1 She performed the voiceover for the Andrex “be kind to your behind” adverts in 2013. “I did ask if I could get paid in puppies,” she revealed. “They said no.”
2 Her first career plan was to go into teaching. Before turning her sights to acting she trained as a primary-school teacher at Homerton College, Cambridge. “I wasn’t terribly committed, and I would have been a terrible teacher.”
3 As a job-hunting graduate she was told by careers-advice software that she would make an ideal HGV driver – “because I’ve got 100% spatial awareness. I’d be able to back them into tight parking spots.”
4 During her university years she auditioned successfully for the Cambridge Footlights troupe, where she met David Mitchell and Robert Webb – in whose sitcom Peep Show she went on to star as Sophie Chapman.
5 After graduating she worked as a cleaner and secretary (“not a very good one”).
6 Her preparation for the role of Carol Thatcher (Margaret’s daughter) in The Iron Lady involved close scrutiny of her appearances on I’m a Celebrity… “to get her voice right”.
7 In her sixth-form years, Colman attended the same school, Gresham’s, as Stephen Frears (and Benjamin Britten, WH Auden and James Dyson).
8 She gained 16kg (2st 7lb or 35lb) in weight to play the cake-guzzling Queen Anne for her Oscar-winning turn in The Favourite. (“It was liberating and brilliant.”)
10 In 2006, she played one half of a naturist couple trying to organise a naked wedding in the mockumentary Confetti – which she has described as the worst experience of her life. “I would have felt better about it had I been aware how much was actually going to be on display.”
11 In a high-profile stage production of Hay Fever in 2012, alongside Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Jeremy Northam, she got the giggles after forgetting her lines. “West End audiences haven’t paid to see that. I felt really bad.”
12 Another onstage mishap was wetting herself when acting opposite David Mitchell. “We were doing The Miser and there were a lot of quick changes and David never quite managed to get his bow tie in the right place. It became too much to bear.”
13 Toilet paper clearly plays a big role in her life: she got her husband to steal some from Buckingham Palace when they were there for a formal dinner. “He got two squares of loo roll, just to say, ‘We got it from Buckingham Palace.’”
14 She deployed an under-skirt sponge as a receptacle for Emma Stone’s fingers when filming a sex scene in The Favourite. “It was a big, wet sponge. So Emma went up my leg and she went, ‘Ugh!’”.
15 Her first name is Sarah [Caroline Olivia Colman].
16 She had to argue with Wikipedia to get her listed age changed after she spotted it was wrong by eight years. “I said, ‘It’s really upsetting me that you’ve made me eight years older than I actually am.’ They said, ‘We’d have to see a birth certificate to prove it,’ and I went, ‘Whose fucking birth certificate have you looked at in the first place to make me eight years older!?”’
17 The character she played in The Night Manager was not originally meant to be pregnant. But she was pregnant while filming, so the writers incorporated it into the script. They also incorporated lots of chairs, so she didn’t have to stand up all day.
18 She once (and possibly still does) have a clown klaxon as her mobile phone ringtone.
19 She met her husband, Ed, when they were both cast in a student theatre production (of Alan Ayckbourn’s Table Manners). He gave up acting early on, and is now a writer.
20 Her dog is called Alfred, Lord Waggyson.
It takes a lot for a film to be nominated for even one Academy Award. But to be nominated for 10? Now, that’s a feat. That’s what Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos achieved with period drama The Favourite, which premieres exclusively in Ayala cinemas today, February 20.
It might have the huge hair, the big dresses, and the ornate castles, but The Favouriteisn’t your typical period drama—not when Lanthimos is the mind behind The Lobster, a black comedy film where people have 45 days to find a soulmate before turning into an animal. He also helmed Dogtooth, a drama about a couple who try to keep their children as isolated from the outside world as possible.
