Olivia Wilde's parents inspired her to be daring
Olivia Wilde has dared to live life to the fullest, thanks to the example of her parents, investigative journalists Andrew and Leslie Cockburn.
Andrew and Leslie are both award-winning reporters who have covered some of the most dangerous issues and reported from war zones around the world while being doting parents to their three kids. Olivia grew up always knowing her parents had her back, giving her the confidence to try new things.
“That's the spirit they've had throughout my personal life and my career: really allowing me to be myself but always a watchful eye making sure I'm okay,” she told the Irish Independent in 2010.
While Olivia has gone on to have a successful and critically acclaimed career as an actress and director, she remains humble when it comes to her family. "I'm the least interesting person at the dinner table, and I'm really good with that," she told Elle in 2016.
Here’s everything to know about Olivia Wilde’s parents, Andrew and Leslie Cockburn.
They married in 1977
Andrew was born on Jan. 7, 1947, in a London suburb, while Leslie was born on Sept. 2, 1952, in San Mateo, California — some 5,400 miles away.
The two first crossed paths at a London club called Zanzibar, when Leslie was in the English capital finishing grad school, she recalled in a 2009 C-SPAN interview. Though Andrew grew up in Ireland, he moved back to London when he was 17 for work.
The two married in 1977 and went on to welcome three kids: eldest daughter Chloe in 1979, actress Olivia in 1984 and their only son Charlie in 1993.
Andrew grew up in Ireland and Olivia spent summers there as a kid
Though Andrew was born north of London, he grew up in East Cork, Ireland, where technology wasn't part of life yet. He told C-SPAN that a horse was his mode of transportation since they didn’t have cars. Andrew also revealed he was raised without a phone or fridge.
After having kids, Andrew and Leslie kept their children connected to their Irish roots by having them spend summers in Ardmore, a village in the south of Ireland. Olivia later recalled feeling like “the luckiest child in the world” because she felt like she grew up there.
“I found Ireland much more inspiring as a kid, much more fun, and the people had such an amazing effect on me, and I credit a lot of my growth as a child and a lot of my happiness with the people I was surrounded by in Ireland,” she told Irish Independent.
They are investigative journalists, writers and documentary producers
Olivia isn’t the only big name in her family. Andrew and Leslie are both renowned journalists, authors and documentarians who have reported on some of the world’s biggest and most pressing issues.
The two have collaborated on several documentaries for PBS Frontline, as well as the feature documentary American Casino in 2009, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Andrew also won a Peabody Award for the 1981 film The Red Army, which he produced for PBS, while Leslie won an Emmy Award in 1999 for her documentary Yuri The Great.
They’ve also coauthored books, including Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship in 1991 and One Point Safe in 1997.
Out on the field, Leslie was a war reporter who faced harrowing situations. She was once evacuated from a flight in the Middle East because there was a bomb onboard while pregnant with Olivia, and at another point, she was held at gunpoint in Somalia while pregnant with Olivia’s younger brother Charlie.
Olivia told Vanity Fair in 2022 that her parents would repeat the phrase, “Don’t be boring,” a saying that “affected every decision” Olivia has made throughout her life.
“Any crossroads I came to where there was one option that was safer than the other, I would take the less safe route. That led to some great things, like taking a chance on being an actor,” she said.
Leslie ran for office in 2018 — and Olivia supported her campaign
In 2018, Leslie ran as the Democratic candidate to represent Virginia's 5th congressional district in the House of Representatives with Olivia’s full support. The actress appeared at a rally for her mom and told several outlets at the time how proud she was to see Leslie making a run for office.
“I’ve seen my mom do incredible things: she’s worked in war zones as a journalist, she’s spoken truth to power in different ways, she’s also just my kick-ass mom, but seeing her in this position was unbelievable,” she told The Guardian in 2019.
Though Leslie had favorable polling throughout the campaign, she eventually lost to Republican opponent Denver Riggleman.
They wrote the screenplay for The Peacemaker starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman
Andrew and Leslie dipped their toes into fiction when they wrote the screenplay and coproduced the 1997 thriller The Peacemaker, starring George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. The movie developed from an article written by the pair about nuclear weapon smuggling in the Soviet Union based on information they discovered in intelligence reports and from sources in the U.S. government.
Olivia visited the set with her parents at the time, where she had lunch with Clooney. She later recalled how he was the first Hollywood actor she met, setting a “pretty high standard.”
“He’s genuinely sincere, smart, gracious, and I like his politics, too, which always helps,” she told Town & Country in 2012.
They used to host parties with celebrities in their D.C. home
Andrew and Leslie were well-connected in D.C. and often held parties at their Georgetown home where celebrities would stop by, including Mick Jagger. The Rolling Stones member later created the HBO series Vinyl that Olivia appeared in — but their earlier interactions weren’t the warmest.
“I was probably 10, maybe a little younger, and he was sitting in my seat at the dinner table,” she recalled in an Emmy magazine cover story in 2016. “I came in and demanded that he get off my chair. He told me to go to bed, which was hilarious at the time, even more hilarious now that he’s my boss.”
Olivia often posts sweet pictures celebrating her parents
The actress doesn’t hesitate to celebrate her parents whenever she can, often posting about them on Mother’s Day and Father’s day, as well as their birthdays.
“Cheers to the woman who maintained her wild spirit while having three kids and a massive career. Thanks for always being willing to hold me upside down, even if it was the 300th time that day. I love you,” Olivia captioned a 2020 Instagram post of her mother in a field of daisies, as well as a throwback of Leslie holding Olivia upside down as a kid.
“ ❤️ dad • grandpa • smartest guy I’ll ever know • chef • friend • genius • hero • truly just the most wonderful person, i love you i love you i love you ❤️,” she wrote.
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