She may have played the Queen, but Olivia Colman thinks it’s “bizarre” that the monarch is still Australia’s head of state.
Herald Sun- She may have played the Queen on The Crown, one of the world’s most popular dramas, but Olivia Colman is just a tiny bit baffled by Australia’s interest in the real-life drama surrounding the real royal family.
“It is a bit bizarre the Queen is still your head of state,” laughs the British actor via Zoom from the London home she shares with her husband, Ed, and three children.
“In Britain, growing up with them always there, you don’t really consider them. It’s like, if you live in Sydney, you probably don’t go to the Opera House.
“I don’t go to all the incredible things in London because they’re there. And it’s the same with the royal family – they were always there so you don’t think about them. I think for people outside of the UK, they’re a much bigger deal. But I could be wrong about that!”
Colman’s stunning performance as Queen Elizabeth II won her huge acclaim (and a Golden Globe), but she says she was more than ready to hand over the reins (or the reign!) to fellow Brit, Imelda Staunton, who takes on the daunting role for the show’s final two seasons.
“I have a short attention span, so playing a role for two years is a long time for me,” Colman says. “And though I was sad to say goodbye to everybody and I really enjoyed it, I was excited to do something different. Playing the Queen, even though she is very strong and stoic and silent and she listens a lot, I wanted to [play a role] where I have a bit of a rant and be less controlled.”
Colman’s new film The Father, based on the award-winning French play, is not exactly a rant-fest but a poignant and deeply emotional ride about a woman dealing with her father’s (Anthony Hopkins) rapidly advancing dementia.
It’s a brutal, heartbreaking film about a topic many of us have either dealt with – or eventually will deal with – the declining health of ageing parents.
“My folks are still around and still together. They’re the late-70s now and there’s no sign of dementia, so hopefully, they’ve escaped it,” Colman says. “Watching that happen to your parents must be tough. I just can’t imagine watching someone that you love and admire go through that.”
Colman says when she found out she was going to star opposite fellow Oscar-winner, Hopkins, in the film she swore – a lot.
“It was like, ‘f—,” Colman laughs. “I mean, can you imagine? I’ve known his face my whole life and everything he’s done – he’s a bit of an acting God to me – and you think to yourself, you’re going to do a job with him. And I was like, ‘f— off, shut up, no way!’. And then he’s so much nicer, he’s so kind, he’s so generous, he’s so f–ing brilliant at his job. Every morning I’d say to my husband, ‘Ha, I’m going to work with Tony Hopkins!’ ”
Despite the story’s heavy emotional content, Colman says she and Hopkins would crack each other up between scenes. “I know it’s a really hard watch, but we had such a joyful time together; I know that sounds weird, but Tony tells hilarious stories and does amazing impressions. We had a lovely time, and that’s our approach to work anyway – neither of us is very method.
“Tony would lean over and whisper to me, ‘Aren’t we lucky?’ and I’d say, ‘YES!’ ” The role, which has already won her an AACTA (Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards – “I was so thrilled and surprised – I’ve never been to Australia!”), has also landed Colman her second Academy Award nomination. (She won the Best Actress Oscar in 2019 for playing another queen – the wildly eccentric Queen Anne in The Favourite.)
Indeed, in recent years, the 47-year-old’s career has skyrocketed, making her one of Hollywood’s most in-demand actors. And her deserved success is not just for her sheer talent but her incredible versatility; she easily navigates between drama (The Crown, Broadchurch, The Night Manager) and comedy (see her breakout performance in the UK classic, Peep Show, while her biting turn as Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hideous stepmother in Fleabag literally stole the show).
THE REAL DEAL
The utterly charming Colman is also that rare type of Hollywood star – resolutely down to earth, and self-deprecating. “People get too full of themselves,” she has said.
She’s also honest about her insecurities around the constant scrutiny that comes with being in the public eye.
“I’ve got a ring light here which is meant to be more flattering,” she says pointing to a bright light above her computer screen.
“Because the moment there’s a photo from this angle,” she says, pointing up from under her chin, “everyone comments on it and you think, f— off, I wasn’t born a supermodel and I’ve had three children and my body is stretched and bits have drooped and it’s not fair everyone is expected to conform. Because I feel embarrassed if I’m meant to be dressed up for a do, or feel like people are thinking, who does she think she is – you can’t polish a turd. Anyway, I’m nice and my husband loves me.”
Colman says she navigates media scrutiny by “not really going out”. (The pandemic, she says, has helped with that.)
“But I know I’m not alone. I know many women feel negative things about themselves, and I have got marginally better. I also protect myself by not putting myself in that position as much as possible. I can see my friends whose bodies have changed, or their faces have changed over the years, and I think they’re so f—ing beautiful because they’re amazing people. I can see that just by looking at them and I want to get to that in my own head, but I’m not there yet.”
With that Colman is keen to get back to a lockdown-induced Friends marathon with her son.
“We’re always watching Friends – my younger boy loves it. I love cuddling up with him and watching it because I’m sort of reliving my 20s.”
That’s the good thing about pandemic-era home Zoom interviews – you can pop off to the next room to watch Friends with your kid.
“You can also wear slippers,” Colman continues with another huge laugh, pulling one of her feet up to the camera to reveal some very fancy silver footwear.
“The one thing about doing interviews during the pandemic is that I can wear my slippers. So … silver linings.”
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