The Favourite stars celebrated English actress Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, the sick and spoiled royal who leaves it to her aide Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) to handle the government side of her rule. Queen Anne enjoys being Her Royal Highness, while Sarah does the dirty work of her duties. But when Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) turns up in search of a job, they start going head-to-head to become Queen Anne’s, well, favorite. Needless to say, things start getting crazy. The film also starsNicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.
The film is a reunion for Lanthimos and The Lobster co-stars Colman and Weisz. Colman is most known from the series Broadchurch and the film Tyrannosaur but if you’re not familiar with her yet, you might want to catch her as Queen Elizabeth II in the upcoming season of The Crown. She’s long been known as one of the best English actresses both on TV and film, which is why her work on The Favourite has earned her many nominations and awards. She won Best Actress in a Leading Role from the British Acedemy Film Awards and she’s also up for Best Actress at the upcoming Academy Awards.
Before you find out for yourself what makes The Favourite an awards-show favorite, Colman shares about her experience working on the film in this exlcusive interview. She talks about the process of preparing for her role, working with Lanthimos, her “bitches” and now-lifelong-friends Weisz and Stone, and finally making it big on the international stage.
How much did you know of the history behind The Favourite?
Not a thing. It’s amazing, isn’t it? The film is surprisingly accurate, because it does feel so far away from what we know to be period drama. You think it has got to be made up. But so much is correct.
I just love the way Yorgos has done it. It’s not the way you think a period drama is going to be. Everything he did with the shots; the fish-eye lenses. It’s all so different from any period movie you’ve seen before.
But, in a way, it’s less about the history of the piece as it as about this woman who has lost all these children, and her love for these other women. It’s less about holding yourself in a certain way, or getting used to the way people speak in period dramas. These are real people, and you can kind of smell them. They’re a bit grubby and unwashed. I was actually a little nervous about it being a period drama, but it just isn’t that.
How does the process of filmmaking begin?
It’s all written down. Yorgos is less interested in big discussions. When a script is done, he says, throw yourself into that. You don’t really need to know all the things around it. This was written so beautifully. It’s obvious, the moments when she’s being a cow, when she’s being manipulative, or she’s bored and she’s childish. So we just let rip and run with it.
What did you like about Queen Anne when you read the script?
The fact that she displays every emotion, good and bad. Every trait. It’s great to play somebody who does so many things. It’s a challenge and it’s fun, so it was a no-brainer. I really wanted to play her. It’s a gift, really, to play all these things.
Did you find it personally helpful to dig into any research?
Only afterwards, which is what I often do. Otherwise, I think, you’re throwing too much in. The work has been done for you if it’s a good writer. I think, What could I possibly find out that the script hasn’t already told me? It’s there in the scenes between Anne, Sarah, and Abigail. You feel Anne’s frustration in the film. I wouldn’t want her job. You can’t really trust that anybody genuinely likes you. Everyone is just waiting to get their own needs met at all times, and you believe that of Sarah, but you find out she might be the only one genuinely there for Anne. She might be the love of her life.
You’ve worked with Rachel before, on The Lobster, which Yorgos also directed.
Yes. Rachel and I only had one scene in The Lobster, where she was instrumental in tying me up. I remember that we got on very well, very quickly. She’s a lovely, fun person. Emma, I’d never met. Yorgos held a lovely little dinner, for us to meet each other, and she came in full of energy and you instantly think, Oh, I’m going to like you. We will be friends for life, I think, the three of us.
Rachel had done a lot of theater and physical theater as a young woman, and Yorgos loves to rehearse in a physical way. So it was so much fun to do that with her. She was gung-ho, throwing herself into it, and so brave. It’s a joy to work with someone like that, because once one person has gone for it, it encourages the rest of you to go, “Great, let’s all jump in.” There was no embarrassment here at all.
Yorgos seems particularly interested in awkwardness and embarrassment, and a lot of this film deals with those things.
