Cheat Sheet: Olivia Colman


Olivia Colman

Date of Birth:

30 January 1974

Place of birth:

Norfolk, UK

Special moves:

Acting, being heartbreaking, hilariousing

Films include:

Hot Fuzz , Tyrannosaur , Arrietty , The Iron Lady

What you probably already know

It’s pretty likely that you know Olivia Colman as the long suffering, delicately-grating Sophie from Peep Show – love of Mark’s life, but only occasionally. She’s also currently on our small screens in Rev, playing Tom Hollander’s no-nonsense wife Alex and getting to do lots of excellent swearing. She pops up all over the place in only the very best of British comedy: various Mitchell And Webb fandangos, Green Wing, The Office, Black Books, Look Around You, not to mention her sterling cameo work in Hot Fuzz and, of course, the sublime AA Car Insurance ads. But the thing is, she’s a proper brilliant well-good proper ACTOR and all; starring in Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur as a horrifically abused housewife and RACKING up awards for it (Sundance Special Jury Prize for Breakout Performance, Best Actress at the BIFAs and the Chicago International Film Festival, and nominated for about fifteen more for her performance alone…), proving that her decision to move away from the Mitchell and Webb boys (she decided that she was becoming too synonymous with their work) was a bloody good one.

She’s about to burst onto our screens once again in the upcoming Streep-fest The Iron Lady; she’ll be playing Maggie Thatcher’s daughter Carol (we always thought she looked like a young Jim Broadbent), though whether the film will tackle the Winning Celebrity Big Brother Years is yet to be revealed…

What You Might Not Know

Her name isn’t even Olivia, it’s bloody Sarah! Anyway, she changed it, we accepted her lies, we’ve all moved on.

If funding for Paddy Considine’s second short film had come through, we might never have gotten Tyrannosaur in the first place. Meeting on the set of Hot Fuzz, Colman was approached by Considine to play a leading role in a short film he was making called Dog Altogether (which would later serve as an opening chapter to Tyrannosaur). Having completed it, Consitine was so astonished by Colman’s performance – until that point she’d only been known for comedy – that he wanted to expand the story to a second short film centred on her character (called Anita in the original). But when funding fell through, he decided to throw caution to the winds and write the feature with Colman and co-star Eddie Marsan in mind. It took him a week. Bastard. Colman and Marsan rehearsed for one day before shooting began. Bastards.

But although she cannot heap enough praise on her Tyrannosaur experience, she’s apparently still filled with rage about her involvement in Confetti – a fairly crude Brit-comedy she did with Robert Webb, amongst others – in which they play a couple planning a naturist wedding. Colman has openly described the process as “the worst experience of [her] life”, and has criticised herself for being naive enough to trust those responsible for the film. “There were certain chats that took place for an entire year before filming which suggested the nudity wouldn’t be quite as awful as it was. I would have felt better about it had I been aware how much was actually going to be on display.” The only thing that stopped her suing BBC films was the fact that Robert Webb managed to convince her it wasn’t worth it. Oh dear. It was an uncharacteristically resentful (though entirely justified) move for Colman, who has made her name in the industry as a woman of kindness, modesty and warmth. The story goes that Paddy Considine knew she was the woman for his film as soon as they met – she opened a door for him, insisted he walked through first and his mind was made up.

Olivia Colman quote:

“I’d probably be a better actor if I had a bit more of a fucked-up background, but I really don’t.”

What to say about her at a dinner party:

“Isn’t it funny how the women who begin in comedy often have the firmest grasp over great tragedy? One only has to look at Kathy Burke in Nil By Mouth, Julie Walters in Mo, Olivia Colman in Tyrannosaur to see that those who can fully manipulate moments of uplifting hilarity have the advantage when grappling with moments of pathos.”

What not to say about her at a dinner party:

“Yeah, but did you see her arse in Confetti?”

Final thought:

We have a feeling that Olivia Colman has only just begun to show us how marvellous she is. Our only hope is that she doesn’t abandon comedy altogether now that she’s proven her drama credentials – where would Mark be without drippy Sophie, after all? And that, for her own sanity, she gets to work with Paddy Considine again. Seriously, you should hear how she goes on about him…

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