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.
Oscar-nominated British actress Olivia Colman is set to receive a BFI Fellowship, the British Film Institute’s highest honor. Colman will receive the accolade at the BFI chairman’s dinner on March 6 in London, hosted by BFI chair Josh Berger of Warner Bros.
The honor comes after Colman’s Oscar and BAFTA nominations for her star turn as gouty Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite.” She has already picked up a raft of awards for the role, including the Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy.
“I’m absolutely bowled over,” she said in a statement. “The BFI is a wonderful organization, and that I will soon be in a fellowship with so many of my heroes is an honor that is hard to compute.”
Past recipients include Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Caine, Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett.
Berger, who is president and managing director of Warner Bros. Entertainment U.K., called Colman “a brilliant comic actor and one of the industry’s finest dramatic performers. Her ability to be relatable in such a diverse range of roles generates incredible warmth and admiration from audiences.”
The actress is currently playing another British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in the third and fourth seasons of Netflix’s hit show “The Crown,” taking over the role from Claire Foy. Season 3 is set for release later this year.
Colman recently appeared in the BBC’s six-part adaptation of “Les Miserables” and in Sundance drama “Them That Follow.” She previously won a Golden Globe for best actress in a supporting role for television series “The Night Manager,” and has won three BAFTA TV awards.
The BFI Fellowship was first presented in 1983 to mark the institute’s 25th anniversary. Last year’s fellowship was awarded to “The Crown” creator Peter Morgan. Other past awardees include John Hurt, Clint Eastwood, Hugh Grant, Bette Davis, Jeanne Moreau, Martin Scorsese, Mel Brooks and Steve McQueen.
The Crown is changing up its cast when it returns later this year for its third season. As the hit Netflix royal drama moves forward to the middle-years of the Queen’s life, Claire Foy, Matt Smith and the rest are out, with Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies and more filling the roles instead.
Colman, of course, previously played British royalty in The Favourite, in which she starred as Queen Anne and has just received her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress for. Portraying a living queen is obviously a lot more responsibility and comes with more pressure, though, and the star revealed to Town&Country Mag that she tried to keep the worry of impersonating Elizabeth II out of her head when filming.
“You kind of can’t think about that, I think… I don’t want anyone to watch and go ‘she’s totally off the mark.’”
Colman went on to say that The Crown makes use of a large team of experts who ensure the series remains as historically accurate as possible. Nailing the Queen’s distinctive accent was particularly important for the actress, with the voice department regularly on hand to coach her.
“With the word ‘television’, there’s a way of saying it that’s partly historical and partly, she sort of has her own accent… ‘telivision,’ so it’s an ‘i’ sound. I enjoy all of those. That’s that quite fun.
So has The Crown increased Colman’s admiration for the Queen? The star revealed that, though she’s not personally much of a royalist, embodying the character has definitely left her with an “almost unbearable” amount of appreciation for the monarch.
“Not sure I was ever a monarchist—I wasn’t—but the Queen is an incredibly impressive human being,” she said. “And I’m slightly obsessed with her. It’s grown, it’s become almost unbearable now.”
Alongside Colman and Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter will be playing the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret, Ben Daniels is Margaret’s husband Lord Snowden and Jason Watkins will be seen as Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Casting has already begun on season 4, as well, with Gillian Anderson playing Margaret Thatcher.
The Crown season 3 doesn’t have a release date yet, but it’s likely coming in the back half of this year.
These days Olivia Colman is the toast of Hollywood, winning plaudits and awards for her performance in Oscar-nominated film The Favourite and soon to take over the central role in hit Netflix series The Crown.
It’s all a long way from her fondly-remembered guest role in a 2010 episode of Doctor Who – and looking back, then-series showrunner Steven Moffat admits he feels they “wasted” the now Oscar-nominated actor in such a small role.