I think that’s true. I think that comes through the rehearsal process, especially for The Favourite. He comes from theatre too, so we’d play classic theatre trust games and things like that. You become very close, and that really helps. It’s not like you’re meeting on Day One, “How do you do?” And then you’re shooting a sex scene. That’s hideous.
Also Yorgos has no embarrassment, and it always starts from the top. He’s a disarmingly big, gentle bear. He’s lovely, warm, friendly. I only once saw him roll his eyes and go, “Ugh,” and it was when I asked him what happened to the girl at the end of Dogtooth [laughs]. He went, “Ah, I don’t know. The film is finished, make your own mind up.” He puts it all up on screen and then it’s up to you to decide.
You want to impress Yorgos. He wants you to be human, and real, so you go for it. You’re snotty and spitting. I wanted him to think, “Oh, good. She’s willing to be disgusting.” I think we all felt that. We always want to see him do a little smile and nod at the end of a scene.
You say it’s not a traditional period drama, but you do get to wear some spectacular costumes in the film. Did you enjoy that aspect of it?
I loved them. It’s Sandy Powell [Powell is a three-time Academy Award winner and an 11-time nominee]. The Queen’s clothes were hilarious. I spent most of the film in a nightie, so I was fine. Poor old Emma and Rachel were a little more tailored. I was eating cake and pizza and trying to keep as fat as possible, while wearing a big, flowing nightie.
Yorgos encourages his team: “Come on. Surprise me. Do something bold.” So you have Nadia Stacey, the makeup designer, coming up with such fun looks. In the ball scene, you may not even notice them, but instead of those heart-shaped beauty marks you see, she came up with stencils of horses and carriages. Taking something we’ve seen before, but making it bonkers. Sandy was the same way. A flash of red, or the servants wearing denim. There’s so much to see from all these different inputs, and Yorgos gave everyone the courage and free rein to have fun. Everyone was told, “Do it. Nothing is too silly.”
You’ve been on British screens for a while, and now you’re enjoying international success. How hard fought has that been?
It’s been a long, slow road, but I feel very blessed. I’ve always worked. Apart from the first couple of years, I’m also grateful for that because it teaches you to push. I suppose you come into your own. There are more roles now for women in their 40s, and the roles get more interesting because they lean on that experience. It used to be over once you’re passed the ingenue thing, but those voices are being heard now. People go, “I want to see myself depicted, because I’m the one in charge of the remote control and I’m paying the bills.” Love doesn’t just belong to people in their 20s. I’m thrilled those parts have come around for me.
I suspect Olivia Colman is secretly quite relieved that awards season is over. Not because she doesn’t want to keep adding prizes to her mantlepiece, of course she wants to do that. But more because it will mean that, for a few months at least, she might not have to do another publicity appearance.
Colman has never been a star who pretends that she loves red carpets. She has until now, with all this global attention for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite, been a rooted British television star, a national, not international, treasure. She had never partaken in the glossy, pompous American red carpet circuit before, and if ever she did pick up a gong at, say, the BAFTAs for Broadchurch, she usually wore black. The first time she won a Golden Globe, back in 2017 for The Night Manager, she famously skipped the ceremony, and only found out that she had won the next day, when she switched on her phone after going to bed at a sensible 10pm.
It is perhaps self-deprecation, rather than irreverence, that has prevented Colman from finding her inner ‘red carpet star’ in the past. Following that Golden Globes miss, she told the BBC, “I looked at the list and thought ‘I won’t win in that group’”, and later regretted missing out.
Before promotional duties for The Favourite began, she hired the former Vogue stylist Mary Fellowes- and a visible confidence has appeared. Fellowes has dressed Colman in well-cut, subtly glamorous pieces by Stella McCartney, Emilia Wickstead and Roksanda on the tour so far, yet Colman keeps her feet on the ground, having the fittings at home in her lounge with her tea and her dogs, rather than in some fancy atelier.
