Is Olivia Colman The Favourite In The Best Actress Oscar Race?

Before The Crown's third season arrives on our screens, you can catch Colman playing a very different Queen...

olivia colman queen anne the favourite

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Updated on

Awards season has arrived, bringing with it a new crop of films you'll need to name drop and a new class of Oscar hopefuls. One of those hopefuls is Olivia Colman, whose performed in topsy-turvy period drama The Favourite has (rightfully) generated major awards buzz since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival back in August. Here's everything you need to know about the national treasure's chances of winning a Best Actress statuette at the Academy Awards this February...

Who does Olivia Colman play in The Favourite?

Right now, her most buzzed-about project is her upcoming turn as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown’s third and fourth seasons but, over-achiever that she is, this isn’t Olivia Colman’s only royal role: in The Favourite, a savagely funny period drama from director Yorgos Lanthimos (the man behind The Lobster, if you want to gauge quite how pitch black his sense of humour is…), Colman plays Queen Anne, our last Stuart monarch who reigned for just 12 years between 1702 and 1714. In the film, we meet Anne towards the end of her life, an eccentric, highly strung queen plagued with ill health and marked by the sadness of losing 17 children (none of her children lived beyond the age of two; the majority were stillborn).

The only person who she trusts is Lady Sarah (played by Rachel Weisz), but when Sarah’s upstart cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at court, she sees an opportunity to climb up the social ladder and clings on to it, conniving to eclipse her relative in the Queen’s affections. What follows has been described as a 18th century All About Eve; beyond the gleeful absurdity (the Queen shares her chambers with a family of rabbits, courtiers race ducks down palace corridors and Nicholas Hoult spends most of the film wearing a towering candyfloss wig and face powder) it’s also a fascinating and brutal analysis of power relations. Plus, Colman is far too empathetic to let her character descend into caricature: just when it seems that the Queen is about to become truly ludicrous, she gives us some small reminder of Anne’s losses.

Wait. Does Olivia Colman already have an Oscar?

She’s undoubtedly one of the most talented actresses working today, but Olivia has never been nominated for an Oscar. That’s almost certainly because, until now, she’s focused on smaller British indie films (like the harrowing Tyrannosaur, one of her most awards-worthy performances so far) and on her extensive TV work. That’s not to say that her mantlepiece is bereft of acting statuettes - quite the opposite. She's already picked up the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy for The Favourite and she’s won three BAFTA TV Awards (for Broadchurch, Twenty Twelve and Accused) and has been nominated for a further three. She’s followed up those wins with success across the Atlantic, taking home an Emmy (in 2016) and a Golden Globe (in 2017) for her supporting role in The Night Manager. A little gold Oscar statue would surely make a nice addition, though (not to mention taking her halfway to EGOT status...)

Which Oscar category will she be competing in?

olivia colman queen anne the favourite

The Favourite is a bizarre love triangle with three strikingly different, entirely compelling female protagonists. With the film industry still slacking on female-driven narratives, that makes it a very rare beast indeed. One of the biggest question marks of this awards season so far, then, has hung over which of the film’s three stars would be chosen to campaign as the lead, and which would battle it out in the Best Supporting Actress race. The studio, Fox Searchlight, eventually opted for Colman; Stone and Weisz, who already have an Oscar apiece (for La La Land and The Constant Gardener respectively) are expected to compete in the supporting category. Director Yorgos Lanthimos has, however, spoken about how ‘weird’ it was to make this decision, giving the characters’ almost equal footing. ‘From day one when we started writing the script, I felt that this was gonna be a film about these three women and they were going to be equal,’ he told Vulture, ‘and in different times within the film each different one would rise up above the others or take the lead. I wanted it to change throughout the film, and I think that’s how we did it.’

NOW READ: The Awards Season Films You'll Need To Know For 2019


Awards hopefuls 2018 - Grazia

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CREDIT: Fox Searchlight

The Favourite

Before Olivia Colman stepped into Claire Foy's shoes as The Crown's new Queen Elizabeth, the British actress and national treasure took on a very different royal role. In The Favourite, the latest from The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos, she plays the eccentric Queen Anne, with Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone co-starring as rival courtiers viciously striving for a place in her affections. This central trio is already generating serious awards buzz for their work (it's thought that Colman will compete in the Best Actress category) and Lanthimos's trademark pitch black humour and surrealist flourishes will make this a period drama like no other.Released 1st January 2019

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Move over, Ocean's 8: Widows, the female-fronted thriller from Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen, can arguably boast the most A-list line-up of any film released this year. It's based on the '80s ITV series that fascinated McQueen as a child, and stars Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo as four women who find themselves drawn together when their husbands die in a failed heist. Soon, they're stepping up to finish the job and avenge their late partners. Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn shares writing duties with McQueen, meaning a Best Original Screenplay nomination is practically a dead cert (and don't sleep on Viola Davis' chances of adding another Oscar to her mantlepiece, either). Released 5th November

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Can You Ever Forgive Me?

