The moment she acted for the first time – in a school play – she thought: I can do something! Meanwhile, Olivia has literally and figuratively played royal roles, such as Queen Elizabeth in the Netflix series The Crown. “I transform very easily into someone else.”
Harper’s Bazaar NL-“This is quite genuinely stressful! “, Olivia Colman stammers in 2019, after receiving an Oscar for best female actress in a leading role.
In a green Prada dress with a big bow on her back, she looks clearly impressed from the stage into the room. She thanks everyone in her own Olivia Colman’s style: quite associating, emotional, putting things into perspective, witty and totally irresistible. The room is at her feet.
Colman is already famous in the UK. People initially know her as a comic actress, but they soon discover that she also can take on serious roles, such as in the series Broadchurch. After that, royal roles crossing her path: she not only plays a queen in The Favourite, for which she won her Oscar but also in the beloved Netflix series The Crown. That series, plus an Oscar making her a world star.
And yes, that’s quite nice, says Olivia Colman (47) via Zoom from a dark room, with a small light somewhere behind. Her natural face emerges bright from the darkness. She talks as you know her from her speeches. She hardly has to do auditions anymore, she says. Phoebe Waller-Bridge even wrote the role of Godmother in Fleabag especially for her. But: “It is also a bit scary, that success. From now on it can only get worse.”
Are you worried about that?
“Yes! I’ve recently discovered that actors I really look up to are also always worried that they’ll never be asked again. I thought I was the only one, so that was reassuring. It is probably even healthy and prevents you from becoming self-righteous. But it would be terrible for me if no more work came for me. Many of my friends are multi-talented, they can write and direct and act. I can only act.”
She said it before: she can’t do anything else. Things went bad at school until she got the lead role in a school play when she was sixteen. “It was the first time I felt like I could do something. I always was a happy type, but I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence, and it was great to suddenly be able to be someone else and do things that I would never have dared as myself.
But I had no idea how to become an actor.” Her parents said: nice, that acting, but what do you think of a secretarial course? “I can still type my eyes closed.” Then she went on and attend a teacher training course in Cambridge, which she stopped after she ‘accidentally’ joined Footlights. The local and legendary amateur group, where great names like Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie started their careers. Footlights completely changed Colman’s life: not only did she start there as an actress, but she also met her husband, Ed Sinclair, in 1993. Who she has been married to for twenty years now. They have three children: two sons (15 and 13) and a daughter (5).
She can’t do anything but acting, but that’s not rocket science according to her. “I show up where I need to be, I say my lines and try to empathize as best I can with the feelings of the woman I’m playing at that moment. Nothing more, nothing less” she says apologetically. “And if you have colleagues who understand their job, it’s not difficult at all. Just listen carefully to what your opponent is saying and respond appropriately, that’s acting for me. In my latest film The Father, where I act opposite Anthony Hopkins, was that no problem at all.”
Playwrighter Florian Zeller filmed his own play with The Father. The story is told from the perspective of a man with dementia (Hopkins); Colman plays his caregiver, daughter Anne. “I’ve had never seen a movie or play told that way. As an audience, you are just as confused as that father, so you experience dementia from within. I thought that was brilliant.”
She has no personal experience with dementia. “Knock on wood. My parents are now in their late seventies and so far things are going well. My mother was a nurse, specialized in elderly care, so I heard stories about people with Alzheimer’s through her.” She didn’t ask her mother for advice. “Uh, no. Anne is her father’s caregiver. She just has to learn how to deal with it by doing. I don’t have to do any research for that.”
You always find an excuse not to do research, right?
Laughing: “Yes! I always try to get out of it. Sometimes I really have to, like with The Crown, where I have to play an existing character. Most of all I had to learn to control my face. I’m quite expressive so that I found very difficult. But with The Father, Florian had done all the work for me. The lines were enough. I’m not someone who endlessly prepares or thinks about her role. This Anne is someone different from me, but aren’t we all made up of thousands of parts? In another existence, I could have been Anne. Every character I play has something of me and thanks to my imagination I can add all kinds of layers to it. I transform very easily into someone else. That’s why this work is so ideal for me: I can express my imagination in it. That makes me a nicer person at home.”
