Olivia Colman has recently been propelled towards household name status thanks to her Best Actress win at the 2019 Oscars. The star of TV and film scooped the gong after wowing cinema goers with her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite. But Colman’s acting career has been going from strength to strength for decades, and in the UK she’s already well-known thanks to performances in Broadchurch, The Night Manager and of course – Peep Show!
Colman started off life in the world of comedy, playing Mark’s office crush Sophie in the award-winning sitcom Peep Show before going on to star in other hilarious programmes such as Green Wing and That Mitchell and Webb Look.
Colman eventually broke into the world of movies and has appeared in a diverse range of films from Hot Fuzz to The Iron Lady.
In the article below, we take a look at 21 fascinating things you didn’t know about Olivia Colman. We reveal the top tricks she used in her sex scenes for The Favourite, plus find out why she started stealing toilet roll from Buckingham Palace. Enjoy!
21. She was once told that she’d make an ideal truck driver
Olivia Colman has played a huge range of different characters over the course of her acting career.
But we’ve never really seen her behind the wheel of a HGV – which is a shame, because apparently the actress was once told that she’d make a perfect lorry driver! And it’s all down to her excellent spatial awareness…
Colman was hunting for jobs after graduating with a degree in drama from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School when she made the startling discovery.
She used a careers-advice software programme to find out what kind of job she’d be best at – and the results showed that Colman has missed out on her true calling as a HGV driver.
The actress later explained that this was “because I’ve got 100% spatial awareness. I’d be able to back them into tight parking spots.”
We can just see her pulling up to a service station for a pie and a toilet stop before heading out on the road again!
20. She tried to get paid in puppies for some voiceover work
It’s no secret that the actress is a fan of dogs.
She’s got her very own pooch (more on that below) and has worked with animals quite a few times over the course of her career. So fans might not be too surprised to learn that she once tried to get paid in puppies, rather than actual money.
Most people probably don’t remember that Colman actually did the voiceover work for Andrex’ 2013 ‘be kind to your behind’ adverts, which naturally featured plenty of super cute puppies.
Colman admitted that she had a very strange request for producers after recording her material.
The actress admitted: “I did ask if I could get paid in puppies. They said no.” Aww! That’s a shame…who wouldn’t want to take home some of these adorable critters?
Now that she has an Oscar, we’re sure that Colman can demand payment in any form she likes from now on.
19. She once wet herself onstage opposite David Mitchell
Yikes! It happens to the best actors…
Apparently the actress once suffered a rather embarrassing accident while she was onstage opposite her good friend and frequent co-star David Mitchell. The old university friends were starring in a production of The Miser at the time…
Colman recalled that the play required a lot of quick costume changes in between scenes, meaning that there was very little time for a toilet break. She soon regretted downing lots of water before taking to the stage.
Unfortunately the actress wet herself while acting opposite Mitchell. Colman stated: “We were doing The Miser and there were a lot of quick changes and David never quite managed to get his bow tie in the right place.
“It became too much to bear.” We’ll say! Fortunately they managed to get by without the incident making too much of an impact on the rest of the performance that night.
It certainly hasn’t put Mitchell off working with Colman – they would later star in the hit sitcom Peep Show together.
18. She got into a dispute with Wikipedia over her listed age
Colman seems like a fairly relaxed lady most of the time.
But she really got a bee in her bonnet a few years ago when she discovered that Wikipedia had given her the wrong age. And we’re not talking about a couple of years either way here…apparently the data site had made Colman eight years older than she really was!
So it’s fairly understandable that Colman decided to contact the website and rectify the glaring error. However, things didn’t go all that smoothly and the actress got into a heated debate with Wikipedia over the mistake.
Colman recalled: “I said, ‘It’s really upsetting me that you’ve made me eight years older than I actually am.’
“They said, ‘We’d have to see a birth certificate to prove it,’ and I went, ‘Whose fucking birth certificate have you looked at in the first place to make me eight years older!?”’
That’s a fair question Olivia! Fortunately the age has now been changed to reflect her real age: 45.
17. She once stole some toilet paper from Buckingham Palace
Colman definitely has a cheeky side to her personality.
In 2018, she received an official invitation to dine at none other than Buckingham Palace itself. Naturally the actress was hugely excited by the prospect, and told Vanity Fair that she basically started levitating when she received the invite.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, Eddie! We’re going to Buckingham Palace for dinner.’ I thought it was just a little group of us invited. What an idiot I was.”
