A look at Olivia Colman’s glittering career as she scoops second Golden Globe
PUBLISHED: 15:50 07 January 2019 | UPDATED: 07:21 08 January 2019
Following her second Golden Globe win arts editor Andrew Clarke tracks the diverse career of Norfolk’s Olivia Colman
Now Norfolk-born actress Olivia Colman is a two-time Golden Globe winner, surely she should now be regarded as a bona fide Hollywood star? She is well known on this side of the Atlantic for her many and disparate film and television roles but her Best Actress win at the Golden Globes for her standout role as Queen Anne in the black comedy The Favourite will have Hollywood moguls sitting up and taking notice.
Although Oscar nominations are not out until January 22 the pundits and the bookies are busily suggesting that Olivia is now not only a likely candidate for a nomination but stands a real chance of nabbing herself an Oscar.
For someone as talented and versatile, Olivia Colman has taken a fairly quiet route to the top of her profession. For anyone who has seen her interviewed on television or watched her appearances on The Graham Norton Show, the reason is clear – she is naturally self-depricating.
When she was last nominated for a Golden Globe, for her role in The Night Manager, she didn’t attend the ceremony because she didn’t think she stood a chance of winning. Such was the quality of performance that she turned a relatively small, supporting performance into a key element of a gripping spy drama.
Part of what makes Olivia Colman so appealing as an actress is her ability to move from showy star-turns to nicely observed supporting roles. She can go from starring in a big budget Hollywood movie like The Favourite or Hyde Park on Hudson to providing the voice of Marian on the Thomas the Tank Engine animated series or making the most of a personal assistant role in the award-winning comedy series 2012.
She sees herself as a jobbing actress and is the epitome of the acting maxim: “There is no such thing as a small role just small actors”. She is happy to take any role providing it is interesting and if she is in a small role then the lead had better watch out because she has an uncanny knack of making her supporting character far more interesting than a star-name cruising on auto-pilot.
But, she’s not a camera hog – another of Olivia’s best traits is that she is a great ensemble player. She excels in group dramas. She is currently starring in Les Miserables on BBC1, the ultimate ensemble drama, as well as series like Broadchurch and Fleabag.
Even though she plays lead roles as The Queen in The Crown and Queen Anne in The Favourite, they are ensemble movies and she enjoys working with other actors of equal stature rather than being surrounded with inexperienced or lesser talent.
Speaking before Christmas, Oliviasaid the roles of the two Queens could not be more different and that was what attracted her to the parts.
“The difference between the two, playing different people, is what I went into this job for, that’s the whole point of being an actor, so I am having a lovely time.
“I find the harder is Queen Elizabeth because everyone knows what she looks like, everyone knows what she sounds like, everyone has an opinion on whether the casting is right. And I am loving the job, I am loving trying to play her, but I find her harder.
“I love doing the work so much it’s almost a shame that people have to see it, because people who weren’t there get to say what they think about it, which is quite hard.
“But the fact that people have loved this (The Favourite) as much as I have loved it just fills my heart with such joy and makes me so happy.”
From her eclectic film and TV choices, it’s clear Olivia enjoys being challenged. Queen Anne is a demanding role requiring drama, pathos and comedy and she also took on the difficult central role of Ipswich resident Julie in Rufus Norris’ film adaptation of his stage play London Road.
Just as demanding was her role as Hannah, a Christian charity shop worker, in Paddy Considine’s brutal domestic drama Tyrannosaur and then she could turn her talent to a bright and breezy performance in That Mitchell and Webb Look or a warm supporting role in Rev opposite Tom Hollander.
This ‘normal’, grounded outlook on life and her love of the work rather than stardom stems from her ordinary upbringing in rural Norfolk. Her first job was at The King’s Arms in Blakeney and in the BBC TV genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? she remembered revising for her A-Levels on Holkham beach or opening the back door and heading off for the day.
“My favourite childhood memory was going crabbing with my family,” she said. “We used to sit on a muddy bridge with a string and a bit of bacon and catch crabs, then do a crab race at the end. It was important just because nobody was working, we were all mucking about, we all got on and we had fun.”
It’s this love of life that informs her work and has created a new, versatile Hollywood star.
Olivia Colman won Best Actress (Motion Picture Musical or Comedy) for The Favourite at this year’s Golden Globes. BAFTA nominations will be announced on Wednesday January 9 and Oscar nominations on January 22.
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