Fortunately, because she prefers to be at home. “Without Ed and the kids, I don’t see the point in anything.”
What did you think of the corona year, when the UK also went from one lockdown to another?
“I understand that it was terrible for a lot of people, but I was much more home than usual, I loved that! I wouldn’t mind at all if I never had to leave the house again. I hate being stared at by strangers on the street but also apart from that: I am a kind of hermit, but with a husband and children.”
Did you also have to teach your children at home?
“During the first lockdown, yes. My two oldest were perfectly able to help themselves. My youngest was a different story. I googled how long you can expect a four-year-old to concentrate on something. That was disappointing, but then I knew what I could expect. We drew a little, then she was allowed to run around, and then we drew again. That’s how we got through the days. We’re all healthy, but I could exercise a little bit more. My husband started running during corona to stay fit. I sat on the couch and watched it while eating a toast with a thick layer of butter on it.”
She had to leave the house for a while in 2020. “I played the lead role in The Lost Daughter, the film adaptation of Elena Ferrates’ novel. That was very exciting! I had to go to Greece for four weeks. I’ve never been away from home for so long because I always try to avoid that. We were so lucky that it just worked out between the first and second corona wave. It was possible because all stayed in quarantine beforehand and didn’t see anyone from outside on that idyllic island. We were completely in our own bubble. It was truly divine.”
Do you think that’s the best thing about acting: making something together?
“Yes, that’s it. Most of my best friends are actors. It’s a nice kind of people. We look alike, we have a lot of fun together. The same goes for the crews. That usually makes the atmosphere on a set very good. Unfortunately, at some point, the project is finished and the people who have absolutely nothing to do with it are allowed to comment on it. I haven’t read reviews for years for that reason. As far as I’m concerned, nobody really needs to see the end result of my work. It’s all about the experience of making it for me, not what people think of it.”
Fortunately, they often find it very beautiful, I can tell you. The Father is also beautiful again. What is your favourite memory of that making process?
“The time I was able to spend with Anthony, even outside of filming. When we had to wait, he told great stories or imitated people in a hilarious way. He’s such a funny, lively, wonderful man. Later when I’m older, I don’t want to be a grumpy old woman, but be as cheerful and lively as him.”
That will be fine!
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The photos used in the interview
“It was weirdly enjoyable to do.”
Digital Spy – The Father unintentionally became the most-talked-about movie of this year’s Oscars after Sir Anthony Hopkins surprisingly won Best Actor over Chadwick Boseman, leading to a muted end to the ceremony as Hopkins wasn’t in attendance.
However, it won’t be long into watching The Father that you realise Hopkins deserved every award coming for his sensational performance as a man living with dementia. He steadfastly refuses any help from his daughter Anne, who is planning to move to Paris and needs to ensure her father will be looked after.
Fellow national treasure Olivia Colman takes on the role of Anne and is equally brilliant as a person trying to do her best in an almost impossible situation. Talking to Digital Spy, Colman credits her co-star for making her job “easy” when they’re both dealing with heavy subject material.
“When the camera’s mainly on Tony, I’m standing next to the camera going, ‘Wow’. It was amazing. Lots of people ask what’s it like to meet him, and I was really nervous and terribly excited, but you know within five minutes, he’s just a really, really lovely, generous man,” she reflects.
“So all of that can go and you can really enjoy scenes together. Looking into each others’ eyes, he’s feeling everything which means it easy for me, I just react to him. There were moments where you just go, ‘Oh, he’s really good’. You can’t help but be a little bit aware that you’re working with him, but he’s so adorable [and] lovely.”
The Father – which is finally out in UK cinemas – marks Florian Zeller’s directorial debut with Zeller adapting his own play, Le Père, for the screen, along with co-writer Christopher Hampton.
Hampton has translated all of Zeller’s plays for their English-language runs, and the director enthuses that their “trust and friendship” means that The Father has lost nothing in translation. Hopkins was always in mind for the lead role which was why Zeller chose to do the movie in English, but the idea of Colman as his daughter came later.
“I hadn’t started the process of imagining the rest of the cast because, somehow, somewhere, it seemed unrealistic to me that it will one day happen. As soon as I met Anthony, I started the process of dreaming that maybe it could happen,” Zeller recalls.
