Elizabeth Olsen was born and raised in Sherman Oaks, California, the daughter of Jarnette “Jarnie” Fuller (b. 1954), a personal manager, and David “Dave” Olsen, a real estate developer and mortgage banker. In 1995, Olsen’s parents filed for divorce proceedings. Her father remarried McKenzie (her stepmother).

As a child, she received ballet and singing lessons. Lizzie Olsen began acting at a very young age, with appearances in her sisters’ films. Before the age of eleven, Olsen had small roles in How the West Was Fun and the straight-to-video series The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley. Of this period in her acting career, Olsen comments, “Well, that was like after-school for me. I’d hang out and they’d be like, hey, you want to be in this one? Then they’d paint half my face dark brown or something— ‘Silly sister, forgot to put sunscreen on half her face.’” She has an older brother, Trent Olsen and from her father’s second marriage to McKenzie, she has a younger half-sister, Courtney “Taylor” and half-brother, Jake.

Having appeared in her sisters’ videos, when she was in the fourth grade, Olsen began to go on auditions for other projects.

Olsen attended Campbell Hall School in North Hollywood, California from kindergarten through grade 12. After graduation, she enrolled at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 2009, Olsen spent a semester studying in Moscow, Russia at the Art Theatre School. The young actress says of her work towards an acting career: “…I’ve been taking acting classes since I was 7. I took classes, kids auditioning with their mothers, and I didn’t want that, I just liked the classes. I met my agent through understudying a Broadway play, and I was doing some underground stuff that nobody saw.”

Olsen began acting when she was four years of age and co-starred in six of Mary-Kate and Ashley’s productions; she also auditioned for the film, Spy Kids. Olsen has received acting advice from both Mary-Kate and Ashley.

By age 16, Olsen began studying Russian theater, which resparked her interest in acting. In 2009, during her sophomore year, Olsen became the understudy for the Nicole Halladay character in the Broadway show Impressionism. It was during this time that the youngest Olsen sister met her agent. Together they decided that theater would be the path for Elizabeth. This decision was partly motivated by the way the media had treated her older sisters after they had been thrust to the spotlight as babies.

However, Olsen still auditioned for movies, landing her first role six months after she began. The role was Zoe, Catherine Keener’s character’s daughter in Peace, Love and Misunderstanding. As she was preparing to begin filming, she came across the script for Martha Marcy May Marlene. After falling in love with the script and being cast as the main character—a young girl escaping from a cult—just two weeks before shooting, she drove back and forth between both sets until filming was completed on both. The 2011 film became a film festival darling and landed high praise for Olsen’s performance. In addition to receiving extensive praise for her performance, Martha Marcy May Marlene marked Olsen’s first nude appearance in a film. When asked about the nudity, she said that she felt that it added to the film.

She has also acted in Silent House, in which she played the role of Sarah, and appeared in the music video “The Queen” by Carlotta. Lizzie Olsen filmed the movie Red Lights during mid-2011, and the movie was released in the US on July 13, 2012. She also 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.

In 2014, Olsen starred in Legendary’s Godzilla reboot, opposite Bryan Cranston and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Olsen joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe by 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, again alongside her Godzilla co-star Taylor-Johnson, who portrayed her brother Quicksilver.[24] She will reprise her role as the Scarlet Witch in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War.

In September 2014, it was announced that Olsen would portray Audrey Williams, Hank Williams’ wife, manager, and duet partner in the upcoming 2015 biopic I Saw the Light directed by Marc Abraham and starring Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams.

In January 2016, it was announced that Olsen would team up with her Avengers: Age of Ultron co-star Jeremy Renner in Taylor Sheridan’s directorial feature film debut, Wind River.