By Alison James
Like a fine wine, Olivia Colman’s star quality has taken time to mature – and she couldn’t be happier.
A Golden Globe, a whole family of BAFTAs and now Oscar winner for her role as Queen Anne. There’s arguably no bigger female star in the world right now than Norwich-born Olivia Colman. At 44, she is something of a late bloomer but she sees this as a blessing.
“Later life fame is sweeter,” she says. “Becoming famous when you’re young must bring intense pressure. It would be hard to stay normal, I think. That didn’t happen to me and I’m glad. If you get an awful lot of recognition when you’re very young, I think that must be really difficult to know which way is up. I’m very grateful. I’m mid-40s and feel more able. I know who I trust and who I love.”
To be frank, Olivia’s not very keen on the fame game per se. When she’s not working she much prefers being at home with husband Ed and their three children, or seeing friends than going out. “I have friends that I adore and I like going to safe places with them, my home or their home,” she recently revealed. “I don’t really go out anymore. I find it one-sided – everybody knows your face but you don’t know theirs. When you’re out, it’s people nudging and pointing in your direction and talking about you.
“Ninety-nine point nine per cent of people who come up to me are really nice but you have to be a brave soul to cope with the nudging. No one teaches you how to deal with that and I find it intimidating. But as long as I know I can keep my head down and stay at home, it's not so bad. You obviously have to do press to sell the jobs that you've done and hand-in-hand with the recognition, I’m getting work that I'm loving and have always dreamt of. I love acting and know that lack of anonymity is an unfortunate side effect.”
Acting loves Olivia right back. Her Iron Lady co-star Meryl Streep called her ‘divinely gifted’, her Broadchurch co-star David Tennant hailed her (in a tongue-in-cheek way) as ‘irritatingly perfect’, while Hugh Bonneville, her colleague in the BBC comedy 2012, revealed she had ‘the phenomenal ability to be utterly spontaneous in every role she plays’ with the ‘natural gift of being loved by everyone she works with’.
Like Dame Judi Dench, Olivia is endlessly versatile as an actress – seamlessly moving from comedy such as 2012, Peep Show and The Favourite to serious dramas such as Broadchurch, The Night Manager and the Accused. She’s also finds time to work on behalf of various charities and causes, recently taking part in Amnesty International's Women Making History festival, supporting Marie Curie and London-based anti-domestic violence charity Tender, and she is also a patron of the blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan.
Acting-wise, Olivia’s currently filming Netflix’s The Crown having taken over the role of Queen Elizabeth II from Claire Foy. The next series of the lavish drama goes out in the autumn. So how is she finding it? “I’m loving the job and loving trying to play her but I find the role challenging,” Olivia said recently. “Everyone knows what the Queen looks like, everyone knows what she sounds like, everyone has an opinion on whether the casting is right. I’m always thinking, ‘What would Claire do?’ I’ve had to let that go and make it my own. Burying my emotions, as is Elizabeth’s duty when in public, has been tricky because I’m a naturally emotional person. If someone is sad, I burst into tears. In that respect playing Queen Anne in The Favourite was much easier for me.”
Speaking before her Oscar win, she said, “If I’m really honest, I’ve always dreamed of holding an Oscar,” she has revealed. “But I’m really trying to sort of keep everything in check, keep calm. This is silly. What are the chances? I don’t want to get excited. I don’t want to face that disappointment. I just want to be on an even keel. At the end of the day, I’m a mum, a wife, a mate. I’m other things. You can see how people get sort of swept into it but I want to stay sane.”
Did you know?
Olivia has a passion for shoes. “I love them and I own a lot because it’s like being in a sweet shop - they’re pretty. But in general, I’m rubbish in heels. I just don’t walk nicely in them.”