“I have always adored Olivia as an actress and I was so excited about this idea that it could be her, so we met just after I met Anthony, and I was so happy that she was open to joining us. I think the film is what it is really thanks to her, and I know that.”
The genius of The Father is that Zeller truly puts you in the point of view of a person living with dementia. Throughout the movie, there are subtle background set changes, characters showing up played by different actors and events don’t always seem to flow chronologically, with moments repeated and seen from different viewpoints.
It’s a disorientating experience that leaves you questioning what you thought you saw or knew, and it’s extremely effective as even if you wanted to put things in order, you won’t be able to – much like Hopkins’s character in the movie.
Despite the unique approach to the movie, Colman didn’t need to have her own timeline of events to make it work.
“What was great that we didn’t need to. Particularly, Tony didn’t need to check where he was because the confusion was all a part of it. I just had to turn up and play the scene and knew that it was Florian’s job to put it all together,” she explains.
Colman adds with a laugh: “Maybe I should have done that, but I didn’t do that. Thanks for bringing it up now.”
At times, The Father fills you with a sense of unease that even the best horrors can’t match, and it just adds to the emotional impact of the movie. This is not a movie for an easy Friday night watch, it’s tough and devastating and will linger with you long after the credits have rolled.
Without going into spoilers, the finale is truly heartbreaking to watch and highlights the power of Hopkins’s performance. Colman was just glad she wasn’t on set the day it was filmed – co-star Olivia Williams shares that scene with Hopkins – as if it’s this hard to watch, imagine how affecting it’d be to watch it play out over several takes.
“I’m pleased that was Olivia Williams because she’s much braver than me. I don’t think I’d have coped with that at all,” she notes, although Colman is involved in some tough scenes too that she was kind of “excited” to film them.
“It was always an honour to do it. Hard and upsetting. The upset is real, but it’s hard to describe it. It’s real, but we know also that we’re regurgitating an upset… I don’t know how to describe it, I’ve never been good at talking about acting,” she concludes.
“It was weirdly enjoyable to do.”
Vanity Fair Italia– She is world-famous for her role as The Queen in The Crown, however, she hopes that the Queen herself doesn’t watch The Crown.
Playing a “bourgeois” role, Olivia Colman admits that fame is a bit of a burden and that the
the only place she feels comfortable in is her home.
The night she won her Oscar, Olivia Colman ended up on stage without having any kind of draft of speech whatsoever, and so, when they handed her the statue, she took a deep breath, her emotions a mixture of laughter and tears, and said the only thing that came to her mind at that moment: “It’s genuinely stressful.”Laughters, applause… Then, in a speech that seemed like a brilliant number of stand-up comedy, Olivia – very English when it comes to underestimating herself as well as to humour – continued to make people laugh; at one point she even apologised to Glenn Close for winning instead of her, then she looked back at the time she used to clean for a living, and finally sent a message to the aspiring young actresses in the audience: “Any little girl who is practising their speech on telly, you never know” Her speech ended with a standing ovation.
The film for which she won was Yorgos Lanthimos’ Favourite, the amazing interpretation of Queen Anne. It’s been two years since that night, and Olivia Colman has remained the same down-to-earth actress that is instantly taken into consideration when it comes to playing British monarchs. Best known she is for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II, the most famous monarch in the world – the condensation of strength, seriousness and self-denial.
Her new film “The Father”, a film for which Anthony Hopkins won his second Oscar, has been out in theatres for a few days now. In the film, Olivia Colman plays Hopkin’s daughter, a woman who watches her father lose himself to dementia. Everything is narrated from the painful and unsettling point of view of the elderly man. Therefore, the viewer is put in the shoes of those who experience the disease firsthand. “I’ve never read such a script before: usually it’s the family’s experience that is described, here it is as if you were inside Anthony Hopkin’s head”, Colman describes through Zoom, sitting in her living room in London.
Anthony Hopkins said he didn’t want any other actresses to play his daughter.Did he really say that?
Olivia Colman: Oh, he just wanted to be nice.
We also see the esteem.
OC: Sure, but Anthony is also a sweet and kind man, he would have said that of any other actress. What I can say is that it has been a constant delight to get to wake up every morning and work with him on set. However, eventually, you come to realize that at the end of the day we are all just human beings.
