Interview By Matt Barone

Science fiction has seen its fair share of knockouts. Back in the 1970s and early '80s, geeks launched pocket rockets for Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) in Star Wars, the same way they fantasized about threeways with sentient Battlestar Galactica robots Numbers Six (Tricia Helfer) and Eight (Grace Park) from 2004-2009. To that list you can now add Olivia Wilde, who makes her sexy sci-fi debut this Friday in TRON: Legacy, playing Quorra, a childlike computer program that's proficient in fisticuffs. The stunning Megan Fox once told GQ that Wilde is "so sexy she makes me want to strangle a mountain ox with my bare hands." Not exactly the visual we were hoping for, but we'll take it.

For Wilde, TRON: Legacy represents the turning of the key as her career heads into overdrive. Known for her role on Fox's hit show House, she's heading into a 2011 packed with movie roles, including a prominent one in Iron Man director Jon Favreau's summer tentpole Cowboys vs. Aliens. Right now, though, it's all about TRON. Try to stop daydreaming about showing Quorra your lightsaber for a second and listen up as the actress discusses her nerd laugh, appealing to other women, and what tight outfit your girlfriend should wear next Halloween.

Complex: With a huge movie like TRON: Legacy, you'd think that the studio controls everything. Were you able to provide any input into how Quorra would look and act?

Olivia Wilde: Yes, absolutely. I credit Joe Kosinski with being so collaborative when it came to creating Quorra. Very early on, we discovered that Quorra was Joan of Arc—that was our big discovery. We were so excited to finally have a historical figure to reference, and the reason I came to Joan of Arc was because, like Quorra, Joan of Arc was this unlikely warrior. She was this fearless child who seemed to have this power that came from another world, from a higher power, who was guided only by passion and selflessness. So once I kind of made that connection, everything that followed in creating her character, including the physicality, all came from that.

Complex: What's interesting about Quorra is that she's not your typical sci-fi heroine, made out to be overly sexy. Was that your intention? She's still really damn hot, though. Let's be clear.

Olivia Wilde: I really wanted her to appeal to both men and women. I didn't want her to be this slinky, sexy thing who looks hot in the suit, and [who] the boys like but the girls feel alienated from, and they don't understand. I wanted her to inspire young women to feel tough and embrace both their intelligence and sexiness. I want all girls to be Quorra for Halloween. [Laughs.] This year, actually, before the movie even came out, I saw a girl dressed up as Quorra, and I was so happy! I took pictures of her and sent them to Joe, like, "We've done it!"

Complex: What's up with her short haircut?

Olivia Wilde: In movies this big, decisions like that go all the way to the top—everyone has input on hair. [Laughs.] I was so excited that everyone involved agreed on her having this almost androgynous haircut. I so didn't want to have the long, flowing mane that'd get in her way when she's trying to fight. Initially, when Sam [Garrett Hedlund's character] meets her, he doesn't know if she's a man or a woman. She arrives in this light-buggy, saves him, and is wearing this incredible helmet that warps her voice. So he keeps calling her "man" and "dude," and suddenly the helmet recedes and she is this very childlike little girl. I was very interested in that depth of this character, who on the outside is very sexy and intense-looking, but on the inside is this very innocent child.

Complex: Do you think she's naïve in some ways?

Olivia Wilde: I think she's naïve in the best sense of the word. She's naïve in the way that we should all try to stay naïve. She has what they call in Buddhism a "beginner's mind," where everything is experienced for the first time and seen with such optimism and appreciation. She's not inexperienced because she's really old. [Laughs.] She's been around in the TRON world for hundreds of years. She behaves in a very un-self-conscious way, and I loved that about her! I was so excited that the entire creative team wanted me to go even further with that. I remember we were shooting this dinner scene, and by accident I just cracked up in the middle of the scene. I have a very nerdy, cackly laugh, which I usually like to change when I'm in movies. They said, "Oh my God! Quorra has to laugh like that at wrong moments." That opened my mind to other characteristics, as well.

Complex: The fashion in TRON: Legacy, and especially the look of your character, is pretty wild. Do you think the film will inspire new fashion trends?

Olivia Wilde: Yes, it's crazy, because two years ago, we were discussing the impact that TRON would have on the fashion world. I think it's because the fashion, look, and feel of TRON is very timely. It's responding to what's happening in the world, this slick, futuristic, non-organic kind of aesthetic, and I think that's why the look of TRON has resonated so much already with audiences that are excited to see it. But it is kind of amazing that this is so much more than a film. That's what I realized when I first went to the [TRON: Legacy Pop-Up Shop, in Culver City, Calif.], where they have all the fashion inspired by TRON on sale. I even saw a snowboard inspired by TRON, which I promptly requested. [Laughs.] I just suddenly had this moment, where I said, "Wow, this is so much more than a movie, isn't it?" And the people around me were like, "Umm, yeah. Yeah, Olivia—you're the last one to realize that." [Laughs.]

Complex: TRON: Legacy is kind of a big deal, of course, and then next summer you have Jon Favreau's awesome-looking Cowboys vs. Aliens. You're everywhere these days. How are you handling that?

Olivia Wilde: It's a balance. I feel very, very lucky. I'm aware that this kind of momentum doesn't exist forever in this business, so I'm happy to have it right now. The definition of success, for me, is "longevity," so you don't want to burn out. Luckily, over the past year, I've been able to play very different people in each movie. Right now, it's a wild time because everything is bubbling at once—I have TRON coming out and the Cowboys vs. Aliens trailer playing.

Complex: How does it feel to drive down Sunset Boulevard and seeing yourself on the big TRON billboard?

Olivia Wilde: It's so funny, I haven't been in town. [Laughs.] I was in Haiti all last week [doing activism work], and someone was telling me that they saw a huge version of me while driving in Santa Monica, and it's particularly weird being in a place as far away as Haiti to think about what all of this means. It sort of puts it all into perspective. But this film is something I'm really proud of. Publicity is not always fun, but it is when you feel you're representing something you care about, like TRON: Legacy.

Complex: This movie has the potential to turn you into a sci-fi icon...

Olivia Wilde: You think? Well, the good thing about completely transforming physically for a movie is that I'm convinced that even if this movie does really well, I'll still be able to walk through town unnoticed...

Complex: Don't count on that.

Olivia Wilde: [Laughs.] You don't think so? Damn!