Pe­riod goes punk

Olivia Col­man on bring­ing an­ar­chy to the monar­chy in The Favourite

Empire (UK) - - PREVIEW - IAN FREER

“IT GETS QUITE bonkers,” says Olivia Col­man. “[At one point] there’s a naked bloke who gets pelted with a shit­load of pomegranates.” The Favourite, it seems, isn’t your av­er­age pe­riod pic­ture. “I love it. I don’t want to see cos­tume drama un­less Yorgos Lanthimos has done it. You can al­most smell what it smelt like: the sweat, the putting the wee around ev­ery­body’s skirts. It’s sump­tu­ous but stinky.”

Set in 18th cen­tury Eng­land dur­ing a war with France, The Favourite sees Col­man play Queen Anne, be­set by clin­i­cal obe­sity and char­ac­terised by a huge tem­per, with the real gov­ern­ing left to her lover Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz). Their re­la­tion­ship is thrown into cri­sis by the ar­rival of am­bi­tious new ser­vant Abi­gail (Emma Stone), who makes a play for Anne’s af­fec­tions. As you would ex­pect from the Greek film­maker be­hind The Lob­ster and The Killing Of A Sa­cred Deer, the courtly sub­terfuge and mé­nage à trois is im­bued with all colours of strange.

“It is a bit like if Bowie did cos­tume drama,” Col­man says. “These very rich and pow­er­ful peo­ple seem to have chunks of their day with noth­ing to do, so they do these hi­lar­i­ous things try­ing to en­ter­tain them­selves. Yorgos has a ball with that and makes it as lu­di­crous as pos­si­ble.”

Queen Anne also takes plea­sure in rac­ing lob­sters and In­dian Run­ner ducks. “I think the lead duck was called Jes­sica,” she laughs. “She loved a cud­dle but when you put her down, she was quite quick.”

Lanthimos’ sense of play started with re­hearsals. “We had to play hop­scotch while say­ing the lines,” says Col­man. “Not think­ing about it so much, it be­came more nat­u­ral.”

That wasn’t the only nat­u­ral el­e­ment. Tak­ing a leaf out of Stan­ley Kubrick’s Barry Lyn­don play­book, The Favourite’s in­te­ri­ors are lit en­tirely by can­dle­light. “There was a man with can­dles on a trol­ley with a plas­tic cover so they didn’t blow out. It was re­ally in­ven­tive.”

Col­man has Lanthimos form, hav­ing played the Ho­tel Man­ager in 2015’s The Lob­ster. He has zero time for dis­cussing char­ac­ter mo­ti­va­tions but, says Col­man, the di­rec­tor’s tough, chal­leng­ing cre­ative spirit doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily match the man.

“I love it when some­body thinks dif­fer­ently,” she says. “He’s such a happy, lovely, en­cour­ag­ing man, which you maybe wouldn’t ex­pect if you just watched the films.” Never judge a film­maker by their work. Or a queen by her duck rac­ing.

THE FAVOURITE IS IN CIN­E­MAS FROM 1 JAN­UARY

Clock­wise from left: Queen Anne (Olivia Col­man) with lover Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz); Di­rec­tor Yorgos Lanthimos on set with Emma Stone (ser­vant Abi­gail Masham); Robert Har­ley (Ni­cholas Hoult, cen­tre) is look­ing pretty.

Em­pire spoke to Olivia Col­man at home on 10 Au­gust, tak­ing a break from shoot­ing The Crown Sea­son 3.

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