What did you learn from him?
OC: I was struck by his joyful attitude towards life, his determination to enjoy it despite the bad things that have happened to him. It’s as if he was saying “I’m still here and I want to be fine.” That is not a very common mindset for seniors so it was a great lesson.
Do you share your way of dealing with life?
OC: In some ways yes, I also want to be very aware of how lucky I am, and I know who are the people I love and I love to be with. I don’t like parties or confusion. I love staying home.
So you haven’t suffered from the lockdowns?
OC: I am one of the few very happy people. I don’t even notice whether the pubs are open or closed.
And are you shy?
OC: Yes, I feel uncomfortable in large groups. I’m comfortable around my family.
Have you always been like that?
OC: No, but I have had to become that. You know, it’s not easy to walk into a room where everyone knows you but you don’t know anyone, the feeling is alienating.
So is fame hard to cope with?
OC: It is not easy to explain, but it is certainly something that no one wants to actually live with, and if someone says they would, they have no idea what it is like. It’s the downside of the job that I so very much love.
Can we say that you are an anti diva?
OC: I’m an actress and that’s it.
Your speech at the Oscars made everyone laugh.
OC: Oh my, I don’t even remember it anymore… But I can tell you that morning my husband and I got up and said to each other: we both know it’s not going to happen so let’s enjoy the evening, it happens once in a lifetime. Then my husband told me: however if you ever win… remember to thank all the fans. And him. So I did it.
How many times had you dreamed of that moment?
OC: So many, while cleaning, I would every now and then imagine and recite my Oscar speech. I think everyone has done it at least once, right?
How has your past influenced your ambitions and approach to work?
OC: I am grateful that I was not successful at a young age because it has really made me appreciate working today. This craft is very uncertain and there are so many actors unemployed. These are things to keep in mind when your life changes.
Your life changes but it always lead you to play queens…
OC: But it’s a coincidence!
A strange fact: you always say you are not a big fan of the monarchy.
OC: True, but I respect the Queen very much, she does what she has to do with dignity, other people in her position would not have behaved like her. Nonetheless, it is a job I wouldn’t want.
What do you mean by that?
OC: Being the queen is not a job you choose. You just have to do it. I, on the other hand, need to choose.
When did you choose to become an actress?
OC: At 16, during my first theatrical performance. But I didn’t tell anyone because I wasn’t sure I could do it.
And when did you discover that you have a talent?
OC: I am very fortunate and always try to improve myself.
Lucky but also talented: do you not recognise it?
OC: It sounds so bad coming from your own mouth. Laughs
Do you think the queen is watching The Crown?
OC: I hope not.
OC: Because she must think it is all wrong: the ways of doing things, the private conversations and relationships. The Crown is fiction and seeing yourself in a TV series must be something that makes you very angry.
A sensitive detective in “Broadchurch”, majestic Elizabeth II in “The Crown” … No matter her character, Olivia Colman has a gift for moving others. Her heartbreaking performance in Florian Zeller’s “The Father”, next to Anthony Hopkins and soon to be in theatres, could earn her a second Oscar.
“You must have talked with so many actors who would give better answers than me!” Sitting in her living room, Olivia Colman looks at her laptop with a saddened smile. In the adjacent room, we hear her dog barking. “I’m not an intellectual, I can’t talk about my acting. I’m scared that by over-analyzing it, I’d lose my spontaneity.” We could expect the English actress, aged 47, who had her breakthrough as sensitive detective Ellie Miller in the crime drama Broadchurch and who delivered a remarkable performance as Elizabeth II in the historical series The Crown, to be a bit blasé.
Despite the critics’ praise and a shower of prizes on both sides of the Atlantic, she actually shows a disarming modesty. When winning an Oscar for best actress in a leading role for The Favourite by Yorgos Lanthimos, in 2019, she showed up on stage and laughed “This is hilarious! This is not going to happen again”. But here she is nominated in the “best supporting actress” category for The Father and only a few days away from a possible second win during the Oscars ceremony on April, 25th.
“I dare you to not start crying when Anthony Hopkins is sitting right in front of you!”