It turns out that the event was actually a 200-person reception hosted by Prince William – oops! Still though, Colman was so excited by her trip to the Palace that she made sure to bag herself a little unofficial souvenir – some toilet roll from one of the royal loos.
She persuaded her husband Eddie to steal a few squares of toilet roll from one of the Palace bathrooms:“He got two squares of loo roll, just to say, ‘We got it from Buckingham Palace.’”
Nice! We thought Colman would have had more than enough loo roll to go round after voicing an Andrex commercial but hey.
16. She gained 16kg for her role in The Favourite
Colman has won acting’s highest honour for performance in The Favourite.
Most people would agree that she definitely deserves all the accolades she’s been receiving this awards season. But did you know that she had to do a lot of preparation before filming begun? Specifically, she had to gain a lot of weight in order to accurately portray Queen Anne.
Colman ended up putting on 16kg (or 2st 7lb) for her performance in the movie, which sees Queen Anne guzzling mountains of cake and other delicacies while trying to decide which courtier she likes best.
Apparently the actress didn’t mind doing this particular bit of ‘research’ for the film at all, and said gaining that amount of weight was “liberating and brilliant”.
She has since slimmed down remarkably and must have gotten sick of eating cake after her winning portrayal of Queen Anne.
Colman celebrated her win at the Oscars by getting “so pissed” with her co-stars rather than indulging in the canapés.
15. She met Robert Webb and David Mitchell at university
There are some great pictures floating about the internet of Olivia Colman during her student days.
And in most of the photographs, there’s more than a few famous faces floating around, including none other than her future Peep Show co-stars Robert Webb and David Mitchell.
All three of the future comedy stars attended Cambridge University. Although Sophie didn’t end up finishing her degree in primary education there, she did audition for the famous Cambridge Footlights troupe.
The Footlights have previously hosted the likes of Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry and the Pythons – but it’s also where Colman first befriended Mitchell and Webb. Judging from the photos below, they definitely had great fun together!
Colman stayed in touch with a number of her friends from Cambridge, so it’s little surprise that Mitchell had Colman on his mind when Peep Show was first being developed.
John Oliver was also another old pal from their Cambridge days!
14. She was supposed to become a primary school teacher
This one makes a little more sense than the lorry driver career path.
Colman originally had a very different idea about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life. And it didn’t involve glitzy award ceremonies or blockbuster films – instead Colman wanted to become a primary school teacher.
Her first career plan was to go into teaching, but the idea just didn’t stick. The future Oscar winner actually began training as a primary school teacher for one term at Homerton College, Cambridge.
However, Colman soon realised that it just wasn’t what she wanted to do, and turned to acting instead. The actress explained: “I wasn’t terribly committed, and I would have been a terrible teacher.”
After graduating from university, Colman had a series of odd jobs to try and earn money – she has previously worked as both a cleaner and a secretary.
However, Colman did once admit that she was “not a very good” secretary at all. Good job the acting thing worked out!
13. She watched lots of I’m A Celebrity to prepare for her role in The Iron Lady
Colman looked almost unrecognisable in The Iron Lady.
She underwent some serious prosthetics to try and achieve the look of Carol Thatcher, otherwise known as Maggie Thatcher’s daughter. Colman engaged in some interesting research in order to accurately depict Carol.
Apparently the actress watched hours of footage from I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here! after Thatcher won the fifth series of the reality contest in 2005.
According to Colman, she did this in order to “get her voice right” for the movie. We’re sure binge-watching reality TV wasn’t part of the deal at all! The actress also revealed that she had an awkward moment with co-star Meryl Streep during filming…
Apparently Streep and Jim Broadbent (who played Mark Thatcher) both had to wear fake teeth for their performances. Streep found this hilarious and said to Broadbent and Colman that they needed a selfie with their “funny English teeth”.
To which Colman had to explain that hers were real! Oops…
12. She used a wet sponge for her sex scenes in The Favourite
The Favourite has more than its fair share of lesbian love scenes.
And of course, in the era of #MeToo these kind of delicate moments had to be managed as professionally as possible. At one point in the film, Abigail Masham (played by Emma Stone) engages in a bit of X-rated action with Queen Anne (played by Colman).
Apparently Colman decided to make the experience a bit more realistic with a very interesting prop – a wet sponge!
The actress put the sponge under her skirt as a kind of bizarre receptacle for her co-star Emma Stone’s fingers while they were filming the sex scene. Weird! Apparently Stone wasn’t a fan of the prop either…
Colman herself later revealed Stone’s hilarious reaction to the sponge: “It was a big, wet sponge. So Emma went up my leg and she went, ‘Ugh!’”. Not what Queen Anne would have wanted to hear!
