: Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche, to name a few.

Parker Posey in House of YesBut the transition is not always so seamless. Parker Posey, indie darling of the brilliant House of Yes, has tried twice to cash in on big-ticket projects, in Scream 3 and Superman Returns. Both were big-ticket misses. Jamie Bell and Adrien Brody, until then known for work in smaller, more artful fare (Billy Elliot and The Pianist, respectively), both appeared in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake, causing more head scratching than anything else. While these films didn’t necessarily hurt the careers of the actors involved, chances are at least some regret the decision to be a part of something so huge.

Elijah Wood in The Ice StormAnd for some, the jump to big budget behemoths can work wonders, like for Ice Storm alum Elijah Wood—his turn in the disaster epic Deep Impact most probably helped his chances when it came to being cast as Frodo in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And then there’s Dakota Fanning, who was a precocious young indie queen when she starred alongside Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. While not many loved the film, everyone agreed she was the best thing in it. Lastly, and perhaps the best example of an actor who’s retained his ‘critical darling’ status while simultaneously doing big budget stuff like The Day After Tomorrow, is Jake Gyllenhaal.

Will Elizabeth follow in Jake’s footsteps? Will she scurry back to the world of indies where she may have an easier time influencing the type of work she can get? Perhaps she can debrief about her move to the big leagues with Scarjo on the set of Avengers 2: Age of Ultron, which they are both currently filming.