The first professional audition is a nerve-jangling moment of truth for any aspiring actress.
But so apparent was the star potential of a young Olivia Colman that she had an army of agents clamouring to sign her up the very first time she showcased her talents to the industry.
John Hartoch, her tutor at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, recalls how she lit up the stage when she appeared at a West End event in the final year of her course.
Olivia’s Army- where are they now? The cast of 1994’s Cambridge Footlights revue, A Bang And A Whimper. Top left in the brown coat is Deborah Sher, an architect at the firm Sher and Whites, which specialises in listed buildings. Pictured next to her, right, is Dan Mazer, 47, writing partner of Sacha Baron Cohen, who helped develop Ali G and Borat. At the end of the top row, right, is Nick Wealthall, a poker expert who runs a business teaching others how to succeed at the game. Pictured centre in the blue jacket is Olivia Colman, 44, soon to be Elizabeth II in The Crown and Oscar-tipped for The Favourite. Standing next to her on the right, Robert Webb, 46, starred with David Mitchell and Colman in Channel 4’s Peep Show. In the red coat, Elizabeth Hurran, actress who played Emily Bronte in the 2003 BBC drama In Search Of The Brontes. Pictured next to her on the right is James Bachman, 46, actor and writer who has appeared in Peep Show and Rev with Colman. Standing next to him is Tristram Hunt, 44, former Labour MP, now director of the V&A Museum in London. At the front of the class of 1994 is Anna Bengo, singer-songwriter and comedian who has performed on Radio 2
‘Her monologue lasted a minute,’ he told The Mail on Sunday. ‘At the beginning she had everyone falling about with laughter and by the end she had everyone moved.
‘You can imagine the students on the bus coming back to Bristol after that, all hoping their phones are going to ring in the next few days. [But] she had something like 17 phone calls on the way back.’
The confidence the agents had in Ms Colman was clearly well placed as now – 19 years later – she is tipped to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite, having last week scooped a Golden Globe for the same role.
But long before she shot to fame via acclaimed performances in shows such as Broadchurch, The Crown and Les Miserables, Ms Colman’s beaming personality was firmly evident – as The Mail on Sunday’s exclusive set of pictures prove.
The first professional audition is a nerve-jangling moment of truth for any aspiring actress. But so apparent was the star potential of a young Olivia Colman that she had an army of agents clamouring to sign her up the very first time she showcased her talents to the industry
Olivia Colman is pictured with a fellow pupil at Norwich High School for Girls. She went to the fee-paying school from 1982 to 1990
She first discovered her love of acting in a production of The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie at fee-paying Norwich High School for Girls, where she went from 1982 to 1990.
But it was after going up to Cambridge to train as a teacher at Homerton College that she truly blossomed as a member of the famous Footlights comedy troupe, alongside her future Peep Show co-stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb, comedy writer Dan Mazer, and Tristram Hunt, who would go on to be a Labour MP and subsequently director of London’s V&A Museum.
Bard at work: Olivia Colman as the Princess of France in Love’s Labour Lost in 1999 with other Old Vic students
Learning lines: Rehearsing with a fellow Cambridge student. Ms Colman, 44, can be seen on BBC1 tonight in the new adaptation of Les Miserables, where she plays against type as the scheming Madame Thenardier
Last night Mr Hunt remembered her only failing was how she was prone to an attack of the giggles.
He said: ‘She was pitch-perfect funny, incredibly generous, lovely and un-divaish to work with.
‘But she also found everything incredibly funny so there was always a chance she would corpse on stage.
‘The other cast members, mainly Dan Mazer, would seek to make her laugh.’
Ms Colman, 44, can be seen on BBC1 tonight in the new adaptation of Les Miserables, where she plays against type as the scheming Madame Thenardier.
Series director Tom Shankland said: ‘We had a real feeling that because Olivia is so warm and lovely it would be interesting to see her play this dark, bitter woman. We knew that Olivia would be able to find all the lightness in the part – as well as all of that awfulness.’
The confidence the agents had in Ms Colman was clearly well placed as now – 19 years later – she is tipped to win an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite, having last week scooped a Golden Globe for the same role
Cheer up: In this exclusive picture from tonight’s episode of the BBC’s Les Miserables, Olivia plays scheming Madame Thenardier