Fortunately the two actresses managed to get on with things professionally and helped to bag their movie 9 Oscar nominations in the process.
11. Her character in The Night Manager wasn’t supposed to be pregnant
Fans of The Night Manager will know Colman best for her portrayal of Angela Burr.
Burr is one of the main characters responsible for hiring Jonathan Pine (played by Tom Hiddleston) and getting him to infiltrate circles in both Whitehall and Washington, D.C.. Colman’s character is notable for the fact that she is pregnant during the series.
Colman’s character wasn’t supposed to be pregnant at all, but the actress was expecting her daughter when she accepted the role, making things a bit more interesting when it came to filming.
The writers decided to incorporate Colman’s heavy pregnancy into the script, and the props department also did their bit to make sure that the actress was as comfortable as possible.
Apparently lots of chairs were arranged on set so that Colman could film lots of her scenes as Burr while sitting down, rather than standing up all day. It’s not the first time that the actress has been pregnant while filming a programme.
Colman returned for the final series of Broadchurch in 2013, only 9 months after giving birth to her daughter.
10. She also met her husband in university
As we’ve already seen Colman has quite a few industry connections thanks to her university days.
But she also met the love of her life, Eddie Sinclair, while they were both students. Apparently the pair were both cast in a student theatre production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Table Manners at Footlights when the future couple set eyes on each other.
The actress has since explained that for her it was ‘love at first sight’. The couple quickly got together while Sinclair was a third-year law student who had become disillusioned with his degree and wanted to try acting.
Eventually, Ed gave up on acting and became a writer instead. The happy husband and wife duo have been together since 1993 – they got hitched in August 2001.
Since then, they’ve had three children together: Finn Sinclair (b. August 2005), Hal Joseph Sinclair (b. August 2007), and one daughter (b. August 2015).
The couple have chosen to keep their daughter’s name under wraps.
9. She has a dog called Alfred, Lord Waggyson
We’re guessing Colman loved working on the voiceover commercial for Andrex…
Because she’s the proud owner of a pet dog who bears the regal name Alfred, Lordy Waggyson. And the actress once revealed that she and her family bought the pooch after she couldn’t keep her hormonal instincts under control!
Colman explained that working with a baby on the set of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher: The Murder in Angel Lane started bringing up all sorts of maternal instincts for the actress.
“[And] even though I have two beautiful sons [Hal, seven, and Finn, five] I’m constantly broody. We got a gorgeous dog, Alf, to quell my yearning for another child but it hasn’t worked because, although I love him, he is a different species.
“My mum says, ‘These feelings go on well into your 60s.’ I’m starting to believe her.” Aww! The actress later revealed on a Radio 4 interview that the family lovingly refer to him as ‘Lord Waggyson’.
So cute! We wonder if he started barking at the TV when he saw Colman scooping the gong for Best Actress!
8. She’s the only actress to play HM Queen Elizabeth II and her mother Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother
Colman has had plenty of royal connections during her acting career.
And so far, she is the only actress to play both Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as well as her mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Colman first played the Queen Mother in the 2012 period drama Hyde Park on Hudson which also starred Billy Murray and Laura Linney.
Sadly most people don’t remember her performance as the Queen mum because the film itself took a battering from critics and wasn’t received well at the box office.
Colman later went on to portray the Queen of England in the far more popular Netflix series The Crown, taking over from Claire Foy to play the actress in her later years.
Colman will be appearing in season 3 of the much-loved period drama opposite Helena Bonham-Carter, who portrays the Queen’s sister Princess Margaret.
We can’t wait to see how she does in the series!
7. She won herself a role on The Night Manager after comparing herself to Frances McDormand
Executives at The Night Manager weren’t keen on hiring a pregnant actress for the role of Angela Burr.
A pregnancy isn’t in the original John Le Carré novel and posed a bit of a challenge to writers who had already been getting the scripts for the series ready. However, Colman was determined to fight for the role…
She successfully managed to convince director Susanne Bier to hire her for the role despite being heavily pregnant with her third child. How?
Colman referred to the success experienced by actress Frances McDormand and her portrayal of pregnant police officer Marge Gunderson on the movie Fargo (McDormand ended up winning the Best Actress award at the Oscars!).
Bier was convinced by the argument and cast Colman in the role. Ironically, McDormand was the actress who handed Colman her Oscar statuette for Best Actress at the 2019 awards!
That’s a weird coincidence…Hollywood can be a very small place.
