“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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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.”
don’t forget to check our photo gallery for photos from THE FATHER and more