She’s taught her to make subliminal points about her personal values via her clothing. All of those brands are helmed by working mothers or are family-owned. Sometimes the duo choose to highlight labels with strong sustainability principles, other times it’s about giving a platform to a new affordable brand, like London start-up The Fold. If her dress is classic, she’s wearing an eye-catching accessory.
“Olivia is a strong woman, a working mother and an independent thinker,” Fellowes said recently. “All I’ve ever sought to do with her clothing is to make her feel empowered and like herself.”
A publicist recently told me that her client, a male designer helming a British label, wasn’t interested in dressing Colman because he couldn’t be bothered to make a custom dress for her that wasn’t sample size. His loss. Colman, I think, is one of the most relatable-looking women on the red carpet this year, and in a world where fashion ‘influencers’ (real women blogging about how they dress their real bodies on Instagram) have become one of the most powerful advertisers for clothing, I’d say that Colman’s look is more relevant and desirable than any other celebrity in attendance at the Oscars.
Getting dressed up, in most circumstances, is a bit of fun, but when you’re a nominee navigating a promotional tour it becomes a chess game. Looking good is currency in Hollywood and the parade becomes an exercise in personal brand positioning.
Are you considered ‘stylish’? If the answer to that question is yes, then all sorts of lucrative opportunities, namely big fashion and beauty contracts, can come your way. After a successful run of glamorous appearances in dresses by Calvin Klein, Givenchy and Gucci during last year’s awards season, Margot Robbie was awarded a Chanel ambassadorship, meaning that she will star in advertising campaigns for the Parisian house. The trajectory for the former Neighboursactress was entirely strategised by her stylist, Kate Young, and announcing the ambassadorship whilst wearing Chanel to the 2018 Oscars was almost as big of a prize as if she’d actually won the gold statue.
Colman, I suspect, doesn’t care about all of that. But now she is in a position where she could pursue these deals if she fancies it. Her sleek, considered style has been honed by her stylist, sure, but the personality and relatability that she brings is all her own and it’s what rare. She is, by all accounts, the new Fashion Favourite. Whether she actually wanted to be, or not.
Lady Gaga and Olivia Colman have been given the Oscars treatment, as the Hollywood stars were turned into their own versions of the gold statuettes ahead of the Academy Awards later this month. It comes after a surge of support and celebration for women in film emerged ahead of this year’s ceremony. The applause for the likes of Gaga, who is a hot contender for the best actress award for her role in A Star Is Born, as well as Olivia for the same category for her turn in The Favourite, prompted ODEON Cinemas to produce a range of ‘Osc-her’ statues.
Oh, Osc-her? We see what you did there, you saucy cinema. Gaga and Liv are both up for best actress, but in this glass case of emotion world they’re both winners.
The two actresses have also joined Janet Gaynor – who was the first ever woman to win an Oscar – in all their golden glory, unveiled at the Luxe Leicester Square on Monday morning. Apparently the whole thing came about after the cinema chain found 3/4 Brits are keen to see more women represented in the film awards show. Well, we could have told you that! And this year is special in its own right, as Lady Gaga, who found fame as a singer, is straddling both the best song and best actress categories. That’s fresh from a Baftas, Golden Globes and Critic’s Choice Awards win. While we’d love to see what Olivia’s acceptance speech may be, judging by the past times we’ve seen her on stage this year. ‘It’s been fantastic to see such a strong line up of talented women up for award nominations this year,’ Carol Welch, Managing Director, ODEON UK and Ireland said as they unveiled the timely awards. ‘We’ve been treated to a fabulous set of films with The Favourite and A Star is Born as stand out highlights, so it’s no surprise to see the high hopes for Olivia Colman and Lady Gaga.’ Guess this is where we tell you the gold likenesses are not going to be used on the night, with the traditional Oscars statuette – you know, the dude – being rolled out for the hardworking winners.
The Favourite actress revealed how a transplant gave classmate Pip “hope in the darkness”.