She won us over with scene-stealing comic turns in the likes of Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters, but Melissa McCarthy plays against type to devastating effect in Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which is based on the memoirs of celebrity interviewer Lee Israel. It's the '90s, and Israel's biographies of fading Hollywood stars aren't selling; falling on hard times, she embarks on a get-rich-quick scam that hinges upon a knack for forging 'lost' celebrity letters. Written by Nicole Holofcener and directed by Marielle Heller (her follow-up to 2016's under-appreciated The Diary Of A Teenage Girl), it's also a showcase for some of the film world's most exciting female talents. Released 1st February 2019

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CREDIT: Shutterstock

Black Panther

Is Black Panther the film that will finally break Marvel's Oscar curse? Quite possibly. Not only did its release mark a major watershed moment in pop culture (it's the only film in the superhero studio's cinematic universe to feature a predominantly black cast), it also easily holds its own amongst this year's best releases, thanks in no small part to a compelling supporting performance from Michael B. Jordan and deft direction from Ryan Coogler. Now that the Oscars have (thankfully) nixed their ill-fated Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film, Black Panther could very easily make history as the first superhero movie to receive a nomination for Best Picture. Available on DVD and digital download now

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CREDIT: Netflix


If Black Panther could be the first superhero movie to swoop into the Best Picture category, Roma is just as likely to pull off the same feat for Netflix. The Academy is notoriously sniffy when it comes to streaming (last year, the platform's main awards hopeful Mudbound failed to live up to its early promise, despite landing a handful of nominations) but if anything could change its collective mind, it's the latest project from Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuarón. Shot in black and white, his follow-up to 2013's Gravity is his most personal film yet. Drawing on his childhood in Mexico City, it's a love letter to the women who raised hit set against the political turmoil of '70s Mexico.Released 14th December

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CREDIT: Annapurna Pictures

If Beale Street Could Talk

After Moonlight's dramatic Best Picture win at last year's Oscars, Barry Jenkins announced he'd be adapting If Beale Street Could Talk, the 1974 novel from the prodigiously talented writer, critic and civil rights activist James Baldwin. The film – Jenkins' third to date – tells the story of Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), a young couple whose relationship is placed under strain when Fonny finds himself wrongfully accused of rape. With a similarly dreamy, elegiac feel, Beale Street looks perfectly poised to replicate Moonlight's awards season success. Name-drop Regina King (who plays Tish's mother) as a major player for Best Supporting ActressReleased 18th January 2018

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CREDIT: Shutterstock

A Star Is Born

At this (admittedly early) stage in the awards game, A Star Is Born remains the one to beat. Bradley Cooper's re-telling of Hollywood's favourite fable, which this time tracks the ill-fated romance between a washed-up stadium rock singer (Cooper) and a prodigiously talented unknown (Lady Gaga in her first major film role) as their respective careers wax and wane, has only gained more momentum since its first screening at Venice – the huge box office numbers, and the fact that you're probably streaming the soundtrack right this moment, certainly won't hurt its chances either. But will Gaga pick up an Oscar? Surely she deserves multiple statuettes just for that howl in ShallowOn general release

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CREDIT: Shutterstock

First Man

Ryan Gosling re-teams with his La La Land director Damien Chazelle for a new biopic that's stratospheres away from his love letter to the musicals of Old Hollywood. First Man follows astronaut Neil Armstrong (Gosling) as he prepares to make the first landing on the Moon. The Crown's Claire Foy joins him as Janet, Armstrong's put-upon wife, in what will doubtless be her most awards-friendly role since Queen Elizabeth II. Though reviews haven't been quite so rapturous this time around, its sweeping cinematography and breath-taking special effects mean that First Man can't be discounted from the Oscar race (side note: why are awards bodies still so obsessed with angsty wife roles?)On general release

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Mary, Queen of Scots

At this stage, every move from three-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan (she's just 24 years old, if you fancy feeling inadequate) generates Oscar buzz, not in the least her newest role: in this, the first screen effort from former Donmar Warehouse creative director Josie Rourke, Saoirse plays the ill-fated Mary Stuart, the Scottish queen who became embroiled in brutal intrigue when she made a play for the British throne. Margot Robbie, meanwhile, has donned ashy white make-up and a terrifying red wig to play Elizabeth I, Mary's cousin, former confidante and eventual rival.Released 1st January 2019

