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Broadway’s ‘1984’: ‘It’s provocative, it’s subversive’ and hazardous to Olivia Wilde

“Heavy times call for heavy stuff,” says actress Olivia Wilde, who is making her Broadway debut in a new stage version of George Orwell’s classic, “1984.” Wilde was injured in preview performances of the show, which opens June 22.
“Heavy times call for heavy stuff,” says actress Olivia Wilde, who is making her Broadway debut in a new stage version of George Orwell’s classic, “1984.” Wilde was injured in preview performances of the show, which opens June 22.

Olivia Wilde has managed to put her body, mind and soul into her Broadway debut in the new stage adaptation of George Orwell’s novel, “1984.”

During previews of the play, which officially opens on June 22, she broke her tailbone and split her lip.

Talk about acting “chops.”

Her co-star, British actor Tom Sturridge, has been injured, too.

“I broke his nose, but it was in retaliation because he broke my coccyx, which I didn’t even know I had,” Wilde told Savannah Guthrie on “The Today Show” Thursday.

“It’s your tailbone. It’s from when we used to have a tail apparently.”

Wilde, who is engaged to Jason Sudeikis, walked the red carpet at the annual Big Slick fundraiser last summer in Kansas City while she was pregnant with the couple’s second child, Daisy, who is now 8 months old.

She’s been to past Big Slick outings but will miss this year’s events next weekend because of the play, which Wilde describes as “intense.”

She’s not exaggerating. Guthrie pointed out that four audience members have fainted during previews that feature strobe and smoke effects at Broadway’s newly renovated Hudson Theatre.

“We’re doing everything necessary to tell the story right, and it’s an intense story,” Wilde told Guthrie.

“Heavy times call for heavy stuff. It involves a lot of multimedia; there’s a whole video portion — shooting video that is simulcast onto the stage. So I’m running from the stage back to a little set that has cameras on it back to the stage. There’s a lot of light and sound work. That’s really immersive. It’s a different kind of experience. It’s not just like watching a play — it’s kind of like going on a really scary ride.”

Wilde plays main character Julia alongside Sturridge and “House of Cards” star Reed Birney in this staging of Orwell’s dystopian novel about a society where critical thought is suppressed by a totalitarian regime led by Big Brother.

The book has enjoyed renewed interest under America’s new president.

In January it rose to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list in the United States, prompting publisher Penguin USA to print tens of thousands more copies, according to The New York Times.

Sales soared within days of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway using the term “alternative facts” during an interview on “Meet the Press” about the disputed size of the inauguration crowd.

Earlier this week Wilde spoke passionately on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” about the parallels between what Orwell projected in a novel published in 1949 and what is happening in America today.

Though this is her first time on a Broadway stage, she told Colbert she doesn’t get nervous because the work is so important.

“I think it’s because I just love this play so much, and I feel it’s so important to tell this story, so I think all my jitters are consumed by this sense of purpose,” she said.

“I really feel like we’re out there saying something that needs to be said. … What our play is about is that the truth matters. It’s provocative, it’s subversive, it’s exciting.”

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