In this adaptation by the French director Florian Zeller of his own play Le Père, she portrays Anne, the daughter of an old man who is suffering from dementia (Anthony Hopkins) and who loses his touch with reality. “She sees him falling apart and is forced to go from child to parent,” says Olivia Colman, who delivers a performance full of contrasts, who goes from melancholia to distress, from laughter to tears, without ever giving the impression of forcing it. A challenge in what she calls a “room movie”, and a new illustration of the intensity of her acting? “Ah! No, it was easy, Florian’s script is so beautiful, so detailed and delicate, that I did not have to think too much about it. And I dare you to not start crying when Anthony Hopkins is sitting right in front of you!”
“She always wants to do better, with a vulnerability, a form of insecurity that seems unlikely in such a performer.” analyzes Florian Zeller, who sees in her simply “the best British actress of the moment”. A humbleness that goes back to the beginnings of a woman, native to the rural East of England. “I was around 16 when I first started thinking about becoming an actress, but I didn’t think I had the right to do it,” she recalls. “I had no idea how to do it. Just like when we are kids, we go to the circus but this wonder seems inaccessible.”
She enrols at Cambridge University and intends to do a “normal job” but abandons the idea after one semester— “Thank God, I would have been a terrible teacher!”. It is then, that she joins an amateur theatre group before getting into the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, at the end of the 1990’s.
For her final exams, she must convince a jury of her acting skills in under a minute. “In such little time, I decided that it would be easier to make them laugh rather than cry. Pulling a face has an immediate effect. A sad face takes longer to touch your heart.” A choice that sums up the follow- up of her career, going into comedy. David Mitchell and Robert Webb, two young amateurs she met at Cambridge, help her make her debut in the BBC sitcom Peep Show, starting in 2003. She portrays Sophie, a young and unstable woman.
“Her face is so versatile and has such expressivity that all emotions can appear on it successively.” Florian Zeller, director of “The Father”
Everybody thinks she’s hilarious except for herself, of course. “They needed a woman, they thought I was funny and I was available. It allowed me to have “actress” on my passport, it was glorious.” Also seen in an episode of The Office in 2002, Olivia Colman often comes back to her first love comedy, notably in 2016, in the TV show Fleabag, as impossible Godmother, “awful but delicious, unbearable with a smile”.
Around 2010, she starts to go to castings for drama movies. The actor and screenwriter Paddy Considine gives her a chance in Tyrannosaur (2011) in which she portrays a victim of domestic violence who meets a grieving man (Peter Mullan). “The movie is tough, its subject is so serious… I was terrified.” With an astonishing fragility and contained anger, she collects her first awards and catches the attention of the television writer Chris Chibnall, who was then working on Broadchurch.
Alongside David Tennant, she transforms a classical figure from the small screen, a troubled policewoman, into an ordinary woman at the centre of a tragedy, who holds in her anxiety, the impossibility to confront the inexpressible. An introspective, intimate approach, sublimed by her capacity to convey a vast variety of emotions with one single glance. “The physiognomy of Olivia allows her to be every age, to go from a vulnerable young girl to a mean old woman”, says Florian Zeller. “Her face is so versatile and has such expressivity that all emotions can appear on it successively.”
In 2014, Olivia Colman meets Yorgos Lanthimos – “I had seen his movie Dogtooth (2009) and I wondered what was possibly going on in his head!” The Greek filmmaker offers her a part in The Lobster, her first work with Lanthimos, as the director of a hotel where single people, all of them societal outcasts, come to spend their last moments. An embarrassing character, between grotesque and terror, who fits well with Colman and who marks the beginning of a collaboration that will turn into another shared project, four years later: The Favourite.
“Her emotional intelligence is astonishing. She seems to be able to get to her inner self effortlessly.” Florian Zeller, director and writer of The Father
Yorgos had a vision and let me participate. The view of the writer is the only thing that usually matters; to take into count another one might give it a twist. Her interpretation of Queen Anne of England, unhappy sovereign, stubborn and sick, in the 18th century, confirms her talent to move others, even in the skin of unbearable characters. “There is something so warm in her that all her roles become sympathetic, echoing her nature” sums up Tobias Menzies, who plays Prince Philip next to her in The Crown.
