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Oscars 2019: Olivia Colman scores an upset for lead actress in ‘The Favourite’

Oscars 2019: Olivia Colman scores an upset for lead actress in ‘The Favourite’
In a surprise win, Olivia Colman took the best actress Oscar on Sunday night for her role as Queen Anne in the quirky "The Favourite." (AFP/Getty Images)

In a night of upsets, Olivia Colman turned in one of the biggest by taking the lead actress Oscar for her role in “The Favourite” — and then winning over the crowd with the most charming speech of the night.

“The Favourite” is a weird movie, especially by Oscars standards. It’s an elaborate period piece in 18th century England, depicting Queen Anne (Colman), her top confidantes (played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, both supporting actress nominees) and key politicians of the time in earthy, unflattering glory.

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One courtly dance erupts into voguing. It was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos of the even-weirder “The Lobster” and “Dogtooth.” Perhaps weirdest of all, Colman overcame the (Las Vegas) odds to take home another crown for Queen Anne: the Academy Award.

When her name was announced, a visibly stunned Colman was embraced by several around her as costar Stone, hugging her, mouthed, ‘Oh my God, oh my God!” and Lanthimos shed a tear.

When Colman finally reached the stage, she said, “Ooh, it’s genuinely quite stressful.” She giggled and added, “This is hilarious. Got an Oscar.

“Yorgos, my best director in the best film, and with Emily and Rachel, the two loveliest women in the world to fall in love with, and to go to work with every day,” she said, and turned to the audience, drawing one of many laughs: “I mean, you can imagine. It wasn’t a hardship.”

She thanked the others in her category, singling out Glenn Close: “You’ve been my idol for so long, and this is not how I wanted it to be, and I think you’re amazing. I love you very much. I love you all.”

The audience responded warmly to her genuine, tongue-tied ebullience, even when obligatorily thanking her agent with such joyful sincerity: “Thank you so much!”

She went on to thank “my kids, who are home and watching, look! Well, if you’re not, then well kind of well done” as the crowd laughed with her again. “But I sort of hope you are. This is not going to happen again.”

Seven-time nominee Glenn Close had been considered the favorite to win for “The Wife” (1-6 at major Vegas books). Colman was second at many betting concerns at 11-2, but few expected her to replicate her home-country BAFTA triumph at the Oscars. This is her first Oscar on her first nomination.

Colman’s Anne is a pouting, loving, scheming, raging monarch with a big heart, big appetites, and a big stone in her soul from 17 pregnancies — and no surviving children. Her dearest friend (Weisz) and the friend’s cousin (Stone) jockey for position in her court and her heart as politicians wrangle for her blessings on war and taxes.

Colman’s victory was even more surprising because “The Favourite” had not won any Oscars prior to her victory, losing out even in categories for which it was favored or considered a top contender including original screenplay, production design and costume design.

The actress’ unpredictable, mercurial portrayal won her not only awards but the admiration of her peers.

“BlacKkKLansman” star John David Washington told The Times, “I want to meet her and ask her all kinds of questions. I could conduct a Q&A easily with her: ‘How did you do that?’ I was just blown away. One step too far, tilt it one way or the other, and it becomes a caricature. But she is so true to this character, I found myself laughing, disgusted — all the emotions were coming out. She’s brilliant.”

Supporting actress nominee Marina de Tavira (“Roma”) also praised her to The Times, citing the interplay among the film’s three actresses: “I was amazed by the way the incredible women in ‘The Favourite’ really related to each other. The three of them, it was like a musical concert, the way they worked together. You could say the three of them were a character itself.”

That chemistry, while central to the film and the three performances, also caused some category confusion. The three actresses’ screen times are not significantly different from each other. Any or none could be said to be the lead. But Colman got the designation and it paid off, as all three were rewarded with nominations.

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Colman, 45, is a veteran of British film and television, and previously worked with Lanthimos on “The Lobster.” She’s as well known in her home country for her award-winning dramatic work in “Broadchurch” and “The Night Manager” as she is for comedic work including “Peep Show” and “That Mitchell and Webb Look.” She has accrued four BAFTAs, four British Independent Film Awards and two Golden Globes — including one of each award for “The Favourite.”

Next up, Colman assumes another juicy royal role as Elizabeth II in the third season of Netflix’s “The Crown” (taking over from Emmy winner Claire Foy as the series moves forward in time).

On Oscar night, as she neared the end of her speech, she said, “I used to work as a cleaner and I loved that job. I spent quite a lot of my time imagining this. Oh, please wrap up, right,” she said as she saw the warning sign, then gave a raspberry: “Bppptthhh.

“Thank you so much … ahhhh! Thank you so much. Ah, Lady Gaga!”

Then she blew a kiss to fellow nominee Gaga, which Gaga returned, and left the stage having also won over those in the room.

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