Colman urges the public to sign up to the charity’s stem cell register, which she and husband Ed Sinclair joined in 2008, so that others have a chance of living. In the film, she says: “Sadly my friend Pip didn’t make it, but together we can make sure more people like Pip do make it. We want more people on the register. It’s just a little swab of the mouth … Without you there is no cure.”
Pip’s only chance of survival had been a donor who could provide a perfect match, according to Colman. Soon a donor was found in Australia. “Anthony Nolan did an amazing thing,” Colman said. She became patron of Anthony Nolan in July last year.
About 2,000 people in the UK need a stem cell transplant every year. Donations from young men and people with black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds are needed in particular.
Anthony Nolan’s chief executive Henny Braund said: “It is wonderful to have Olivia’s support and I am grateful to her for sharing this heartfelt story. This will help us continue to give hope to thousands of people every year.”
There was the meeting of two different kinds of royalty at the BAFTAs last night, as treasured star of stage and screen came face-to-face with The Duchess of Cambridge.
Olivia Colman had triumphed at the awards, scooping Best Actress for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite, when she met actual royalty in the shape of Kate Middleton, who couldn’t be happier to meet the actress.
The 37-year-old Duchess was once again the picture of elegance, wearing an Alexander McQueen white dress that was an one-shoulder affair, topped off by Princess Diana’s earrings.
Olivia Colman proved to be a popular winner at the 72nd annual British Academy of Film and Television awards and there was a look of mutual admiration as she spoke to Kate after winning her award.
There was a lot of pleasure taken by royal watchers in Kate wearing her late mother-in-law’s pearl and silver drop earrings, which Princess Diana had famously worn while accepting the United Celebral Palsy Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year Award in 1995.
She sat in the front row at the awards ceremony, alongside her husband Prince William with many eyes on the £525 Jimmy Choo shoes that glistened as much as the BAFTA awards that were being dished out.
Rarely has the title of a film described its star so well as The Favourite and Olivia Colman.
Her stellar performance as the frail and unpredictable Queen Anne has won the hugely versatile actress even more fans.
And the pitch-perfect portrayal of the 18th century monarch has already netted Olivia her second Golden Globe.
Tonight the lavish, comical period drama may land the star her fourth Bafta.
But the icing on the cake could come in a fortnight if she wins the best actress Oscar for the regal role.
And next month the star joins the ranks of Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench when she is presented with a fellowship of the BFI.
With national treasure status beckoning and all those awards, many actors would be full of themselves.
But Olivia, 45, is not many actors.
She wears her well-earned fame with the same kind, warm humility that has characterised her amazing career.
Friends of the star, who first pinged the nation’s radar in the 2003 cult sitcom Peep Show, say she is unchanged by fame.
Actor and writer Jonathan Dryden Taylor, who met her in 1994, said: “She’s the same person now as she was back then, the warmest, most delightful human being.
“I don’t think you can find anyone in the industry with a bad word about her.”
He recalled Olivia, nicknamed Collie, taking him to one side and thanking him for the jokes he penned for her in That Michell and Webb Sound sketch show.
Jonathan said: “It’s a measure of what kind of a person she is.
“She thanked me for writing her jokes even though she was the actual star.”
He also remembered a story she told him about filming Broadchurch, for which she won 2014’s best leading actress Bafta.
The plot pitted her character, cop Ellie Miller, against Jodie Whittaker’s in some really intense and angry scenes.
Taylor said: “Collie told me the moment ‘cut’ was called they fell into each other’s arms and hugged because they couldn’t bear being horrible to one another. That epitomises everything about her.”
Hardworking and modest Olivia wanted to perform from the age of 16. She said: “Being able to put ‘Actor’ on my passport was all I wanted in the world.”
The daughter of a nurse and a chartered surveyor, Norwich-born Olivia – real name Sarah – caught the acting bug after landing the lead part in a school play having auditioned on a whim.
