Olsen began acting when she was four years old and co-starred in six of Mary-Kate and Ashley's productions; she also auditioned for the film Spy Kids. She almost quit acting in 2004 due to the media frenzy surrounding Mary-Kate's eating disorder. Olsen's breakout role came in 2011, in the film Martha Marcy May Marlene. The film, along with Olsen's performance, received critical acclaim. Olsen was nominated for and won numerous critics awards for her portrayal of the titular character Martha, a girl suffering from delusions and paranoia after fleeing her life in a cult and returning to her family. She next appeared in the horror film remake Silent House, in which she played the role of Sarah. The film received mixed reviews, but Olsen's performance was praised. Olsen also appeared in the music video "The Queen" by Carlotta. Olsen filmed the movie Red Lights in mid-2011, and it was released in the U.S. on July 13, 2012. She starred in Josh Radnor's film Liberal Arts, which was released on January 22, 2012. She and Dakota Fanning starred in Very Good Girls, a 2013 release.
In January 2013, Olsen was nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award. She co-starred in the 2013 American remake of the 2003 South Korean film Oldboy; she played Marie, a young social worker who developed a relationship with the protagonist, played by Josh Brolin. She played Edie Parker, Jack Kerouac's first wife and the author of the Beat Generation memoir You'll Be Okay, in Kill Your Darlings. Also in 2013, she portrayed the leading role in In Secret, an adaptation of Émile Zola's 1867 classic novel Thérèse Raquin.
In 2014, Olsen starred in Legendary's reboot Godzilla, opposite Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Olsen joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe playing the character of Scarlet Witch in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the 2015 sequel to The Avengers. She first appeared as the character in a mid-credits scene of the film Captain America: The Winter Soldier, alongside her Godzilla co-star Taylor-Johnson, who portrayed her brother Quicksilver. She reprised the role in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War and the 2018 sequel Avengers: Infinity War.
Olsen portrayed Audrey Williams, Hank Williams's wife, manager, and duet partner in the 2015 biopic film I Saw the Light directed by Marc Abraham and starring Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams.
Olsen starred alongside her Avengers: Age of Ultron co-star Jeremy Renner in Taylor Sheridan's directorial feature film debut, Wind River. Later that year she starred in Matt Spicer's Ingrid Goes West opposite Aubrey Plaza. Both films were released in August 2017.
In late 2018, Disney confirmed a Marvel television series starring Olsen and Paul Bettany would be aired on their upcoming Disney+ streaming service; the title of the show, WandaVision, was confirmed in April 2019.
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