Birthdate: January 30, 1974
Birthplace: Norwich, Norfolk, England, UK
Olivia Colman (birthname: Sarah Caroline Olivia Colman) is among the most respected and lauded among the recent wave of British actors and the winner of the Best Actress Oscar for The Favourite (2018). While amassing numerous TV credits, Colman’s first feature credit was a character voice in the English version of the Danish animated movie, Terkel in Trouble, based on story writer and star Anders Mattheson’s 2001 comedy album.
Colman joined the improv comedy ensemble of the U.K. mockumentary, Confetti (2006) with cast mates Martin Freeman, Jimmy Carr, and Jessica Stevenson. The first high-profile feature for Colman (in a supporting role) was writer-director Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz (2007), with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, and Timothy Dalton, which grossed over $80 million worldwide on a $16 million budget.
More comedy was in store for Olivia Colman as part of the ensemble of the Richard Laxton-directed, Grow Your Own (2007) with Benedict Wong and Eddie Marsan, followed by Colman’s first U.S.-produced film, the commercially failed Amy Heckerling rom-com I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007), starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, Stacey Dash, Jon Lovitz, Fred Willard, Saoirse Ronan, and Tracey Ullman.
Colman scored her first leading role in writer-director Shane Meadows’ U.K. musical mockumentary Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee (2009), starring Paddy Considine, and then continued in a co-starring role with Considine (switching to writer-director) in his feature, Tyrannosaur (2011), starring Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan, Paul Popplewell, and Sally Carman, and premiering at the Sundance film festival.
After voicing the English dub of the Studio Ghibli animated feature, Arriety (2010), Colman portrayed Margaret Thatcher’s daughter, Carol, in the Phylidda Lloyd-directed biopic, The Iron Lady (2011), and opposite Meryl Streep, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Thatcher, and featuring Jim Broadbent and Richard E. Grant, with the movie earning $116 million worldwide on a $13 million budget.
Olivia Colman portrayed her first of a few Royals (as Queen Elizabeth) in the Roger Michell-directed comedy-drama Hyde Park on Hudson (2012), with Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Samuel West, and Olivia Williams, with Colman winning Best Supporting Actress from the British Independent Film Awards. Colman joined writer-director Dan Mazur’s ensemble in the rom-com I Give It a Year (2013), with Rose Byrne, Rafe Spall, Anna Faris, Simon Baker, and Minnie Driver, earning a modest $28 million global box office, followed by a striking voice performance in a live-action feature—writer-director Steven Knight’s one-hander drama starring Tom Hardy, Locke (2013), with a box office return more than doubling a $2 million budget.
Colman returned to comedy in the British rom-com Cuban Fury (2014) with Nick Frost, Rashida Jones, Chris O’Dowd, and Ian McShane, and then served as a voice actor in the 2014 animated features Pudsey the Dog: The Movie and Thomas & Friends: Tale of the Brave (along with the 2015 sequel, Thomas & Friends: Sodor’s Legend of the Lost Treasure). Colman’s first feature under Yorgos Lanthimos’ direction was the black comedy, The Lobster (2015), starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Ariane Labed, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, and Ben Whishaw, grossing $18 million globally on a $4 million budget and premiering at the Cannes film festival.
Olivia Colman had her first lead role (and reunited with co-star Tom Hardy) in director Rufus Norris’ film adaptation of Alecky Blythe’s and Adam Cork’s musical, London Road (2015), with Anita Dobson. Director-actor Kenneth Branagh’s version of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (2017) marked Colman’s first Hollywood project, with Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Leslie Odom Jr., Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daisy Ridley, scoring a brawny $352.8 million on a $55 million budget.
Olivia Colman’s greatest triumph at this point in her career came in director Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark, period comedy (based on Deborah Davis’ and Tony McNamara’s screenplay), The Favourite (2018), earning her the Best Actress Oscar (as well as several other prizes, including the Best Actress Volpi Cup at the Venice film festival), alongside cast members Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Nicholas Hoult, and earning a strong $96 million on a $15 million budget.
Colman was back in the Oscar race (with a Best Supporting Actress nomination) for writer-director Florian Zeller’s The Father (2020), opposite Anthony Hopkins (who won the Best Actor Oscar), Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell, and Olivia Williams; the film more than quadrupled its $6 million budget in global earnings.
Colman performed as a vocal actor on a string of features following this, including Sony Pictures Animation’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021); as narrator in Amazon Studios’ The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021); the 20th Century Studios-released Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021); Netflix’s Scrooge: A Christmas Carol (2022), with Jessie Buckley and Jonathan Pryce; and the Joel Crawford-directed DreamWorks Animation sequel, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022), with Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayes, Harvey Guillen, and Florence Pugh.
Colman joined cast members, Odessa Young, Josh O’Connor, Colin Firth, Sope Dirisu, and Glenda Jackson in Mothering Sunday (2022), directed by Eve Husson and written by Alice Birch, earning over $2 million globally. For the first time, Colman served as star and executive producer on a project—writer-director Maggie Gyllenhaal’s acclaimed adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter (2021) for Netflix, with Dakota Johnson, Jessie Buckley, Paul Mescal, Peter Sarsgaard, and Ed Harris, with Colman receiving her third Oscar nomination (and her second Best Actress nomination).
Colman co-starred with Micheal Ward, along with Toby Jones and Colin Firth, in writer-producer-director Sam Mendes’ drama, Empire of Light (2022), premiering at the Telluride film festival. In her first movie musical, Colman joined the cast of Timothée Chalamet, Keegan-Michael Key, Sally Hawkins, and Rowan Atkinson in writer-director Paul King’s Wonka (2023), a version of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka character in a prequel-to-events-in-Charlie-and-Chocolate Factory. Colman co-starred in the Thea Sharrock-directed comedy, Wicked Little Letters (2023) with Jessie Buckley, Timothy Spall, Hugh Skinner, and Eileen Atkins.
Born and raised in the eastern British city of Norwich by parents Keith (surveyor) and Mary Colman (nurse), Olivia Colman attended Gresham’s School and Norwich High School for Girls. Colman attended Homerton College at Cambridge University for one term and then studied drama at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, graduating in 1999.
Colman adopted the professional name of Olivia Colman—dropping her birth name, Sarah—since the name “Sarah Colman” was already used by an actor member of U.K. Actors Equity. Colman has been married to Ed Sinclair (whom she met while studying at Cambridge University) since 2001; the couple has three children, including Hal and Finn. Colman’s height is 5’ 7”. Her estimated net worth is $8 million.
AKA: Olivia Colman’s nickname is Colly.
Philanthropy: Colman has been an active philanthropist, supporting the UK charity, Tender, using theater and the arts to teach young people about preventing violence and abuse; the Alzheimer’s Society; charity campaigns for the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal for the terminally ill; and Anthony Nolan’s charity to fund blood cancer research.
Ambassador: Olivia Colman has served as a UNICEF ambassador since 2015 and became president of UNICEF UK in 2020.