But instead of drama school, she began a teacher training course at Homerton college in Cambridge, where she joined the university’s legendary drama society – Footlights.
There she met her future husband Ed Sinclair, with whom she has three children.
She also met fellow students David Mitchell and Robert Webb, who she would work with for many years, most memorably for 12 years from 2003 on Peep Show.
Her on/off relationship as Sophie with Mark, played by Mitchell, was central to the hilariously dark Channel 4 comedy.
Olivia and David starred in the 1993 Footlights pantomime together, a production of Cinderella.
In the second term she also took part in the Footlights spring revue sketch show.
David wrote in his autobiography Backstory: “Suddenly she was shining with talent – working the audience, timing her lines, drawing out new laughs without ever seeming hammy.
“There were many talented actors at Cambridge while I was there, very few were as good as Collie – certainly no one better.”
From Cambridge she went to Bristol’s Old Vic theatre school but often visited David and his comedy partner Robert Webb at their flat above a Blockbuster shop in Swiss Cottage, North London.
She and David worked on a production of French playwright’s Moliere’s comedy The Miser, which they toured around UK schools.
Mitchell and Webb’s then flatmate Ellis Sareen, now a 44-year-old barrister, said: “It was impossible to go to bed if there was any alcohol in the flat still undrunk. Collie was always around. She was absolutely delightful.”
After graduating from Bristol in 1999, Olivia struggled to find acting work and took a typing course as well as doing a cleaning job. But in 2003 Mitchell and Webb cast her as Sophie.
Her talent led to roles in Channel 4’s offbeat comedy Green Wing and Simon Pegg’s 2007 rural cop comedy Hot Fuzz.
In 2011 she played Carol Thatcher to Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
This marked her move into more serious roles, such as Miller in the smash-hit detective drama Broadchurch.
She was heavily pregnant with her third child when she played Angela Burr opposite Tom Hiddleston and Tom Hollander in the adaptation of John Le Carré’s The Night Manager.
Colman was so good as the heroine determined to bring down an evil arms dealer that she won a Golden Globe.
She was highly acclaimed for her performances on stage in Hay Fever at the Noël Coward Theatre and in Mosquitoes at the National Theatre.
Most recently Olivia has played the deplorable, money-grabbing Madame Thenardier in Andrew Davies’ gripping version of Victor Hugo’s classic, Les Misérables.
This year she is taking over the role of the Queen from Claire Foy in the latest series of The Crown.
But despite her success, Colman’s friends insist she is keeping her feet firmly on the ground.
Jonathan said: “She’s not someone who’d let the fame go to her head. You wouldn’t see her demanding blue M&Ms or room temperature water or any of that. She just turns up and does the job.”
Her down to earth attitude was perfectly illustrated when she was invited to a reception at Buckingham Palace after the announcement of her role in The Crown.
She asked her husband to take home a keepsake from one the palace’s 78 bathrooms – two squares of loo roll.
It is a trophy that would look very strange next to an Oscar.
She is the hot favourite of this year’s awards season with her starring role in The Favourite, whose next regal role will see her transform into Queen Elizabeth II.
And Olivia Colman looked stunning as she stepped out for the Oscar Nominee Champagne Tea Reception at Claridge’s Ballroom in London on Friday.
The actress, 45, put on a chic display in a striking red Edeline Lee Benedict dress, which had wraparound detailing across the front for a glamorous flair.
Olivia cinched her outfit at the waist with a dramatic belt, while she gave her look a touch of glitter by stepping out in a pair of silver heels.
The Broadchurch star is in the running for the Leading Actress category at the Oscars alongside heavy-hitters Glenn Close for The Wife, Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born, Yalitza Aparicio for Roma and Melissa McCarthy for Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Hotly tipped for success, Olivia’s portrayal of a frail, eccentric and introverted Queen Anne of Great Britain in The Favourite has also earned a Best Actress nomination at the BAFTAs, which take place on Sunday.