Meet the mean girl of Booksmart and the good girl from Ma.
ELLE – In December 2017, disaster struck Ojai, California. The state’s largest wildfire on record ravaged the community, ultimately destroying 273,400 acres of land across two counties. Homegrown heroine Diana Silvers was roughly 2,800 miles away, tracking the devastation from a New York University seminar, a class titled “Central Problems in Philosophy.” She was 20 years old, and her father’s house was in the direct path of the blaze. (“The fire was a big climate change wake-up call,” she says.) As she watched its progression in real time, her East Coast classmates intellectualized the tragedy. She remembers one girl saying, “If something burns to the ground, the particles are still there, so technically it still remains.” She found their responses to be disorientingly out-of-touch. Her father was still inside the house.
We’re seated in the backroom of Mudspot, an East Village café around the corner from her freshman dorm at NYU. (She’s since taken a leave of absence.) Dozens of people were dying, Silvers says, but her peers saw the tragedy only as philosophical fodder. She needed to be with people who understood the environmental and human horror that was unfolding, and so she booked a flight home immediately—but not before the house and all her possessions burned. (Her father and German Shepherd were rescued.) “It’s been a weird, crazy journey so far,” she says. “I feel like I’m 85 inside.”
Now, a little over a year later, Silvers finds a silver lining from that winter. Relocating to Los Angeles allowed her to audition for two May films for which she’s already garnering widespread attention: Tate Taylor’s horror film, Ma (May 31), and Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut, Booksmart (out now).
In Ma, Silvers plays Maggie, a 16-year-old whose naïve good-naturedness draws her into the orbit of Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer), a small-town veterinarian assistant with a deliciously creepy smile and an eagerness to buy teens Fireball whisky and host their alcohol-fueled ragers. Maggie guides viewers through the psychological thriller and into Sue Ann’s unfinished basement like a doe-eyed Trojan Horse.
In Booksmart, the delightful coming-of-age comedy from first-time director Olivia Wilde, Silvers plays the standoffish dreamboat Hope, a character she likens to Lady Bird’s Kyle (played by Timothée Chalamet). “There’s something about her that you’re attracted to, but can’t explain it,” says Silvers, whose Instagram promotion for the film was casually Instagram Storied by Taylor Swift. But don’t mistake her for the irresistible mean girl, she demurs: “I was not like that in high school. No one was attracted to me, and everyone had a reason for it.”
Silvers grew up in West Los Angeles with five siblings in a house full of music—trumpet, tuba, piano—if you can name it, someone played it. “Being 1 of 6 made me a weirdo in school,” says the actress, who plays the cello. “We were like the von Trapps, and our house was like the Hunger Games. Anytime my mom would get a good sugary cereal, I’d hide a bag from my three older brothers, who’d eat everything.” Since she can remember, she’s used movies to expose herself to the world, from The Sound of Music to Almost Famous, her favorite film. Today she wears an orange cable-knit sweater fashioned over a black turtleneck—a springtime mashup of Annie Hall and Kate Hudson’s wild ’70s ensembles in Almost Famous.
She started modeling before college, and continues the work to pay the bills. “That’s my income,” she says. “Contrary to popular belief, you don’t make money as an actor in the beginning. Your publicist might cost $5000 a month, so you’re losing money.” She headed to New York to pursue acting, but was twice rejected from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. (Chalamet is a recent alum of the school and Silvers says he’s visited Mudspot a few times, followed by gaggles of teenage girls scooping up tables.)
Looking forward, she wants to keep acting and step behind the camera, much like Olivia Wilde’s own trajectory. “She’s worked with some of the greatest directors, like [Martin] Scorsese in Vinyl, and she passed it all on to us,” Silvers says, gushing. “She’s like a mama bear, but also a magical, ethereal angel.”