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The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give is the latest hit Young Adult novel to make its way onto film, but this story is more pressing, troubling and resonant than much of the Hunger Games-lite fare that's come to be associated with teen drama. Actress-slash-activist Amandla Stenberg plays 16-year-old Starr as she juggles her double life, acting one way with family and friends in her predominantly black neighbourhood and presenting a different self entirely to affluent classmates at her private school. When her childhood friend becomes a victim of police brutality, those worlds collide. Amandla's performance has gained rave reviews, and its timely subject matter could put this outlier on track for Oscars success.On general release

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Keira Knightley? In a period drama? Groundbreaking. The more cynical among you might be tempted to paraphrase Miranda Priestley after seeing posters for Colette, but this exhilarating film is far more than the sum of those parts. For one, Knightley gives one of her best performances yet as Sidonie-Gabrielle 'Colette,' the French author of the Belle Epoque whose husband (a gleefully awful Dominic West) steals all the credit for her blockbusting Claudine series of schoolgirl novels. And with its focus on a woman finding and owning her voice, Colette buzzes with contemporary resonance - which will certainly work in its favour come awards season. And did we mention the costumes?Released 11th January 2019

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Nicole Kidman is back in the Oscar race with Destroyer, a noirish thriller from director Karyn Kusama. She plays a troubled LA cop who finds herself drawn back into the case that has cast a dark shadow over her police career, seeking vengeance along the way. Unless you've managed to avoid the headlines entirely, it's a role that has required one of Kidman's most extreme transformations to date, but don't let the prosthetics distract you from the quality of her performance. Released 25th January 2019

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CREDIT: Shutterstock

The Wife

It might have flown under your radar so far, but the big screen adaptation of Meg Wolitzer's novel has been quietly gaining major Oscar buzz thanks to a standout performance from six time nominee Glenn Close in the title role. Her turn as Joan, the inscrutable wife of a Nobel prize-winning author (played by another veteran of stage and screen, Jonathan Pryce) is undisputedly among the year's best, while those six previous nominations are only going to help give her campaign yet more momentum. Sorry, Gaga. Close is joined by her daughter, Annie Starke, who plays a younger Joan in flashback. On general release

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Beautiful Boy

The Internet's boyfriend and last year's awards season breakout star (thanks to indelible – and wildly dissimilar – performances in two of 2017's most talked about films, Call Me By Your Name and Lady Bird) is back with another Oscar-worthy turn in Beautiful Boy. Based on a set of memoirs written by a father (played by Steve Carell) and son (Chalamet), it charts the latter's addiction to crystal meth and the long, long recovery process. Wear waterproof mascara. Released 18th January 2019

Who will she be up against in the Best Actress category?

At this stage, all Oscar talk is highly speculative, but one of Colman’s biggest competitors comes in the form of one Lady Gaga. The singer's critically acclaimed (and much-memed) role as Ally in A Star Is Born is almost certain to earn her a first Oscar nomination for acting (she's already been nominated in the Best Original Song category, where she'll doubtless be recognised in 2019 too); she'll likely be joined by Glenn Close, who has already taken home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in A Motion Picture (Drama) and is slated to pick up her seventh Academy Award nomination for The Wife, and 2017's Best Supporting Actress winner Viola Davis for Widows.

Other potentials include Melissa McCarthy (for biopic-slash-black-comedy Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Nicole Kidman (doing the classic Nicole-wants-an-Oscar makeunder in Destroyer), newcomer Yalitza Aparicio, star of Alfonso Cuaron’s festival hit Roma and Kiki Layne for If Beale Street Could Talk, the Moonlight follow-up from Barry Jenkins. And don't bet against Emily Blunt charming Oscar voters with Mary Poppins Returns, either.

What are her chances of winning?

With a couple of months to go before the ceremony, there's not much in it between Colman, Close and Gaga. A Star Is Born’s massive commercial success might play in its favour (an off-beat curio like The Favourite is unlikely to receive such a wide release or recoup so much at the box office, after all), but Gaga will have to rail against some ingrained snobbery from some voters (who might see her A Star Is Born character to be suspiciously similar to her own stage persona…) Colman, meanwhile, has already picked up the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival (beating… Lady Gaga) – a win which has often paved the way to Oscar success (it certainly did for her Favourite co-star Emma Stone) while Glenn Close has taken home the Golden Globe and tied with Gaga for the top prize at the Critics Choice Awards. She is surely a shoo-in for the Best Actress BAFTA, but will she be able to recreate that success across the pond? All we know is that there'd be something immensely satisfying about seeing Sophie from Peep Show walk away with a little gold man in February...

The Favourite is out in UK cinemas now.

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