Olivia Colman has won one of the highest accolades of her career so far, after being named best actress at the Venice Film Festival.
The film tells the story of the rivalry between two of Queen Anne’s cousins, both bidding to be considered her “favourite”, and also stars British actors Nicholas Hoult and Mark Gatiss.
So far, critics have lauded ‘The Favourite’, particularly Olivia’s performance, as well as director Yorgos Lanthimos, who previously worked with the actress in ‘The Lobster’.
Olivia had stiff competition for the best actress award, particularly from Lady Gaga, whose performance in ‘A Star Is Born’ – which also debuted at the festival– has also won near-unanimous praise from critics.
It was a big night for ‘The Favourite’, which also scored the Grand Jury Prize, one of the Venice Film Festival’s biggest honours, though the top award went to Alfonso Cuarón’s family drama ‘Roma’.
Olivia is currently gearing up for another regal role, picking up where Claire Foy left off in the Netflix drama ‘The Crown’, in which she’s to play Queen Elizabeth II in middle age, opposite Tobias Menzies’ Prince Philip.
Initially making a name for herself in roles in British comedies like ‘The Office’, ‘Peep Show’ and ‘Black Books’, Olivia is now better known for her drama performances including ‘Broadchurch’, ‘The Night Manager’ and the upcoming ‘Les Misérables’ remake, in which she’ll play Madame Thénardier.
Last year, she also joined the all-star cast of Kenneth Branagh’s new take on ‘Murder On The Orient Express’, which also featured the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Derek Jacobi and Branagh himself.
‘The Favourite’ is due for release in the UK in January 2019, but will be showcased at the upcoming BFI London Film Festival.
The Favourite, a movie that is loosely based on historical fact, was always going to generate a big reaction at the Venice Film Festival.
Olivia Colman plays the frail and slightly unhinged early 18th century British monarch, Queen Anne, who jostles with two woman in a power struggle in her court as they vye for her sexual favour. Lady Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), whose husband is away fighting the French, is effectively running the country. But when her conniving cousin the Queen’s new servant Sarah (Emma Stone) arrives, the naïve monarch is seduced by her charms.
For a second time this year Weisz has a woman-on-woman love scene after Disobedience with Rachel McAdams, while the film marks a follow-up too for Oscar winner Stone after her portrayal as Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes.
At The Favourite’s Venice press conference, the usually hilarious Colman (The Night Manager) was asked about the sexual politics in the historical film, to which she replied, “There was a lot of it!”
“That aspect of the film is timeless. We think we invented sex but we didn’t. It’s been going on for quite a long time. It was awfully fun having sex with Emma Stone.”
“It was really fun having sex with you too,” Stone quipped.
In the film, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer starring Nicole Kidman) Stone plays an educated aristocrat who has lost her status and will do anything to get it back. At the age of 15 her father lost her to a fat German with a thin penis in card game. She may be devious but she’s not evil, says Stone.
“She’s overcome a lot, she’s a survivor. I loved every element of getting to play her. In terms of the challenges for me I was the only American in the cast, so it was a bit daunting trying to make sure that the accent made sense. The corsets were a challenge too just because you can’t breathe all day.
“The whole cast had this three-week rehearsal process before we started shooting and it was far from traditional. We did a whole bunch of crazy stuff. We had to learn to be embarrassed in front of each other and rely on each other. I think by the time we were shooting we all felt very close and comfortable. When I had to have sex with the Queen, with Olivia, it was very comfortable. We were very good friends.”
I asked Colman, who is playing Queen Elizabeth in season three of The Crown, about playing two queens in one year.
“They’re not very similar,” she deadpanned, “and that’s good. We’ve started filming on The Crown and I’m having a lovely time, so I hope I don’t let you down when it comes out. I can’t really compare the two queens. I don’t think Queen Elizabeth learned anything from Queen Anne!”
I then suggested that the heavily bewigged Nicholas Hoult, whose brilliant blue eyes are offset by a stunning Sandy Powell royal blue costume, and Joe Alwyn (otherwise known as Taylor Swift’s beau) were playing women as well.
“It was fabulous!” replied Hoult.
Colman: “I just want to give you a visual of Nick who is 6’ 2” with heels and a foot and a half of wig! None of us could look at him when we were acting because it was just too funny.”
Alwyn added, “It was a lot of fun running around in wigs, in high heels and in fancy costumes. It’s every man’s dream!”
While the film’s story delves into the power that the three women held as they made decisions on a whim that could effect millions of people, can it also be seen as a statement about women’s empowerment post MeToo#?
