Meet Booksmart’s Diana Silvers, the actress leading Hollywood’s new Gen-Z lineup
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“I’m a Scorpio who gets ghosted by Aries.” Not your average lunchtime conversation starter, but this one-liner is from Diana Silvers, the straight-talking 21-year-old turning heads in two of this month’s big movie releases: (Tate Taylor’s new-wave horror flick) and (Olivia Wilde’s fêted directorial debut).
Armed with intuitive comic timing and a cosmic Julia Roberts-esque smile, Silvers is new-school Hollywood. She isn’t about to refrain from discussing the pitfalls of modern dating, or the times she’s cried during SoulCycle. Today, she’s ridden a Citi Bike in the early summer heat from her home in Williamsburg to meet at Dimes, the Canal Street hangout that counts photographer Petra Collins as a regular.
Lunch itself unfolds like one of Silvers’ self-penned skits – she hopes to take her ‘Children of Serial Killers Support Group’ sketch to one day (“I mean, I live in New York, you know, I’m just putting it out there…”). After three attempts to interrupt her flow, the waiter finally secures her order; a roasted salmon steak, ‘well-done’. Then she returns to sharing her mother’s Nineties passport photo via AirDrop – it’s a Winona-style pixie haircut reference – and discussing the books she currently can’t put down.
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“I’m reading this right now,” she says, pulling Eve Babitz’s out of her denim sling bag, pretending to present it to an audience. “This is my book recommendation, world.” Joan Didion, a fellow Californian, is her other favourite female author.
Silvers grew up in Los Angeles in a shambly home originally built by the actor and comedian Joe E Brown. “I think my parents got it at a teardown price,” she says. The fifth of six children, she is the first in her family to go into acting. “Yep, I have a lot of siblings, it was a house full of chaos.” There’s a pause while she stirs the few remaining cubes in her iced coffee. “If I think about it, I can tell you how old they all are.”
At 12 she decided she wanted to act after watching . “I was going through my ‘Oh my god, Leonardo DiCaprio is so hot’ phase,” she says, both hands planted palm down on the bib of her thrifted Calvin Klein overalls. “And then that film changed the way I thought about the world and how I treat people, and I knew what I want to do.” Around the same time she began writing scripts and skits, finishing her first screenplay aged 13, “during the summer that we didn’t have internet”.
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By 17, Silvers had been scouted by IMG, just after she’d been accepted into NYU’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts, which she funded through modelling jobs when her studies would allow. “It was good timing, NYU is expensive. I’m a public school child by the way,” she says. “I wanna make that v-e-r-y clear.”
Her break came with , M. Night Shyamalan’s fantasy thriller where she played “cheerleading girl number two” and got to work with James McAvoy and Bruce Willis.
After that it was . And after was . While her arrival in Hollywood seemingly happened overnight, she’s mindful about pacing herself and staying selective over the roles she takes on. “There’s a lot of stuff that I didn’t audition for, because I felt in my gut that it would be jumping the gun. I was always picky even though there was nothing in my career that warranted me to be picky. I was just fortunate that I had modelling as a means to pay for life.”
These days fashion is about red-carpet appearances or prepping for a role, rather than modelling. The actress is fresh from a week-long LA press junket for , in which she plays Maggie, a teenager caught in a partying spree that goes fatefully wrong, alongside Octavia Spencer and Juliette Lewis Stylist Chloe Hartstein texts her to say they’d made it onto American ’s best-dressed list in the sequinscattered Miu Miu gown she wore to the film’s premiere a few days before.
Image credit: Anna Kooris/Universal Pictures
“I never thought I was a fashionable person! This is Diana,” she says, before re-routing the conversation towards Lewis, who plays her mother in the movie. After their second day of rehearsal, Silvers plucked up the courage to talk to her idol. “Juliette, I have a confession,” she told Lewis. “Your character in and how kind she was to Arnie, changed my life and made me want to become an actor.’ Lewis’ reaction was characteristically cool. “‘And now we’re now working together. The universe kind-of worked it out that way.’”
Was she nervous going into the project? “I got nervous a week before we had to do all the intense stuff and called my manager and said ‘I don’t know if I know how to act, tbh’. Then the next day we were on set and I was like ‘, you this’. It’s in me, I know how to do this.”
The career highs are something she puts down to feeling “emotionally available” right now, which doesn’t mean she isn’t immune to moments of unsureness. “The other week I had to turn off my phone and listen to The Paper Kites. Then I got to LA and was like, ‘ohhhhh, you were nervoussss’. Also, ‘you were on your period’. But those will be the days when you have your best auditions. And also the days when you’ll cry in an exercise class. Preferably SoulCycle.”
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Silvers is part of an evolving Hollywood that is about building a supportive, creative, community. Olivia Wilde’s is the product of an all-female writing team and reads as a of emerging actors aged between 20-25 years old, that aren’t only about making movies. “Everyone in the cast has a side hustle,” she says. Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon and Beanie Feldstein are seasoned Broadway actors; Kaitlyn Dever has a band with her younger sister; Nico Hiraga and Victoria Ruesga are skaters. “Edouardo Franco has his music project ,” Silvers reminds me. “And his majestic locks.”
Diana’s character Hope is framed in the eyes of the film’s co-star Amy (played by Dever) as “the basic hot girl who’s going to peak at high school”, before swooping in for the third-act plot twist.
Wilde personally nurtured the young cast, playing both director and “mom”. “There aren’t enough synonyms for ‘lovely’ and ‘great’ that I could spew out to describe how wonderful she is as a person and a director,” says Silver, as the waiter swoops in during a rare pause in the conversation. Outside, the city’s afternoon heat is still raging and she has plans to cycle uptown, to read and people-watch in Central Park.
The approach to her future is just as meditative. “I think with anything career-related there really is no rush. I’ve just started, needs to give themselves a break,” she says.“It can be bewildering and discouraging when you see Hollywood royalty doing the stuff you want to be doing, but there’s always the Brad Pitts who come from nowhere and fucking make it.”