“Well in my first series, [Eleventh Doctor] Matt Smith’s first one, there was Olivia Colman,” Moffat told RadioTimes.com at the Radio Times Covers Party. “Olivia Colman, just a heartbeat before she was stratospheric.”
In the episode (Matt Smith’s debut The Eleventh Hour), Colman played one of the hosts for the episode’s villain Prisoner Zero, a shapeshifting alien prisoner who used Colman’s form to taunt the Doctor (while also showing off some pretty terrifying teeth) at the end of the episode.
In hindsight, Moffat said, he wishes he’d used the actor more.
“I think, ‘Oh we wasted that, didn’t we!’” Moffat said. “Bloody hell.”
Fellow Doctor Who writer Mark Gatiss, meanwhile, had fond memories of a few other future stars he cast in 2013 episode Cold War, including two of Colman’s co-stars in the next series of The Crown (Josh O’Connor and Tobias Menzies) along with Grantchester’s James Norton.
“There are some funny ones aren’t there, like in Cold War, my story on a submarine,” he said.
“Peter, who’s killed in the opening titles, is Josh O’Connor from God’s Own Country: he’s a big star now. And James Norton is one of the sailors, and Tobias Menzies. It’s an amazing submarine of stars now!”
Nowadays, with new boss Chris Chibnall in charge, both men are watching Doctor Who from the sidelines after over a decade at its heart – so do they miss being part of the sci-fi series?
“I’m sort of used to watching Doctor Who I’ve got nothing to do with,” Moffat pointed out.
“That’s alright – I don’t mind that at all. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
“I do still have the impulse to do Doctor Who ideas. And I quite like the luxury of saying, ‘Well, that’s a good idea. I’ll just leave it in my head, it’s fine there.’”
“It’s lovely to know nothing at all,” added Gatiss.
“I used to come in occasionally and write an episode – but you end up finding out bits about the two before and the two after.
“So to know nothing at all has been really lovely, refreshing and fun.”
And who knows? If they watch closely, they may see even more stars of tomorrow wandering in to Jodie Whittaker’s adventures.
Doctor Who returns to BBC1 in 2020
Olivia Colman has revealed how she feels “threatened” by losing her anonymity and now lives “like a hermit” since starring in a string of high profile lead roles.
The Oscar-nominated actress admitted that she rarely ventures out and that she never expected the fame that has followed her.
Ms Colman, 44, has been nominated for the best actress prize at the Academy Awards for her portrayal of Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’period comedy drama The Favourite, and has already taken home a Golden Globe for the role.
Speaking with her former Broadchurch co-star David Tennant on his new podcast, she said that she “can’t cope” with people noticing her out in public.
“I have friends that I adore and I like going to safe places with them, my home or their home,” she said.
Fame was “very stupidly nothing I expected to happen, I just wanted to work,” she added.
Ms Colman said that it can feel “threatening” to lose her anonymity, although most people who approach her are “really nice”.
However, she said that she does not regret the attention, “because hand-in-hand with that, I’m getting work that I’m loving and always dreamt of.
“As long as I know I can keep my head down, stay at home, it’s not so bad.”
Ms Colman first became famous for her role as Sophie in Channel 4’s Peep Show, but has become better known for starring in ITV drama Broadchurch, BBC drama The Night Manager and films including Hot Fuzz, Tyrannosaur and The Iron Lady, in which she played Carol Thatcher opposite Meryl Streep.
The actress also told David Tennant that she once wrote to Wikipedia because her age had been listed to make her eight years older than she really was.
“Once, on Wikipedia, they had my birthday as the wrong day, the wrong month, and eight years before I was born,” she said.
“I emailed them, pretending it wasn’t me. (I wrote) ‘I was at school with her and that’s not her birthday’. I didn’t want them to think I was being so vain.
“I didn’t get a reply, and wrote again going ‘sorry guys, but I know it’s wrong’. And they didn’t reply.
“So I said, ‘actually, this is me, and it’s really upsetting me that you’ve made me eight years older than I actually am’.
