Not to brag or anything,” says 9-year-old Mary-Kate Olsen, part-time fourth grader and full-time multimillionaire, ”but I’m pretty tough.” Her twin sister, Ashley, would have to agree. ”You don’t want to get on her nerves,” she says. ”Sometimes she gets mad, and it’s not a pretty sight.”
Fresh from a business meeting with their high-powered entertainment lawyer at his plush Century City, Calif., office, the two are lunching with him and a business associate at the L.A. theme restaurant Dive! And Mary-Kate, unfazed by her sister’s unflattering description, is digging into an enormous basket of fries. That she is the bossier twin is acceptable to both. ”She’s good for me,” says Ashley, sucking down a mega-fruit shake. ”No one tries anything around her.”
Forget Full House, the high-rated ABC series that first showcased the oddly appealing girls. Since its cancellation last year, the twins, who shared the role of Michelle Tanner, have become one of Hollywood’s booming entertainment empires, worth upwards of $10 million. In addition to a list of credits rivaling those of stars twice their combined ages (two top-selling children’s albums, three TV movies, eight hugely successful musical mystery videos, and the feature film It Takes Two), the girls have an equally impressive future: two feature films for Warner Bros., a TV series for ABC (expected in January), five more videos, and a 14-book Scholastic Inc. publishing deal.
So it’s fortunate that at least one of these kids is tough — and not only because of heavy workloads and the pressures of child stardom. The tabloids have trumpeted the February breakup of their parents, Jarnie and Dave, who jointly manage their daughters’ careers. The latest upset was Ashley’s reported absence from Dave’s March wedding to a former coworker from his mortgage company; she apparently stayed home with Mom while Mary-Kate attended the ceremony. Sounds like a family disaster of Macaulay Culkin proportions. But the twins and their father (their mother declined to comment) agreed to their first interview since the split — if only to set the record straight.
”The reality is that the transition has been very smooth,” insists Dave Olsen, who also shares custody of the twins’ older brother Trent and younger sister Elizabeth. ”Everyone sees eye to eye. The girls are fine.”
It’s safe to speculate that these kids have not had a normal childhood, and chances are that problems could develop as a result of the upheaval in their family life — and their huge success. But for two kids who grew up on a TV soundstage (they made their Full House debut at 9 months), they appear to be relatively unaffected by fame. ”We do everything other kids do,” claims Mary-Kate, who, like her sister, receives a weekly allowance of just $5 in exchange for cleaning her room. ”We go to school, play with our friends, see our pony, have sleep-overs. Some people at school are jealous, but most like us.”
Some people at work have been envious too, according to more than one person close to the Full House cast. Indeed, three of the Olsens’ former costars — John Stamos, Candace Cameron, and Jodi Sweetin — declined to comment for this article. ”There’s a little jealousy,” admits Judy Savage, Sweetin’s agent. ”It’s like, why did they get to have all the success?”