Choosing to join a carpool via your ride-sharing app always entails a meeting with interesting characters, but your experience probably doesn't beat that of a handful of recent Lyft passengers. Ahead of the premiere of their movie Booksmart, an undercover Jason Sudeikis chauffeured unsuspecting Lyft riders while his Booksmart director and fiancée Olivia Wilde guided the conversation from afar. It may sound like a dream, but Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis' Undercover Lyft video for ACLU is real-life inspiration for a brighter future.
Wilde makes her feature directorial debut with May 24's Booksmart, which follows two bookish best friends on the cusp of high school graduation as they realize their academic drives prevented them from having the same fun as their peers. As Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) attempt to squeeze four years' worth of antics and partying into one night, their adventure brings them to a Lyft car driven by none other than their school principal (Sudeikis).
As budding activists, Molly and Amy's use of Lyft is fitting for Wilde and Sudeikis' latest onscreen partnership. Starting in July 2017, the ride-sharing service has included the American Civil Liberties Foundation (ACLU) in its Round Up & Donate program, which allows users to round up their Lyft fare in support of different charities. Marking its centennial year in January 2020, the ACLU works to defend and preserve the individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.
Wilde, a board member of the ACLU's Southern California chapter, is a strong supporter of Lyft's efforts to specifically benefit the organization. "I’m very interested in alternate forms of fundraising," she tells Elite Daily. "There needs to be more incorporation of fundraising into our day-to-day spending and it’s up to big companies like Lyft to make that easy for consumers."
Wilde demonstrated her passion for the ACLU in the latest Undercover Lyft video, which plants a loosely disguised celebrity in the driver's seat to raise awareness of a charity. Past participants include Taraji P. Henson, Chance the Rapper, DNCE, and more. This time, Sudeikis picked up unknowing Lyft passengers around Los Angeles before his fellow Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte hopped on board and began group discussions about the Round Up & Donate feature and taking a stance on social and political issues. Wilde listened in from a separate car, sending talking points into Sudeikis' hidden earpiece.
In between Sudeikis and Forte hilariously serenading a passenger with "Happy Birthday" and Sudeikis feigning ignorance about his former SNL colleague Seth Meyers, riders talk about their participation in Round Up & Donate. One passenger even brings up his past volunteer work with the ACLU, signifying that this isn't just a viral video prank meant for laughs.
"You’ve got to use entertainment to bring people to start conversations," Wilde says. "This is something we’ve been talking about a lot with Booksmart — it’s sort of a Trojan horse effect. You create entertainment, you make people laugh, and while doing so, you can actually sneak in something really meaningful."
Choosing to donate to the ACLU reaffirms a wide desire to protect civil liberties, and Wilde is blunt about why the need for donations has amplified in recent years. "This is not just hyperbole," she says. "It’s a time where we’re in desperate need of the attorneys who work for the ACLU to fight on our behalf every single day."
She also has advice for those who may not be able to afford frequent donations. "The ACLU is an organization that benefits from people just knowing about their existence, and there’s a lot of petitions that one can sign," she says. "As a volunteer, you can stand on the corner or house a fundraiser at your house or you can just share information. It’s imperative for the ACLU for their fights to be publicized so that ... if you can’t support, someone in your community might be able to."
The success of the ACLU relies on people seeing past differences and recognizing humans' universal traits, and Wilde's interest in this cause ties into the theme of Booksmart. "I really connected with the idea of feeling misunderstood because our story, our movie is about women who feel misunderstood," she says. "They feel like they’ve been put into a box, they don’t feel like their kind of complexity is being appreciated, so they set out on a mission to prove that they are in fact smart and fun."
The director's wish for Booksmart audiences' biggest takeaway also relates to the decision to see the best in people. "I want people to attempt to see others more fairly or more clearly," Wilde says. "It’s so easy for us to make snap judgments about each other and to kind of cast each other as heroes or villains as opposed to allowing more complexity. So I hope the film allows people to have a good time and have fun and laugh first and foremost, but also [see] the message being, 'I love my friends and I want to value my time with them.'"