“And they said, ‘we’d have to see a birth certificate to prove it’, and I went, ‘whose f****** birth certificate have you looked at in the first place to make me eight years older?”‘
Colman said that her date of birth was finally changed to the correct one, January 30, 1974, but joked that she should have said she was younger.
Her mantelpiece already groans with awards including two Golden Globesand three Baftas. Now, following her Best Actress nomination for her performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite, Olivia Colman may be adding an Oscar to her collection.
If she wins an Academy Award next month she can expect demand for her services (not to mention her fee) to go through the roof.
It’s all a far cry from the days when she was so broke she lived in a friend’s attic and had to rummage under the sofa cushions in search of coins to buy a single potato for dinner.
From her job as a cleaner and struggles with debt to the ‘gorgeous’ husband she gives half her pay cheques to — as Alison Boshoff discovered, there is far more to this down-to-earth actress than meets the eye.
A cleaner and cheery but hopeless secretary
Like most aspiring actors, Olivia struggled for work. She took jobs as a secretary — ‘not a very good one, although I was cheery’ and as a cleaner. ‘There were years of no work. It was a hard time. I actually really loved my cleaning jobs. I loved the job satisfaction. I’d really go to town. I’d wipe skirting boards, the top of lights. I never looked in drawers.’
She never wanted to do anything but act, though. ‘Being able to put ‘Actor’ on my passport was all I wanted in the world.’
Finding pennies down sofa to buy a potato
Speaking of her early days with now husband Ed Sinclair, she said: ‘We had what we call our Angela’s Ashes day when we first moved to London from Bristol (in 1998). I had £1 left in my overdraft and cash machines don’t dispense pounds.
‘Ed didn’t have any money either, so we managed to find enough pennies from the sofa to buy one potato to share.’ They lived in the attic of friends who had a place in Epping, Essex, for two months.
In 1999 they bought a two-bedroom flat in London’s East Dulwich, using a £30,000 inheritance from Ed to help them meet the £90,000 asking price. They sold it two years later for £150,000.
If it all goes wrong I could be a midwife
The couple took out a credit card in 2001 and ended up £3,000 in debt — a relatively small amount but Olivia found it traumatic as neither was earning regularly.
However, she was determined to pursue an acting career. ‘My mum said, “You’ll probably give it a year.” And I said, “No, I’ll give it ten”.’
Her career began to take off in 2003 when she was cast in Channel 4’s Peep Show, with old friends David Mitchell and Robert Webb.
There followed the ‘Kev and Bev’ AA adverts and another sitcom, Green Wing.
She counted herself lucky to be paid £25,000 for each comedy series, which took nine months to film, and said that it was enough for her and Ed to live on if they were frugal. As recently as 2009 she had a five-month ‘dry spell’ which led to her starting to look up midwifery courses.
A childhood full of grand designs
Olivia was born Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman near the ‘golden coast’ of north Norfolk in 1974. She is the daughter of chartered surveyor Keith Colman and his wife Mary, a nurse.
She said: ‘They both had a good work ethic. I was really proud of my mum, dedicating her life to making people better.’
Both parents also devoted themselves to renovating houses. Olivia estimates that she uprooted herself 17 times in childhood, and that her parents have moved 30 times in all.
She said: ‘They basically fall in love with a property that hasn’t been cared for and do it up sympathetically.’
Among properties they have lived in, done up and sold on are a nursing home in Horstead and cottages in Freethorpe. They also renovated a cottage in Great Yarmouth, buying it for £310,000 in 2013 and selling it for £850,000 in 2017.
Olivia went on: ‘I had a lovely, feral, free childhood — out and then come back when you’re hungry or it gets too dark. I feel slightly cruel that I’m not offering my children the same.’
Her father was car crazy and she learned how to drive at his knee aged 12 in the fields of Norfolk. By the time she was 16 she had a rally licence. Her first car was a Morris Minor she called Moomin.