Olivia Colman has a simpler explanation: “I don’t like playing, I’m only being myself.“ She brings her own experience to all her roles. For The
Father, it was the memory of her mother who worked as a nurse in a clinic for Alzheimer’s patients, and the familiarity of Anthony Hopkins as a paternal figure – “I know his face so well, I’ve seen him so many times on stage, on the tv, in the newspapers that part of myself was saying “My God, Anthony Hopkins is not doing well, he is in front of me and his life is falling apart.”
Florian Zellers confirms: “Her emotional intelligence is astonishing. She seems to be able to get to her inner self effortlessly and can project her own effects on her co-stars as if they were her husband, her sister or here, her own father. She truly was overwhelmed by Anthony.”
The change from work to reality pleases her even more, so that this role seems distant, just like the two sovereigns she portrayed simultaneously in The Favourite and The Crown. Queen Anne is angry? Olivia Colman uses it to unwind herself. “Usually, I never lose my temper. Not one single argument in 27 years of marriage. But I love playing someone who gets angry. That may be the reason why I’m a joyful person: I put all my negative vibes into my job.”
Elizabeth II is impassive? “A rock that is not supposed to fall apart in front of others, just like me.” During the scenes that affect her the most, the actress even uses an earpiece that transmits the weather forecast. “At the risk of being a bit impolite and not listening to what my fellow actors say”, she joked on the BBC in 2018.
“To play a super-villain in a Marvel production, that would be amazing, I would have to work out and learn how to fly!”
After The Father, expected to be released in France when theatres open again, we will see her in The Lost Daughter, an adaptation of the novel “The Lost Daughter” by the Italian writer Elena Ferrante (My brilliant friend) and the first motion picture project of colleague Maggie Gyllenhaal. Is she waiting for a blockbuster? “I must have sent a million e- mails to my agent asking to find me a role in a Marvel movie. A supervillain, that would be amazing, I would have to work out and learn how to fly!” she says excitingly while swinging on her chair. We’ll have to wait for a long time if we ever want to see the day when Olivia Colman will be blasé…
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GMA News – With the Oscars just around the corner, we would like to focus on four talented veterans this time: Colman, 47, received her second nomination and the first in the same category as Close for her performance as Anne in the drama, “The Father,” where she shared the limelight with Hopkins.
We last saw you in London right before the lockdown, and you confessed that you won’t mind staying in your home for a couple of months as you enjoy the privacy. After nine months of lockdown, are you ready to go out and work and enjoy your life?
I miss going to work but actually, I have to say I am probably the only person who I could happily do this for two solid years. I love it.
So what are you doing during lockdown?
Cooking, trying to get better at cooking. My husband’s a very good cook. I’m a little bit rubbish but quite good at baking. I am just being at home with the kids. It felt like an opportunity, to have that much time with school-aged kids will never happen again and so I was just trying to enjoy it and trying to enjoy being with them and try to endear myself to them I suppose (laughs) by making food that they liked.
Could you take us to your TV room and describe it? What are your favourite TV shows?
I am in our TV room right now and I’ve tried to make it look as nice as possible. In fact, all the crap is hidden that side of the camera so, you know, dog beds and the cars and there’s a lot of mess but it’s cosy and lived in.
Recently, we’ve been watching as a family. We’ve been watching “Community” because we always try and watch something that we can all watch together. We went through “New Girl” at the beginning of the lockdown. We watch comedies together and I loved “Normal People.” I was totally obsessed with that but we had ’til the kids had gone to bed to watch that one and there’s “Queen’s Gambit” which I really want to see.
What is your TV guilty pleasures?
I do love “Bake Off” and I adore something called “Selling Sunset” recently. I saw one episode of “Selling Sunset” and thought that’s something I could probably get lost in.
What is your first memory of TV?
So there’s a little girl with a chalkboard. I remember being home from school because I was unwell and we had a black and white telly. She was on it an awful lot and then “Farming Diary” came on. I think there was only “Pebble Men” at 1:00 and “Farming Diary” and that was it until I came home from school and then really there was almost no telly on and it was only two or three channels. My dad would fall asleep in front of the telly and yes then the National Anthem. And then he realized he should go to bed. Amazing.
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