“Obviously I don’t mind that idea, but we can’t take credit because we started the project many years ago,” Lanthimo replied. “I think the positive aspect of this film is that it focuses on three female characters, which is rare. But what we tried to do is portray them as human beings, because most of the time, given the prevalent male gaze in cinema, women are portrayed as housewives or girlfriends or objects of desire. So we tried to show them as complex and complicated, wonderful and horrific. They are like every other human being.”
A new period drama starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz is to premiere during the BFI London Film Festival.
The Favourite will be shown on the event’s American Express Gala night at Cineworld in Leicester Square on October 18.
Directed by Academy Award-nominated director Yorgos Lanthimos, known for The Lobster, the film is set in the early 18th century against the backdrop of the war between England and France.
Colman plays Queen Anne, while Weisz portrays Lady Sarah, her close friend who governs the country while the tempestuous Queen is unwell.
However, Lady Sarah’s close bond with the Queen is threatened when charming new servant Abigail, played by Stone, arrives, and she sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots.
The film also stars Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss, James Smith and Jenny Rainsford.
BFI London Film Festival artistic director Tricia Tuttle said: “This is wickedly funny film-making from Yorgos Lanthimos, who is operating at virtuoso frequency.
“The Favourite is a delight from start to finish, powered by a trio of riotous performances from Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, who are all clearly revelling in the wit and rhythm of the script. The perfect Gala for our principal partner, American Express.”
The film festival kicks off on October 10 with Widows, directed by Steve McQueen and starring Viola Davis.
It ends on October 21, with Laurel and Hardy film Stan And Ollie, starring Steve Coogan and John C Reilly and directed by Filth director Jon S Baird.
The Favourite, the new Irish-produced film from The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos, which stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, is to receive its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival.
The period drama is the third collaboration between Greek director Lanthimos and Irish company Element Pictures, and follows their success with The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Lanthimos, Colman and Weisz previously worked together on The Lobster.
Set in the early 18th Century, The Favourite promises much in the way of political and personal intrigue involving Britain’s Queen Anne (Colman), the Duchess of Marlborough (Weisz) and her servant, Abigail Hill (Stone).
Sensing an opportunity to move back up the social ladder, Abigail becomes the Queen’s new companion and, we are told, “she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way”.
The Favourite will screen in competition at the Venice International Film Festival, which runs from August 29 to September 8.
It will be released worldwide by film studio Fox Searchlight, opening in US cinemas on November 23 – a key month in awards season – and in Ireland on January 1.
One of the film’s Irish producers, Element Pictures’ Ed Guiney, described Venice as “the ideal world premiere for Yorgos’ bold and audacious foray into period filmmaking”.
“We hope audiences will embrace this unique and entertaining film and we are delighted to be working with Fox Searchlight on its international release,” he added.
Deadline reports she’s been cast in the role of Queen Anne, who ruled Britain in the early 1700s, with X-Men‘s Nicholas Hoult, Denial‘s Rachel Weisz, and the freshly minted Oscar-winning Best Actress Emma Stone all jockeying for influence in the queen’s court as three of her closest confidantes.
Hoult will reportedly play “Harley,” which presumably refers to Robert Harley, the 1st Earl of Oxford, a noted politician and patron of the arts whose family developed the famous Harley Street district of London.
Stone will play his cousin and ally Lady Abigail Masham, while Weisz will play Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, the queen’s close friend and rumored lover.
As a period drama, The Favourite marks something of a departure for director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose previous films include 2015’s offbeat dystopian comedy The Lobster starring Colin Farrell.
Some things don’t change, however. Weisz and Colman both appeared in that film, which boasted an ensemble cast every bit as formidable as this one.
The Favourite will also represent another reunion of sorts. It’s been 15 years since Weisz and Hoult appeared together in About a Boy in 2002, playing the prospective girlfriend of Hugh Grant‘s character Will, and Will’s young friend Marcus, respectively.
We suspect all this hasn’t answered your most burning question, however, which is: What is on earth is that on Nicholas Hoult’s top lip? Well, he’s just wrapped filming on The Current War, in which he plays moustachioed electricity pioneer Nikola Tesla opposite Benedict Cumberbatch as Thomas Edison.
We think that’s what it is anyway. He’s certainly had to make some interesting hair commitments in his career, what with Marcus’s bowl cut, Beast’s hirsute chops, and now this.
His character in The Favourite, on the other hand, wore a rather lengthy wig. It starts filming later this year, and is slated for release in 2018.