She can be up there with Meryl
Young Sarah was sent to Norwich High School For Girls, an exclusive establishment with a shining academic record. Fees go up to £4,854 a term. She first got the acting bug playing Miss Jean Brodie, aged 16.
‘I was on stage, and I suddenly felt really at ease, and at home. Of course, at that age you keep it to yourself, you say, “I want to be a nurse or a teacher”.’
In the sixth form she switched to Gresham’s in Holt, Norfolk, where she is remembered for being ‘popular and kind’. The private boarding school charges £11,660 a term.
Her former drama teacher Paul Hands said: ‘Even when I taught her when she was 18 I knew this was going to be the likely future for her.
‘She is a very special actor and she was a very special student, too. She was never difficult — when you see her being interviewed now, that funny, sensitive and delightful person was the person she was to work with when she was a teenager.’
Olivia returned to Gresham’s recently to open a boarding house and unveiled a plaque in the common room, which includes the words, ‘Olivia Colman, Old Greshamian, who played Miss Jean Brodie at an impressionable age and never looked back’.
Mr Hands adds that he believes she will be counted as ‘one of the great British actors of her generation’ saying: ‘I think she can be as good as Meryl Streep.’
The dramatic breakthroughs
The 2011 film Tyrannosaur was a turning point. She played a charity shop worker abused by her alcoholic husband. She was then cast as Carol Thatcher to Meryl Streep’s Maggie in The Iron Lady.
Next came her performance as DS Ellie Miller in Broadchurch, which won a Bafta, and The Night Manager, for which she won a Golden Globe. She is now filming The Crown, in which she plays our current Queen. But there is a problem: ‘I emote. The Queen is not meant to. She’s got to be a rock for everyone, and has been trained not to [emote]. We’ve discovered that whenever anyone tells me something sad, it makes me cry. It’s sort of shameful, but they give me an earpiece and play the shipping forecast. It’s somebody going, “And the winds are fair to middling…blah, blah.” I’m sort of not listening to what they are saying. I’m trying so hard to tune in to the shipping forecast and not cry.’
Extended home sweet home
In 2011, she and Ed bought their current home, a large five-bedroom Victorian terrace on the Peckham/Camberwell border. They paid £885,000 for it and it is now worth around £1.5million.
It has been extended twice — with a loft conversion in 2011 and a huge six-metre kitchen extension in 2013, which opens out via glass doors onto the garden.
Ed built a treehouse for their children, aged 12, ten, and three, from scratch.
Also at home is a Jackapoo, Alf.
Olivia has said that she hopes to own a second property ‘as a pension’ one day and gossip in Binham, Norfolk, suggests that she has already done just that.
Certainly she is now very well paid; it is suggested that she is getting around £350,000 per series of The Crown.
She said: ‘There’s all sorts of things now we can fix. We can fix the loo, which hasn’t worked for about three years.’
Balancing fame and family
Olivia hesitated over Broadchurch, as it meant four months filming in Dorset — but went home every weekend. She said: ‘If I was away for a long time, we’d all have to go. I don’t like being away from them. It’s as simple as that.’
Olivia finds fame difficult. ‘I hate the loss of anonymity. No one teaches you how to deal with that. I now tend to stay at home because it’s so weird not to be on an equal footing with people. They know your face, and you don’t know them. It’s not that people aren’t lovely’, she adds, ‘but it’s harder to deal with than you imagine.’
Dreaming of meeting Oscar
‘If I’m really honest, I’ve always dreamed of holding an Oscar…but I’m really trying to sort of keep everything in check, keep calm.
‘This is silly. What are the chances? I don’t want to get excited. I don’t want to face that disappointment. I just want to be on an even keel.
‘I’m a mum, a wife, I’m a mate. I’m other things. You can see how people get sort of swept into it and I want to stay sane.’