6. She once got the giggles really badly during a West End play
Colman is normally known for her professionalism on set.
But the actress once admitted that even she has a hard time keeping a straight face from time to time. Colman was recounting some of her worst moments while treading the boards and recalled one particular incident when she couldn’t keep her laughter under control.
In 2012, Colman was acting in a popular production of Hay Fever opposite Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Jeremy Northam. Unfortunately, she quickly got the giggles after forgetting one of her lines.
The actress looks back on the incident with mild embarrassment and later said: “West End audiences haven’t paid to see that. I felt really bad.”
Fortunately she continued to stun audiences with her performance in the play, despite the mishap that caused her to break character and start laughing!
We’re guessing she had more than a few laughs on the set of Peep Show anyway.
5. Her ringtone is a clown klaxon
We always knew that Colman had a mischievous side.
And apparently this naughty streak has even filtered into her mobile ringtone, which one interviewer found out was none other than a loud, honking clown’s horn! Colman’s phone went off just as she was discussing her comedy roles…
In the 2013 interview, the interviewer noted that the phone went off ‘with faultless comic timing’ to reveal that Colman’s ringtone of choice is a clown klaxon.
Apparently that’s not the only detail he managed to find out about Colman’s mobile. Her wallpaper is none other than a picture of her dog Alf, who is a Jackapoo.
The actress revealed during the interview that she was having a hard time trying to keep Alf’s constant hair-shedding under control.
Colman said: “They’re not supposed to moult. But I keep finding hairs.”
4. Her first name is actually Sarah
‘Olivia Colman’ just rolls off the tongue really doesn’t it?
So you might be surprised to learn that ‘Olivia’ isn’t Colman’s first name at all. Her full name reads: Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman. Why did she decide to change her first name? Was it for acting reasons? The actress herself once explained the situation…
The actress actually had an Equity clash with another Sarah Colman and decided to change her name to Olivia to try and stand out from the crowd. But the actress doesn’t mind about this at all.
Colman explained: “One of my best friends at university was called Olivia and I always loved her name. I was never Sarah; I was always called by my nickname, Colly, so it didn’t seem so awful not to be called Sarah.”
There’s no word yet on whether she is distantly related to the Colmans of Colman’s Mustard, but she is from North Norfolk so there’s a good chance! In other news, the actress has an interesting bit of trivia with a fellow actor…
She was born on the exact same day as Christian Bale (30th January 1974) and coincidentally Colman was nominated for a Best Actor/Actress award in the same year that he was!
3. She considers Confetti to be her biggest mistake of all time
Colman has had an interesting career so far…
But she’s made a few duds along the way, as any actor does. And Colman has previously confessed that she absolutely loathes the 2006 film Confetti, in which she plays one half of a nudist couple alongside Robert Webb (her husband in the movie).
Colman has said that working on the mockumentary film was a complete mistake, and represents one of the worst acting experiences she’s ever had to go through since the start of her career. Wow!
The actress wasn’t a fan of just how much nudity was shown in the end – she didn’t realise how much flesh she would have to bare during filming.
The actress explained: “I would have felt better about it had I been aware how much was actually going to be on display.”
Maybe her facial expression below sums it up:
2. She’s a vocal member of Hacked Off
Colman has been very vocal in the world of politics over the years.
The actress was firmly against Scottish independence and as one of over 200 public figures that signed an ‘open letter to Scotland’ advising against the break-up of the Union during the 2014 referendum. And that’s not the only issue she has taken to heart.
Colman is a vocal advocate of the anti-press intrusion group Hacked Off, which was established with the support of actors such as Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan in the wake of the 2010 phone-hacking revelations.
The group helped actors and other public figures recoup money after falling victim to tabloid phone-hacking tactics, which successfully aided journalists in delving into the private lives of various celebrities.
Colman has since revealed that she is a member of the group, after becoming horrified by the revelations between 2010 and 2011.
She is also an activist for mental health after suffering from postnatal depression.
1. She convinced Peep Show writers to make her character Sophie less likeable
Sophie goes from being quite a chipper personality to a bit of a, well, b*itch!
And apparently this character transformation is all down to Olivia Colman herself. Apparently she approached the writers of Peep Show to change her character Sophie into someone far less likeable.
The actress successfully persuaded them that Sophie had really behaved atrociously towards Mark (played by David Mitchell) and deserved to be put down a peg or two.
This was worked into several storylines, including the moment when David finds Sophie drunk in a public toilet after their ill-fated marriage falls by the wayside.
Did you know all of these facts about Olivia Colman? Let us know in the comments section!