Diana Silvers is afraid of heights. She mentions this casually, as she poses next to floor-to-ceiling windows on the 39th floor of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. But before you get a chance to process that, she’s moved on to her next thought. “Let’s take a picture with the phone,” she declares, heading over to pick up the receiver of a desktop phone sitting nearby. “Hello, Hollywood? Hold please.” She’s joking—and, yet, she’s not entirely incorrect.
In the span of the next seven days, the 21-year-old actress will star in her two biggest films to date—the Blumhouse horror film Ma, in theaters next Friday, and Olivia Wilde’s high school comedy Booksmart—marking a rapid ascent for the actress who, until recently, was a true newcomer to the industry. “When I step outside and think of the caliber of actors I’ve had the privilege of working with, it just blows my mind,” she said. “I’m brand new, and even my first, first thing, which was Cheerleader no. 2 in Glass, my scene was with James McAvoy. Bruce Willis, like, nodded at me! After the first time we filmed something, M. Night Shymalan pulled me aside and said, ‘You have such a magnetic presence on camera.’ And I’m like, ‘Me? I’m just Cheerleader #21.’”
Even though Glass only came out four months ago, Silvers has long graduated from roles like Cheerleader no. 2, or no. 1, for that matter. In Ma, she has her first leading role as Maggie, a high schooler who stumbles into danger as she and her friends start partying in the basement of the seemingly harmless-turned-definitely sinister Ma, played by Octavia Spencer. “Literally the coolest person ever, truly,” Silvers said of her co-star. “She’s so funny, and yet she always knows what she needs. When she needs to go sit in a corner to get ready for a scene, she does that. She’s mentored all of us. She’s like our ma. She’s got our backs. A little less murderous, but all the fun you see in Ma, that’s Octavia.”
The role also allowed Silvers to not only meet one of her idols, Juliette Lewis, but also play her on-screen daughter and share many intimate and intense scenes together. “That was actually surreal,” she said. “Her role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape is what made me want to be an actress. On our second day, she, Octavia, and I came in early to get to know each other and rehearse, and we were in the van driving to her hotel—she was in a nicer hotel than me because she’s Juliette Lewis—and the sun was setting, and I said, ‘Juliette, I have a confession. I saw What’s Eating Gilbert Grape when I was 13 and your character has stayed with my so deeply.’ And she said, ‘Isn’t that so full circle? Now we’re on set together.’”
The film also co-stars Allison Janney and Luke Evans, rounding out a very stacked cast of acclaimed actors going for it in a horror flick—following the likes of Get Out and Us, both of which were released by Blumhouse, which is also behind Ma, there’re signs that there is growing prestige in the genre. “I don’t want to misquote anyone, but Bea[triz Sequeira] was our on set producer and she was also the on set producer for Get Out and Us, and she said that the real win was just being nominated for the Oscar,” said Silvers. “Then there was the anticipation of what Jordan and Blumhouse were going to do next, and it starts a bigger conversation.”
Silvers’s other project is also being talked about. When we met two days before Booksmart‘s theatrical release, the film currently held a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And the cast’s love of the film only seems to outweigh the critics’. “You’ll read it in all the interviews, we can’t say enough good things about Olivia, about each other,” Silvers said. In the ensemble, she plays Hope, an impossibly cool and incredibly mysterious classmate of Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever’s characters. Though that elusiveness might have had to do with Silvers’s demanding schedule (she was concurrently filming Hulu’s Into the Dark during production). “The main reason you don’t see that much of my character is because I was physically not on set,” she said. “I wasn’t there. But it worked for the storyline.” It does, making Hope’s cool girl seem somehow even cooler, and with a emotionally satisfying final scene, gives Silvers’ performance a lasting impression.
Despite the successive releases of Booksmart and Ma, there was another even bigger project that Silvers narrowly missed out on: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which just premiered to much acclaim at the Cannes Film Festival. “I went out for it, and didn’t get it, obviously,” Silvers said. “Most of the time I don’t care, but when you put your literal heart and soul into something—not getting that was devastating. It was the worst day for me, but the best day for another young woman in Hollywood, which is fucking awesome. Her dream just came true. And my dream will come true later. There are enough roles for everyone, and I truly believe that the roles that we end up doing are the exact ones that are right for us at that time as people and as actors. They’re so much to be happy for. I have no complaints.”
Still to come, Silvers, already has a film with Jessica Chastain in the can (Eve, due out sometime end of year or early 2020), as well as a successful side career modeling (“Gotta pay the bills,” she said). And by successful side career, we mean Silvers closed Stella McCartney’s Fall 2019 show—and she has a fun story about that.
“I was so nervous. I’ve never walked in a fashion show before. I’m literally sweating bullets,” she began. “And I’m closing behind Natalia Vodianova—need I say more. I was like, ‘Don’t fall on Natalia.’ I’m about to go out and someone was like, ‘You know Oprah is here.’ So I’m literally holding my breath walking down this runway, and I can see Oprah in my peripheral. Now I’m getting lightheaded because I haven’t been breathing and it’s Oprah, America’s hero. I realized I had to breath or I’d pass out, so of course there is this photo of me gasping for air, looking like this little dead fish trying to come back to life. Now, this is where it get evens worse. After, everyone is going to the hall where we’re changing and I’m like naked as Oprah walks past. Like, with my nipples out.”
Well, did she meet her?
“I knew it wasn’t my time. When she starts doing her show again, I’ll be there, clapping in the audience.”